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Conventional Expression | Worked example

David works through a conventional expression question from the Praxis Core Writing test.

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Video transcript

- [Narrator] Lacking sufficient evidence, scholars may never determine whether the fabled Atlantis was a purely fictional creation than a real island that was mysteriously covered by the ocean. Alright, so we've got an error ID question. We don't need to figure out how to fix the error, we just need to identify it and move on. So, option A, lacking sufficient evidence, scholars may never determine. Lacking sufficient evidence, this is a modifying phrase that is describing scholars, and the scholars lack sufficient evidence. This is a present participle, this is an adjective, this is a noun. And this whole thing on its own is like a little dependent clause, right? This is not a main verb, lacking. But, as a whole, with a comma, all together it applies to scholars. It's being used correctly, we're good. Option B, the fabled Atlantis, as in it's famous, stories are told about it. Fabled is an adjective. It's an adjective made out of a verb, being used to describe Atlantis, a proper noun. This is correct. Purely. So, we're being asked here, this is an adverb, right? And it's being used to describe not creation but fictional, purely fictional, which is an adjective. So, adverbs modify adjectives or verbs. This is an appropriate use of an adverb. If, for example, it said pure fictional, that would be incorrect, and that would be our answer, but since it says purely, we're in the clear. Now we've got than, than a real island. And let's cross out some of the unnecessary stuff. So, lacking sufficient evidence, we can get rid of that introductory clause. We can even get rid of this entire relative clause here, and let's just say scholars may never determine whether Atlantis, we can just get rid of the fabled, whether Atlantis was a fictional creation than a real island. And that sounds wrong to me, and unfortunately, this is one of those things that we call a conventional expression question. Because English is a marvelous language full of untold combinations of words, but some are less standardized than others. Right, so we have the word whether, and when you have a signpost like that, it tends to require the word or as a comparison. Like whether or not. I'm not sure whether I want to vacation in the mountains or on the beach. It is a convention of English that the word or follows whether. But you don't need to know that for the purpose of this question. What you need to know is that than sounds wrong. Many of these questions are gonna be about a single preposition, or a conjunction, and it's gonna be up to you to know whether or not that conjunction or that preposition is being used correctly. So, we have a big list of conventional expressions that you can study. There's not much else to say about this type of question, except that it does exist on the test. It is testing your knowledge of standard English language idioms. So, we can say yes, than is our error, we can cross off no error. There was in fact an error. Keep your eyes peeled for conventional expressions that look kinda off to you, and you will succeed.