Conquering 5 Key Types of Synthesis and Transformation Questions
This section is the ultimate test of a student’s grammatical competency. Making a series of decisions on whether to change the position or word class of the provided words, the student needs to rewrite two provided sentences as one sentence without altering the original meaning of the two given sentences.
Let's start with the first type (in no particular order of importance).
Change that Verb or Adjective (to an abstract noun)
The train departed late. Many passengers were upset about it.
Many passengers were upset about the late departure of the train.
We were very disappointed that Alex did not win the tournament.
Much to our disappointment, Alex did not win the tournament.
In both questions, the verb departed and the adjective disappointed are changed to the nouns departure and disappointment respectively. You should notice that the original clauses the 2 words were in were main clauses.
In the answer, the clauses they are in are subordinate clauses. A subordinate clause is a clause that cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. "about the late departure of the train" and “much to our disappointment” are the subordinate clauses for the above- mentioned examples.
Gerund and Verb
The driver did not drive off. He got out to help the injured cyclist.
Instead of driving off, the driver got out to help the injured cyclist.
In driving off the cobra, Daren displayed his bravery.
The manner in which Daren drove off the cobra displayed his bravery.
In the first example, the student has to choose the correct verb to transform it into a gerund in order to place it next to the phrase Instead of.
Other possible alternatives that would have run through the student’s mind are
- Instead of getting out to help the injured cyclist, the driver drove off. (Meaning has changed)
- Instead of not driving off, the cyclist got out to help the injured cyclist. (There is double negation in the first clause. The phrase instead of suggests that one person, thing or action replaces another. It has a meaning similar to in place of.
In the second example, the student has to identify the main action/event/idea and the action/event/idea that occurred as a result of it.
The only other possible alternative is:
The manner in which Daren displayed his bravery drove off the cobra. This would be erroneous as the act of bravery refers to Darren driving off the cobra.
"Jonas, is the camera which is kept in this drawer with you?" Mr. Tan asked.
Mr. Tan asked Jonas if the camera which was kept in the drawer was with him.
Mrs. Muthu told Kavitha, "You wore a pair of mismatched socks to school this morning."
Mrs. Muthu told Kavitha that she had worn a pair of mismatched socks to school that morning.
The questions typically got the students to change the sentence from active to passive voice. In the first example, the student used the phrase "asked if" to rewrite the question as a sentence with a passive voice while ensuring that the verbs 'is' are changed to the simple past tense 'was'.
In the second example, the question tests the student’s ability to change the verb "wore", in its past tense, to its past perfect tense, “had worn” as the sentence is changed to a passive voice.
A very common error is to use the present perfect tense instead of the past perfect tense. We use the past perfect tense as the event occurred at a specific point in the past.
Lest (do not confuse this with let's)
This conjunction is not very commonly used nowadays. Nevertheless, we thought we share it with you lest it make an unexpected appearance. It is always followed by the subjunctive mood, usually in either the present or future tense.
We look at two common usages.
Tim left home earlier than usual. He did not want to be late for the examinations.
Tim left home earlier than usual lest he should be late for the examinations.
Be careful. Otherwise, you will fall from the tree.
Be careful lest you fall from the tree.
No sooner (a deceptively difficult one)
This phrase is usually used to show that one thing happens immediately after another. It is used with the past perfect and followed by ‘than’. It can be used at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence.
We look at two common usages.
David saw the child fall from the chair. He then heard the screams of a woman.
No sooner had David seen the child fall from the chair than he heard the screams of a woman.
I wrote that letter immediately after waking up in the middle in the night.
I had no sooner woken up in the middle of the night than I wrote that letter.
We will be covering more key types of Synthesis & Transformation questions in an upcoming workshop in September. Meanwhile, stay positive and focused in your revision.
About the Author
Mr. Nicholas Ee has more than a decade of experience in teaching English from Primary Two to Primary Six in local primary schools. He is presently, in his free time, having immense enjoyment experimenting with the Nimzo-Indian Defence in chess and trying out the Apacs Lethal 9 in badminton doubles.