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Sacajawea, a Native American woman, whose ability to translate between indigenous languages and English was extremely helpful to the explorers, Louis and Clark, on their expedition to the Pacific Ocean.

In one of these videos http://www.veritasprep.com/free-sat-lessons/videos/on-demand.php#video this sentence is said to be grammatically incorrect, but where is the grammatical error? Can someone explain why the quoted sentence is incorrect ?

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    As a sentence it's not correct. It's just a long noun phrase (basically all adding further details about the "primary" noun Sacajawea). You could "fix" it by including a verb (such as by replacing the first comma with was). Apr 15, 2015 at 17:24
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    That sentence no verb. Apr 15, 2015 at 17:43
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    @FumbleFingers , As an isolated phrase, that is not a full MAJOR sentence, but within context, it could be a MINOR sentence. Refer en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Prem
    Apr 15, 2015 at 17:51
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    @Kristina: in this context, was is part of a subordinate clause, and refers back to the "subordinate noun subject" ability - Main sentence as Matt says no verb, Apr 15, 2015 at 17:55
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    @KristinaLopez "was" is the subject in the subordinate clause beginning with "whose" and ending with "ocean". The subordinate clause can't stand alone (though you could make a question out of it); in the context of the full utterance, that clause is basically an appositive describing "Sacajawea". Apr 15, 2015 at 17:56

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The easiest way to check this sentence is to remove the qualifiers and see what the core says:

Sacajawea, a Native American woman, whose ability to translate between indigenous languages and English was extremely helpful to the explorers, Louis and Clark, on their expedition to the Pacific Ocean.

At this point it's now clear that there's no verb associated with "Sacajawea", which is the grammatical error.

Sacajawea, whose ability was helpful.

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    It should be noted that this is not a grammatical error: no actual rules of grammar is violated. It simply means, as Prem points out in his comment, that we’re not dealing with a fully-fledged major sentence. If the sentence were used as the caption to a photo of Sacajawea in a book, it would be perfectly fine. Apr 15, 2015 at 21:47
  • Yes - as a caption, there's an implied "This is" as a subject and verb. Apr 21, 2015 at 23:02