23 Sat Grammar rules and concepts you need to know
23 Sat Grammar rules and concepts you need to know

23 Sat Grammar rules and concepts you need to know

Are you feeling that the sat grammar rules are just too many and too much to know? Will you be taking the SAT soon but worry that you don’t know all the grammar rules? Well, no need to worry. Here I will walk you through the important sat grammar rules. Below are the grammar and punctuation rules in a concise format! But first, what are the broad steps you can take to improve your knowledge of the grammar rules?

  1. Understand subject-verb agreement, pronoun usage, verb tense consistency, and sentence punctuation among others.
  2. Read extensively. The more you read the more you are exposed to good grammar. You pick up both grammar rules and vocabulary simply by reading a lot.
  3. Practice grammar questions consistently. Doing full practice tests is never a bad idea. This will help you get the SAT grammar rules down!
  4. Utilize grammar apps or SAT practice websites. Digital tools can also help you absorb SAT grammar rules

The SAT Writing and Language Test is used by College Board to evaluate students’ understanding of English grammar and their ability to revise and edit text. Here are some of the grammar question types you may encounter on the SAT Writing and Language portion of the exam:

  1. Sentence Structure: These questions test your understanding of how sentences are constructed and how they can be improved for clarity and conciseness.
  2. Conventions of Usage: These questions assess your knowledge of grammatical rules such as subject-verb agreement, verb tense consistency, and pronoun usage.
  3. Conventions of Punctuation: These questions require you to apply your knowledge of grammar rules to punctuation. They test the correct use of commas, semicolons, and colons.
  4. Expression of Ideas: These questions evaluate your ability to improve the development and organization of ideas within a passage.
  5. Standard English Conventions: These questions test your understanding of the English language’s grammar rules, usage, and punctuation.
  6. Words in Context: In these questions, you’ll need to choose the most appropriate word or phrase to suit the context of the sentence or passage.
  7. Command of Evidence: These questions assess your ability to improve the way passages develop information and ideas.
  8. Data Interpretation: These questions require you to revise a passage to better incorporate information from a graph or chart.

Now, let’s get into specific categories of grammar rules.

Subject-Verb Agreement

The rule of subject-verb agreement ensures that a verb must agree in number with its subject. For example, singular subjects require singular verbs, while plural subjects require plural verbs.

Simple grammar rule: Singular goes with singular, plural goes with plural! Remain consistent!

There are several common types of mistakes in subject-verb agreement:

  1. Compound Subjects: Often, when a subject is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by ‘and’, a plural verb is used. However, when these nouns suggest one idea or refer to the same person or thing, a singular verb is required. For example, “Peanut butter and jelly is my favorite sandwich,” not “Peanut butter and jelly are my favorite sandwich.”
  2. Indefinite Pronouns: Indefinite pronouns are typically singular and require singular verbs. Common mistakes arise when writers incorrectly pair them with plural verbs. For instance, “Everyone in the class are smart” is incorrect. The corrected sentence is, “Everyone in the class is smart.”
  3. Subjects with Quantifiers: Mistakes often occur when quantifiers are used. For example, “A number of people is here to see you” is incorrect. The correct sentence would be, “A number of people are here to see you.”
  4. Collective Nouns: Collective nouns, despite representing a group, are singular and therefore take a singular verb. For example, “The team are playing well,” is incorrect. The correct version is, “The team is playing well.”

The SAT has historically loved to test grammar rules pertaining to Subject-Verb agreement.


Parallelism in the SAT refers to a grammatical consistency within a sentence. Questions on parallelism require you to identify sentences where similar ideas are expressed in dissimilar ways and correct them by adjusting their structure. For example, in the sentence “She enjoys biking, hiking, and to swim,” the verb forms are inconsistent. A parallel structure would correct this to “She enjoys biking, hiking, and swimming.” Three examples follow below:

  1. Incorrect: “John enjoys reading, to play basketball, and fishing.” Correct: “John enjoys reading, playing basketball, and fishing.”
  2. Incorrect: “The teacher said that students should get organized, that they should manage their time, and to read regularly.” Correct: “The teacher said that students should get organized, manage their time, and read regularly.”
  3. Incorrect: “She likes cooking, to read, and biking.” Correct: “She likes cooking, reading, and biking.”

Maintain parallel structure. I repeat “Maintain parallel structure!”

Misplaced Modifiers

Misplaced modifiers are another one of the grammar rules tested by the SAT. Misplaced modifiers occur when a descriptive phrase isn’t placed near the noun or pronoun it is intended to describe. For instance, in the sentence, “Walking through the park, the flowers smelled sweet,” the modifier “walking through the park” is misplaced – the sentence reads as if the flowers are doing the walking. The correct sentence would be, “Walking through the park, we smelled the sweet flowers.”

Here are some examples of sentences with misplaced modifiers and their corrected versions:

  1. Incorrect: “He wore a straw hat on his head, which was obviously too small.” Correct: “His straw hat was obviously too small for his head.”
  2. Incorrect: “Having finished the assignment, the Xbox was my next target.” Correct: “Having finished the assignment, I was ready to play on the Xbox.”
  3. Incorrect: “I heard that there was a robbery in the park walking home.” Correct: “Walking home, I heard that there was a robbery in the park.”

Remember, to avoid misplaced modifiers, make sure the thing you’re trying to describe is placed as close as possible to the descriptive phrase.


  1. Past tense vs. past perfect tense: The past tense describes an action that has already taken place. For example “I ate an apple,” “ate” is in the past tense. On the other hand, the past perfect tense is used to express an action that happened before another action in the past. Think of it as a double before. It is typically accompanied by words such as “before” or “by the time.” For example, in the sentence “I had already eaten an apple when you arrived,” the phrase “had eaten” is in the past perfect tense, indicating that the eating took place before the arrival. The word “had” is often used for past perfect tense.
  2. Present tense v. present perfect: The present tense describes an action that is happening now or a general state of affairs. For instance, in the sentence, “I eat an apple,” “eat” is in the present tense. The present perfect tense describes an action that started in the past and continues to the present, or an action that happened at an unspecified time in the past. It is formed by using “has” or “have” followed by the past participle of the verb. For example, in the sentence, “I have eaten an apple,” “have eaten” is in the present perfect tense. It implies that the action of eating the apple occurred at a time before now.

Knowing verb tenses along with other grammar rules need not be confusing. In the case of verb tenses, a simple formula: “had” for past perfect and “has/have” for present perfect.

Subject vs. Object

The subject of a sentence is the person, place, thing, or idea that is taking action or being something. For example, in the sentence “John throws the ball,” “John” is the subject as he is taking action.

The object of a sentence is the entity that is acted upon by the subject. In the same sentence, “the ball” is the object as it is the recipient of John’s action of throwing.

Here are examples of subjects and objects.

  1. Subjects:
    • John (John is eating an apple.)
    • The dog (The dog is barking loudly.)
    • My parents (My parents live in New York.)
    • The sun (The sun is shining brightly.)
    1. Objects:
    • An apple (John is eating an apple.)
    • The ball (Jim kicked the ball.)
    • Our proposal (The committee approved our proposal.)
    • The gift (She accepted the gift gratefully.)
    Subject pronouns are used as the subject of a sentence. They are typically the ones ‘doing’ the action. Here’s a list of subject pronouns:
    1. I (I am going to the store.)
    2. You (You should finish your homework.)
    3. He (He runs fast.)
    4. She (She cooks delicious meals.)
    5. It (It is raining outside.)
    6. We (We are planning a trip.)
    7. They (They are playing soccer.)

Just as there are subject pronouns, there are also object pronouns. These are used as the object of a sentence. They are typically the ones ‘receiving’ the action. Here’s a list of object pronouns:

a. Me (John saw me.)

b. You (I told you the story.)

c. Him (She called him.)

d. Her (We saw her at the park.)

e. It (I moved it to the other room.)

f. Us (They invited us to their wedding.)

g. Them (I gave them my old books.)

Singular vs. Plural

A singular noun refers to one person, place, thing, or idea, while a plural noun refers to more than one.

For example:

  1. Singular:
  • The cat is sleeping on the mat.
  • The building has ten floors.
  1. Plural:
  • The cats are playing in the garden.
  • The buildings in this city are tall.

A singular subject should be paired with a singular verb, and a plural subject should be paired with a plural verb.

This is one of the simplest grammar rules to remember: singular nouns go with singular verbs and plural nouns go with plural verbs.

Independent clause vs. Dependent clause

An independent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and verb and expresses a complete thought. For instance, “The cat is sleeping on the mat.” This clause can stand alone as a sentence. On the other hand, a dependent clause also contains a subject and verb, but it does not express a complete thought and cannot stand alone as a sentence.

An example of an independent clause would be: “John is preparing dinner for the family.” This sentence has a subject, ‘John,’ and a verb, ‘is preparing,’ and it expresses a complete thought, hence it can stand on its own as a complete sentence.

An example of a dependent clause would be: “While the cake was baking in the oven.” This sentence has a subject, “the cake,” and a verb, “was baking,” but cannot stand on its own as a complete sentence.

This may appear to be more complicated than other grammar rules but it is not. If it can stand by itself the clause is independent, otherwise it is dependent.

Comma Splices

A comma splice occurs happens if independent clauses are joined with a comma but without the presence of a coordinating conjunction. For example, “I love working out, it helps me be fit.” ‘I love working’ and ‘it helps me be fit’ are both independent clauses. They cant be joined just with a comma. The correct sentence should be “I love working out; it helps me be fit.”


Conjunctions play an integral role in English grammar, acting as the glue holding sentences together. They are primarily used to connect words, phrases, clauses, or sentences. The three main types of conjunctions are coordinating, subordinating, and correlative conjunctions.

Coordinating conjunctions, which include words such as ‘and‘, ‘but’, and ‘or’, connect words, phrases, or clauses. For example, “The cat is sleeping on the mat, and the dog is playing in the garden.”

Subordinating conjunctions introduce dependent clauses to an independent clause, for instance, ‘because’, ‘while’, ‘unless’. An example could be, “I went to the store because we ran out of milk.”

Correlative conjunctions work in pairs to coordinate words or groups of words of equal importance in a sentence, such as ‘either/or’, ‘neither/nor’, and ‘both/and’. An example could be, “Either the cat is sleeping, or the dog is playing.”


Transition phrases, like conjunctions, are vital tools in SAT grammar. They enable a smoother progression of thoughts by creating logical connections between phrases, sentences, or paragraphs.

Here are some examples of same-direction transition phrases, which are used to add information or continue the same line of thought:

  1. Additionally
  2. Furthermore
  3. Moreover
  4. In addition
  5. Also
  6. Similarly
  7. Likewise
  8. Plus
  9. Not to mention
  10. As well as
  11. Together with
  12. Along with
  13. Coupled with
  14. Equally important.

Opposite-direction transition phrases are used to contradict, change direction, or present opposing thoughts. Here are some examples:

  1. However
  2. On the contrary
  3. Contrary to
  4. In contrast
  5. Conversely
  6. Nevertheless
  7. Yet
  8. Despite this
  9. Although
  10. Unlike
  11. Still
  12. Rather
  13. Instead
  14. Regardless
  15. Notwithstanding
  16. In spite of this
  17. Even so
  18. On the other hand
  19. But
  20. Otherwise.

Prepositional Phrases

Prepositional phrases usually begin with a preposition and end with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase. Examples of prepositions include ‘in,’ ‘on,’ ‘at,’ ‘by,’ ‘for,’ ‘with,’ ‘about,’ ‘under,’ and ‘between.’ These phrases provide additional details in a sentence, often indicating location, direction, time, or manner. For example, in the sentence “The book on the table is mine,” “on the table” is a prepositional phrase.


Below are the grammar rules for punctuation.


  1. End of Sentence: Use a period at the end of a complete sentence that is a statement. For example, “He went to the store.”
  2. After Initials: A period is used after initials, such as in names like “J. K. Rowling.”
  3. With Abbreviations: If an abbreviation ends a declarative sentence, you do not need an additional period. For example, “I went to the U.S.”
  4. With Decimal Points: A period is used in numbers to separate the integer part from the fractional part. For example, “The distance is 3.5 miles.”
  5. With Bullet Points: If the text following a bullet point is a complete sentence, it should end with a period. If it’s a fragment, a period is not necessary.
  6. After Indirect Questions: Use a period after an indirect question. For example, “He asked where his shoes were.”
  7. In Ellipsis: Periods are used in groups of three to indicate omitted text, known as an ellipsis. However, the rules can be complex and depend on the style guide in use.


  1. Use a comma after an introductory clause or phrase. For example, “After dinner, we played board games.”
  2. Use a comma between all items in a series. This includes the last two items and is known as the Oxford comma. For example, “I need to clean the kitchen, do the laundry, and take out the trash.”
  3. Use a comma to set off introductory elements. For example, “Despite the rain, we decided to go out.”
  4. Use a comma to separate independent clauses when the independent clauses are joined by any of the seven FANBOYS (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet). For example, “I wanted to go jogging, but it started to rain.”
  5. Use commas to offset nonessential words, phrases, or clauses in a sentence. Nonessential elements, if removed, do not change the overall meaning of the sentence. For example, “My sister, who lives in Spain, is a doctor.”
  6. Use a comma when directly addressing someone or something in your sentence. For example, “I need you to listen, John.”
  7. Use a comma to separate a statement from a question. For example, “I can go, can’t I?”
  8. Use a comma to separate contrasting portions of a sentence. For example, “That is my book, not yours.”
  9. Use a comma before and after a parenthetical phrase or clause. For example, “I’m going, as you know, to the store.”
  10. Use a comma to separate a direct quotation from the rest of a sentence. For example, “As my coach always said, ‘Practice makes perfect.'”


  1. Use a hyphen to join two or more words serving as a single adjective before a noun. For example, “It was a well-thought-out plan.”
  2. Use a hyphen with compound numbers. For example, “She is thirty-two years old.”
  3. Use a hyphen to avoid confusion or ambiguity. For example, “Re-sign the paper” (sign again) vs. “Resign the paper” (quit).
  4. Use a hyphen with certain prefixes and suffixes. For example, “ex-president” or “great-grandmother.”
  5. Use a hyphen in spelled-out fractions. For example, “one-third of the students.”
  6. Use a hyphen to write out compound words. For example, “mother-in-law.”
  7. Use a hyphen with the prefixes ‘all’, ‘self’, and ‘ex’. For example, “all-inclusive”, “self-aware”, and “ex-husband.”
  8. Use a hyphen to join two words that, without the hyphen, would form another valid word. For example, “re-creation” (the act of creating again) vs. “recreation” (leisure).
  9. Use a hyphen to separate syllables of a word in a line break.
  10. Use a hyphen in a less common usage to denote ‘to’ or ‘through’ in ranges of numbers or dates. For example, “Read pages 25-30.”


  1. Parentheses can be used include additional information. For example, “He finally answered (after taking five minutes to think) that he did not understand the question.” There can be other uses but focus on this one.


  1. Use a colon to introduce an item or a series of items. For example, “You may need to bring: hat, scarf, and gloves.”
  2. Use a colon to separate two independent clauses when the second explains or illustrates the first. For example, “I know my way: I walk this route every day.”
  3. Use a colon to introduce a quote or a speech in dialogue. For example, the teacher said: “Make sure you study for the test.”
  4. Use a colon to follow the salutation of a business letter. For example, “Dear Sir or Madam:”
  5. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes. For example, “The meeting is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.”
  6. Use a colon between a title and its subtitle. For example, “The Great Gatsby: A Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.”


  1. Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses. For example, “It was hot; she sat by the fan.”
  2. Use a semicolon to separate items in a series when the items have commas. For example, “The conference has people from Paris, France; London, England; and Berlin, Germany.” There are other uses but focus on these.


One of the SAT grammar rules most often neglected is redundancy. Redundancy questions target unnecessary repetition in sentences. Here are some examples:

  1. “Despite the fact that the weather was bad, the game was canceled due to bad weather. Is this sentence redundant?”
  2. “He is a man who is honest, and in addition to that, he tells the truth. Does this sentence contain unnecessary repetition?”
  3. “She woke up at 6 a.m. in the morning to get ready for school. Is there a redundancy in the sentence?”

Remember, if a phrase restates something that has already been said, it is likely redundant and should be removed for clear and concise writing.

Absolute Adjectives

Absolute adjectives are adjectives that cannot have degrees. You cannot add terms like “very” to them or suffixes like “er” or “est.”

Here are some examples of absolute adjectives:

  1. Perfect: Something is either perfect or it’s not. There are no degrees of perfection.
  2. Unique: If something is unique, it’s one of a kind. You cannot be “very unique.”
  3. Dead: Something is either dead or it’s not. There are no degrees of being dead.
  4. Infinite: If something is infinite, it’s endless. It cannot be “more” or “less” infinite.
  5. Absolute: Ironically, absolute itself is an absolute adjective. Something is either absolute or it’s not.
  6. Universal: Something is either universal or it’s not. There are no degrees of being universal.
  7. Complete: Something is either complete or it’s not. You can’t be “almost complete.”
  8. Final: Something is either final or it’s not. There are no degrees of being final.
  9. Unanimous: If a decision is unanimous, everyone agrees. It can’t be “almost unanimous.”
  10. Whole: Something is either whole or it’s not. There are no degrees of being whole.


Pronouns take the place of nouns, and they must agree in number (singular or plural) and gender with the nouns they represent. Basic pronouns that frequently appear on the SAT include “he,” “she,” “it,” “they,” “who,” “whom,” “whose,” “him,” “her,” “us,” etc. Ambiguous pronoun references, where it is unclear to which noun a pronoun refers, are common errors on the SAT.

  1. The dog chased its tail because it was bored. In this sentence, “it” could refer to either the dog or the tail, causing confusion about what was bored.
  2. John told Robert that he failed the exam. Here, it’s unclear who “he” is referring to. Did John fail the exam, or was it Robert?
  3. Sarah mentioned to Emily that she ran a marathon. This statement is ambiguous because “she” could either be referring to Sarah or Emily. Who exactly ran the marathon isn’t clear.

Idioms and Commonly Confused Words

An idiom is a phrase or an expression that has a figurative or literal, meaning.

Below is a list of commonly confused words.

  1. Affect/Effect: ‘Affect’ is usually a verb that means ‘to influence.’ ‘Effect’ is usually a noun that means ‘result.’
  2. Its/It’s: ‘Its’ is a possessive form of ‘it.’ ‘It’s’ is a contraction of ‘it is’ or ‘it has.’
  3. Their/There/They’re: ‘Their’ is a possessive pronoun. ‘There’ is an adverb indicating place. ‘They’re’ is a contraction of ‘they are.’
  4. Your/You’re: ‘Your’ is a possessive pronoun. ‘You’re’ is a contraction of ‘you are.’
  5. Principal/Principle: ‘Principal’ can be a noun meaning ‘head of a school’ or an adjective meaning ‘main or primary.’ ‘Principle’ is a noun meaning ‘a rule, law, or basic truth.’
  6. Complement/Compliment: ‘Complement’ is something that completes or goes well with something. ‘Compliment’ is a nice thing you say about someone.
  7. Stationary/Stationery: ‘Stationary’ means not moving. ‘Stationery’ refers to paper, envelopes, and other office supplies.
  8. Desert/Dessert: ‘Desert’ can be a noun referring to a sandy place or a verb meaning to abandon. ‘Dessert’ is the sweet course you eat at the end of a meal.
  9. Aloud/Allowed: ‘Aloud’ means out loud. ‘Allowed’ means permitted.
  10. Bear/Bare: ‘Bear’ can be a noun referring to the animal or a verb meaning to carry. ‘Bare’ means exposed or naked.
  11. Hear/Here: ‘Hear’ is a verb meaning to perceive with the ear. ‘Here’ is an adverb indicating location.
  12. Than/Then: ‘Than’ is a conjunction used for making comparisons. ‘Then’ can be an adverb meaning at that time or in addition to.

Active vs. Passive Voice

Active voice and passive voice represent the two primary ways of expressing action in a sentence. In active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action, leading to a direct, concise, and engaging tone. For example, “The cat caught the mouse.” Here, the cat (subject) is actively catching the mouse (object). On the other hand, in passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon by the verb, often leading to a more indirect, verbose statement. For example, “The mouse was caught by the cat.” In this case, the mouse (subject) is passively being caught by the cat. While both voices are grammatically correct, the SAT Writing and Language section tends to favor active voice.


The SAT favors concise sentences. So if two answer choices look equally good pick the more concise answer choice. It is more likely to be the correct answer (this is not ALWAYS the case) than a wordier answer choice.

We have covered the SAT grammar rules above. You can use the above as a guide to do better on the SAT Writing and Language Test. Knowing the SAT grammar rules is half of the battle. You have to practice regularly so make sure you do some practice tests.

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