SAT: British vs. American English

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Those who hail from fair Britain or the other nations of the Commonwealth, take note!

If you’ve been taught British English, you’re probably used to the fact that collective nouns can take either the plural or the singular form depending on the context.

For example, saying that: “The team have finished the project” successfully conveys the idea that the individuals of the team have worked together collectively to finish the project, thus conveying both their collective and discrete identities at the same time.

However, American English is not quite so flexible. On the SAT, collective nouns always take the singular form. For example: “Manchester United are a great team.” becomes “Manchester United is a great team.”

SAMPLE QUESTION:

Which sentences are grammatically incorrect?

A. I am excited to read Haruki Murakami's book, "Kafka on the Shore".

B. I am excited to read Haruki Murakami’s book, "Kafka on the Shore."

A. Yesterday I learnt that Northwestern University is actually in the Midwestern region of the United States.

B. Yesterday I learned that Northwestern University is actually in the Midwestern region of the United State.

Trick Question! In fact, all of the above sentences are grammatically correct! However both A sentences follow British English, and both B sentences follow American English.

However, not all of the grammatically correct sentences will be marked correct by SAT graders or American college admissions officers. Only B sentences are correct since graders strictly follow American English grammar rules.

So in review, when you are taking the SAT:

  1. When using quotes, any kind of punctuation should be placed before the end quotation.

  2. Always use “learned” instead of “learnt.”

Keep in mind that punctuation should follow American English rather than British English!

On the SAT, the rule is to use singular verb forms when dealing with collective nouns like jury, herd, army or government.