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Quick Write 102011 "Talk grammar in English 2"

In QW 1018 post, I talked about how simple, easy, and understandable for us English language learners to talk about English grammar in English. In today’s TOEFL class, my students did the “talking grammar” thing again on 15 sentences in TOEFL ITP Section 2 (Grammar) exercises. They were assigned to read, or more precisely speaking “look at”, a stem sentence with a blank from the beginning to the end for a few seconds, identify the main verb and the main subject which could be missing in some cases. Would you like to try one of these? Here you go.

Identify the main verb and subject in the sentence.
14. The temperatures _______ take place vary widely for different materials. (p.465)

Reference: Deborah Phillips, Longman Preparation course of the TOEFL Test: The Paper Test

It’s sort of obvious that the main subject is “The temperatures”, but there are two possibilities for the main verb: “take place” or “vary”. You cannot take two or more verbs in one sentence without “coordinating conjunctions” such as SOBAYs (so, or, but, and, yet), or “subordinating conjunctions” such as when, while, although, because, etc., or relative pronouns/adverbs such as which who, that, where, and the like, which is by the way the Golden Rule for any grammar questions. So how can the sentence possibly take two verbs at the same time? Yes, in the blank, there needs to be a conjunction or a relative pronoun to subordinate the verb “take place”. If “take place” is subordinated, in other words, under the umbrella of any given conjunction or relative pronoun, “vary” can be the main verb taking “The temperature” as its subject.

If you reach a conclusion that the verb “take place” needs to be subordinated, you’re pretty close to the correct answer. Can you think of what fills the blank without looking at four choices? Here’s one condition; “melting and freezing” needs to be in the blank. Can you complete the sentence without being given the multiple choices? Trying to complete an incomplete sentence makes a receptive grammar practice into a little more productive one. Think about it.

The answer is “[at which] melting and freezing”, making the sentence complete as follows:
14. The temperatures at which melting and freezing take place vary widely for different materials.
The above sentence seemed the most puzzling to my TOEFL class students, so I just wanted to share this fun grammar quiz with you.

(30 minutes / 405 words)

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Aya

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