Multiple Choice Writing – Example Problem

1.      He was convinced that if property taxes would have rose any higher, he would have had to move to a different area.

a.       if property taxes would have rose

b.      if property taxes would rise

c.       if property taxes had risen

d.      had property taxes rose

e.      were property taxes to rise

You can employ your knowledge of the sequence of tenses to help you arrive at the correct answer. The basic structure of the sentence is if ‘x’ happened, then ‘y’ would happen. Examine the underlined portion of the sentence carefully. Does this look familiar? It should! This is a past perfect construction. In the past perfect tense something happened at a point in the past before another something happened.  The fact that this sentence attempts to disguise this using a conditional “if-clause” should not fool regular College Compass readers.

For the purposes of answering this question, it’s not even really that important to recognize the specific perfect tense being employed. If you simply recognize that there is a sequence of tenses going on (namely that a thing is happening and the thing that is happening is being described in relation to the time it happens, happened, or will happen), you should be able to answer this question. After recognizing that there is a perfect tense SOMEWHERE in the underlined portion, all you have to do is remember that the perfect tense REQUIRES the main verb be constructed as a past participle.

The past participle of regular verbs is the form that ends in –en or –ed. Look at the answer choices; only one answer choice uses the past participle of the verb ‘to rise,’ which is “risen.” Therefore, the correct answer is (C).

(A) and (D) are both incorrect because we use “risen” for the perfect tense.

(B) is incorrect because the term “would rise” implies a hypothetical that does not match with the perfect tense used in the clause after the comma.

(E) is incorrect because it uses neither the past nor the perfect tense.

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