Which one is correct?

  1. The smell can elicit reactions ranging from deep appreciation to intense disgust.
  2. The smell can elicit reactions that range from deep appreciation to intense disgust.

In my opinion, I believe that first one is correct. But, according to the book's answer, second one is correct. Can you explain to me why the second one is correct?

The book I am talking about is SAT writing book of ERICA MELTZER (I can't exactly remember exact edition and name of the this book, but I am sure about exactness of the question and answer.)

  • 7
    The author has this comment on her website: "Shorter is better, answers with -ING are usually wrong, and idioms are less important than you think." She may be on-the-money about test-taking strategies but there's no grammatical reason to dismiss either of those sentences as incorrect. Sep 2, 2018 at 14:26
  • 2
    @Erkhes: Well, if you have exams to pass I suppose you need to pay attention to what you find in books like that. But as regards learning normal use of English, it's just fulling your head up with someone else's (almost totally meaningless and arbitrary) personal stylistic choices. And I say that as one with a degree in English Language & Literature (which doesn't imply that my own stylistic preferences are "right", but at least I know enough to know not every alternative is "wrong"). Sep 2, 2018 at 15:12
  • 1
    If you want a good score on the SAT, you'd better get used to using determiners in the essay part (if you take it) as used in BrE or AmE. That said, that lady may be writing about the SAT but her example in this case is very poor, as pointed out by fellow posters.
    – Lambie
    Sep 2, 2018 at 15:26
  • This seems to be an example of an SAT question that native English speakers would get wrong (I would use #1), but some hard working non-native speaker would get right by rote memorization of English language rules. I had a professor in college who used to rant about this issue. Sep 12, 2018 at 23:05

1 Answer 1


To sum up the comments:

There is nothing wrong with either sentence. Both are equally valid. Both are equally terse.

The author's explanation that "answers with -ING are usually wrong" (as reported by Tᴚoɯɐuo) shows she is unclear how this style rule words. Yes, it is generally considered poor style to use the progressive form of a verb when the simple present will do, for example:

Scientists around the world are constantly working to solve the anticipated problems from global warming.

Scientists around the world constantly work to solve the anticipated problems from global warming.

The reason for this and other style rules is that young English writers often use too many unnecessary words to express themselves, and forcing them to break certain habits helps them write more clearly and concisely. However, this all depends on context. There are many occasions in which you might want to use the progressive tense to indicate concurrency.

Moreover, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the "-ing" form of a verb as a gerund. This is a completely different animal from the progressive tense, as Ms. Melzer should know, and proper use is a good indication of English fluency.

In any case, from what I understand of the SAT essay exam, the essay is read by two scorers who then grade it from 1-4 (4 being highest) in each of four categories. In order to get a score of at least 3 in each category, you need to demonstrate the following:

  • A well-constructed essay (usually three to five organized paragraphs) that effectively argues one side or the other of the given question

  • Perfect grammar, spelling, and punctuation

That's about it. Apparently the difference between a score of 3 and a score of 4 is somewhat trivial, and may be somewhat based on luck, in that you get a favorable scorer.

It is very unlikely that your score will hinge on whether you use the gerund or the infinitive in this context. I expect the scorers are far more likely to ding you for something like the missing article in one of the sentences in your question:

But, according to the book's answer, (the) second one is correct.

Seriously, if you want to get a good score on this essay exam, first learn to write absolutely perfect spelling and grammar, as even the smallest mistake can only cost you. Then practice writing the standard 3/5-paragraph essay structure.

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