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SAT Practice: The New Verbal Section

Sample Chapter

Chapter 1

Vocabulary: Baby Bear and the Yard Sculpture

See the audio version of the vocabulary story.


Papa bear's sonorous snore ceased suddenly as he awoke to find a pugnacious owl tugging at his ear. 

"Flangia," he remonstrated.  "What's the matter with you?"

"Your puerile progeny has again embarked on sculpting in the yard, this time it is not just grotesque, it is highly redolent."

Upon rising, Papa Bear could not but sense the fetid miasma of something superbly putrescent wafting in the window, the which he shut with inspired alacrity.  Still struggling with vestigial somnolence, he uttered a sardonic "Isn't the air fragrant this morning?" 

Flangia retorted "Not a time for banter!  It's wilting my geraniums." 

Though doubtless hyperbole, Papa Bear did not attempt to refute the claim, preferring to respond with a sagacious "In adversity there is ever a salutary gem of redemption if one can find it."

"Oh, spare me the platitudinous persiflage.  Requisite measures must be taken!"

Though by habit highly indulgent, when faced with the sight of the festering edifice, Papa Bear rubbed his nose in that special way which any who knew him would recognize as a portent of drastic action.  They were joined by Mama Bear, an electric elk named Simon, and sundry squamulose distant relations, all cognizant of the poignant gesticulation and its significance.      

Constructed from owl castings, all manner of ordure, coprolite, and desiccated scatological residue, the giant object of universal repudiation had already taken on an unmistakable likeness of Papa Bear himself. 

He couched the reproof as an aversion to statuary in general, disregarding both subject matter and material used as irrelevant, though he did decry the transient nature of nontraditional media and the choice of medium for the subject. 

sonorous adj. resounding

pugnacious adj. Quarrelsome



remonstrate v. protest



puerile adj. childish

progeny n. offspring

grotesque adj. ugly

redolent adj. smelly


fetid adj. unpleasant smelling

miasma n. evil vapor

putrescent adj. rotten

alacrity n. speed

vestigial adj. lingering

somnolence n. sleepiness

sardonic adj. bitingly sarcastic

banter n. teasing


hyperbole n. exaggeration

refute v. disprove

sagacious adj. wise

salutary adj. healthy

redemption n. recovery


platitudinous adj.  airy, overused

persiflage n. chatter

requisite adj. necessary


indulgent adj. tolerant

festering adj. rotting

edifice n. structure


portent n.  omen


sundry adj. various

squamulose adj. scaly

cognizant adj. aware

poignant adj. moving

gesticulation n. gesture

ordure n. excrement

coprolite n. fossilized ordure

desiccated adj. dried up

scatological adj. relating to excrement

residue n. remainder

repudiation n. intense dislike

couch v. formulate

aversion n. dislike


decry v. condemn

transient adj. temporary






alacrity adj.  Speed; enthusiasm, readiness, promptness, rapidity.

aversion [to] n.  Dislike for;  loathing [of], distaste [for], hatred [of].  Averse adj.

banter n./v.  Repartee, wit, chitchat, mockery, teasing, persiflage.

coprolite n.  Fossilized excrement.

couch [as] v.  Formulate an utterance; express, phrase, imply. 

decry v.  Condemn, criticize, disparage, belittle, deprecate, vilipend. 

desiccate v. Dry, dehydrate, parch. Desiccated adj.   

edifice n.  Structure, construction.

fetid adj.  Unpleasant smelling; foul,  putrid, rank, fusty.

harbinger [of] n. One who or that which foreruns and announces the coming of any person or thing; portent, omen, foretokening, augury, herald.

hyperbole n. Extreme exaggeration.  Overstatement.

indulgent adj.  Tolerant, non-judgmental, understanding, lenient.  Indulgence n. Indulge v. 

ordure n.  Excrement, dung. 

owl castings n.  Indigestible remnants of an animal devoured whole by an owl and later regurgitated. 

persiflage n. Light or frivolous chatter.  Banter.

platitude n. A written or spoken statement that is flat, dull, or commonplace; cliché, banality, insipidity.  Platitudinous adj. 

poignant adj. Severely painful or acute to the spirit; moving, emotional, touching, affecting.  Poignancy n. 

portent [of] n. Anything that indicates what is to happen; augury, foretokening, omen.  Portend v.

progeny n. Children, offspring, descendents.  

puerile adj. Childish, juvenile, immature, callow. 

pugnacious adj. Quarrelsome, confrontational, belligerent, truculent, contentious.  Pugnacity n.

putrescent adj. Undergoing decomposition of animal or vegetable matter accompanied by fetid odors; rotting, decomposing.  Putrescence n.  Putrefy v.

redolent adj.  having a strong odor; aromatic, fragrant, malodorous, stinking.  Redolence n.

refute v. To prove to be wrong.  Disprove, controvert, contest, deny, counter.  Refutation n. 

remonstrate v. protest, object, reprove, complain.  Remonstrance n. Remonstration n.  Remonstrative adj.

repudiate v. To refuse to have anything to do with; reject, disclaim, renounce.  Repudiation n.

requisite adj. Necessary, obligatory, mandatory, essential. 

residue n.  Remains, dregs, remainder.  Residual adj. 

sagacious adj. Able to discern and distinguish with wise perception; wise, sage, perceptive, erudite.  Sagacity n.  

salutary adj. Health inducing; beneficial, helpful, salubrious, constructive.

sardonic adj. Scornfully or bitterly sarcastic; scornful, mocking, derisive, satirical.

scatology n.  The scientific study of feces.  The chemical analysis of excrement (for medical diagnosis or for paleontological purposes).  Scatological adj.  Of or relating to excrement or its study.    

somnolence n.  Sleep, sleepiness, drowsiness.  Somnolent adj.

sonorous adj. Resounding, resonant, booming, echoing, reverberating.  

transient adj.  Of limited duration; fleeting, brief, temporary, momentary, ephemeral.

vestigial adj.  Of or relating to a remaining or lingering trace of something previously present.  Residual, lingering, enduring, remaining. Vestige n.





1.  Flangia is     

A.  An elk.  B.  an owl  C.  scaly  D.  an artist.

2.  Papa Bear     

A.  slept quietly  B.  flew into a rage  C.  shut the window   D.  grew geraniums

3.  Papa Bear was     

A.  wide awake  B.  bored with sculpture  C.  angry with Baby Bear.  D.  awakened by an owl.

4.  Baby Bear's sculpture    

A.  smelled like geraniums  B.  was in the front yard  C.  bothered an owl  D.  was sculpted in granite. 

5.  ____________ was normally indulgent.      

A.  Papa Bear  B.  Baby Bear.  C.  Flangia  D.  Simon

6.  The festering edifice     

A.  looked like papa bear  B.  wilted geraniums  C.  was a portent of drastic action  D.  was highly appreciated. 

7.  Papa bear's rubbing his nose    

A.  portended drastic action  B.  indicated a powerful odor  C.  could not be seen.  D.  irritated Flangia

8.  Some relations    

A.  were redolent  B.  were scaly  C.  were colorful  D.  wore gaudy socks

9.  Baby bear    

A.  opened the window  B.  grew geraniums  C.  used non-traditional media  D.  Smelled bad

10.  The wilting of the geraniums     

A.  portended drastic action  B.  was hyperbole  C.  was redolent  D.  made Papa Bear close the window.



1.     B 

2.     C  

3.     D

4.     B

5.     A

6.     A

7.     A

8.     B

9.     C

10. B



Language Notes

Common Errors: singular and plural

A subject and its verb must agree in number. 


Singular subject


The Munchkin


Plural subject


the Munchkins

Rowland and Boadicea



Singular verb





Plural verb







he is, she is, the Munchkin was, Rowland has

they are, the Munchkins were, Rowland and Boadicea have



he are, the Munchkins was, they was, Rowland and Boadicea has


Your ear can usually tell whether they agree:  He is (not he are), they were (not they was).   Most native speakers of English have a fairly good feel for subject/verb matching under normal circumstances and simply need to learn how to recognize unusual sentence constructs in order to apply their intuitive language sense.   As usual, English has some unexpected singular/plural traps for the unwary though. 



Normally either (or neither) is considered singular

Neither of them was aware of the impending flood of mayonnaise.


Neither the ox nor the wildebeest was found to look particularly decorative in the store window.


However, when one of the elements connected together with either is plural, the construct becomes plural IF it is the element closest to the verb.



Neither the purple bottles nor the turnip was quite the right shade of mauvy puce.

("turnip" is singular)




Neither the turnip nor the purple bottles were quite the right shade of mauvy puce.

("purple bottles" is plural)


The Number/ A number


"The number" is singular

The number of amateur astronauts is fairly small.


"A number" is plural

A number of amateur astronauts were milling about and waving spoons. 


Subject/verb agreement can also become tricky in more complex sentences and when the subject and verb are separated by extraneous material.    


Rowland and Boadicea, when applying to the Clockwork Submarine Fanciers' Amateur Operatic Society, was invisible behind the giant mushroom.   

Always start by identifying the subject and verb.  Then bring them together and use your ear to determine if they sound right. 

In this case, the subject is Rowland and Boadicea and the verb is was. It should be Rowland and Boadicea were because "Rowland and Boadicea" is a plural subject and must take the plural verb form were.

In the following examples, practice identifying subject and verb.  Use them together to see if they match, and check your answers. 

1.     The brown leaches, the only really appetizing item on the menu, was hardly a substitute for bungee jumping in renaissance costume outside the embassy. 

2.     Rowland and Boadicea, of the gypsy violinists' existential reading circle, was visibly distressed at the state of the herring tarts.  

3.     Neither Rowland nor Boadicea, when applying to the Clockwork Submarine Fanciers' Amateur Operatic Society, were visible behind the giant mushroom.   

4.     Quilp Springle, author of the monograph, Romance Languages as a Primary Cause of Dental Deformities, were unavailable for comment. 

5.     Neither the dwarf on his tricycle nor the accountants with their wheelbarrow was able to overtake the heavily laden swallow.   

6.     Neither of the flamingoes show any sign of plotting sedition. 

7.     The number of mistakes he made were limited only by his typing speed. 

8.       A number of variations on the painting, The Muses Contemplating an Egg Whisk, was up for auction as was a wealth of marginally bizarre and somewhat dangerous looking kitchen utensils. 








The brown leaches



The brown leaches








Rowland and Boadicea



Rowland and Boadicea



3.   Note that when either or neither links multiple subjects, the one closest to the verb is the one that determines how the verb is conjugated.  In this case, Boadicea is singular and thus the verb should match a singular subject. 





Neither Rowland nor Boadicea



Neither Rowland nor Boadicea








Quilp Springle



Quilp springle



5.  Again, when multiple subjects are linked with neither the one closest to the verb is the one that counts.  In this case, accountants is plural and the verb must match: the accountants were. 





Neither the dwarf nor the accountants



Neither the dwarf nor the accountants



6.  In this case, neither itself is the subject.  of the flamingoes is simply a modifier.  The word neither on its own is singular. 











7.  The word number is an interesting case.  The number is singular, yet a number is plural. 





The number



The number



8.  Again, the word number is an interesting case.  The number is singular, yet a number is plural. 





A number



A number



Archaic usages.


Upon rising, Papa Bear could not but sense the fetid miasma of something superbly putrescent wafting in the window, the which he shut with inspired alacrity. 


The definite article "the" is normally used to modify a noun, "the window" for example.  However, in the English of earlier periods it could be used to modify the relative pronoun "which" as in "the which he shut with inspired alacrity."  By modern standards, this is a very peculiar usage and it can certainly be expected to elicit comment, consternation, or criticism from many English teachers if submitted in modern composition.  Nonetheless, one should be able to expect and recognize it in literature:


... I put you to

The use of your own virtues, for the which

I shall continue thankful.  -- Shakespeare, All's Well that Ends Well






Rewrite Baby Bear and the Yard Sculpture in other words using the synonyms in the glossary for ideas.


Using words from the glossary:

1.     Explain why Flangia was upset and what she did.

2.     Describe Papa Bear's reaction to the festering edifice.

3.     Explain what Baby Bear was trying to do.

4.     Describe a parental prohibition that upset you.

5.     Describe a project you might consider that would put your house in an uproar


  Excerpted with permission from SAT Practice: The New Verbal Section.