Only 1 in 20 People Can Identify These Grammar Mistakes. Can You?

EDUCATION

Torrance Grey

7 Min Quiz

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About This Quiz

Okay, grammar geeks, here's how it works: We'll show you a sentence, and you tell us what the error is. The examples will start out relatively easy, but they'll get tougher as you go. Got it? Ready ... set ... nitpick!

Your not going to get very far on half a tank of gas.

"You're" is a contraction for "you are." "Your" is the possessive pronoun for "you." They sound alike, but most people see the problem when it is written down.

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Gemma and me were at the top of our class at the Academy.

The speaker is the joint subject of the sentence. A first-person subject is "I," not "me."

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I was late for the job interview, I got stuck in the elevator.

A run-on sentence occurs when two sentences (or, to be fancy, independent clauses) are mashed together as one. When they are linked by a comma, it's called a comma splice. To make this sentence grammatically correct, though, you only need a semicolon or the word "because" between the clauses. An easy fix!

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Its easier to know what's good grammar than to know the names for rules of grammar.

"Its" is a possessive pronoun. If you want to contract "it is," that requires an apostrophe.

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Oh man, I wish I could of seen it!

Writing "could of" for "could've" will definitely get you in trouble. "Oh man" can be split up with a comma, or not, depending on whether you want the reader to "hear" a pause after "Oh."

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If Jane likes the blind date we've set her up with.

It's easy to see this sentence is complete. It'd be harder to explain to a new learner *why* it's incomplete. After all, every sentence needs just two things, a noun and a verb, right? And this has those, in "Jane" and "likes". But the word "If" turns this into a dependent clause -- a clause with subject and verb that nonetheless can't stand along. It's now an introductory phrase, a lead-in.

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As a prank, he disappeared my car keys.

"Disappeared" is not transitive: things or people disappear; they can't "be disappeared." Note: some human rights and amnesty groups do use "disappeared" when referring to repressive governments causing political opponents to vanish. It hasn't gained widespread acceptance, but it does make a point.

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We went to the store for: paper, scissors, glue, and glitter.

A colon cannot follow a dependent clause, and the one above is dependent because of the word "for," which signals more to come.

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Will you like to get a drink with me, Joe?

"Will" is the future tense; "Would" the conditional. If you're committed to using the future tense, for whatever reason, you'd say, "Will you get a drink with me?"

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Rather than switch roles at the last minute, she quit the play altogetherly.

You probably saw right away that "altogetherly" is wrong. To be specific about why, though, "altogether" is already an adverb, making the -ly ending redundant.

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Being a professional astronomer, we were afraid to challenge his assertion that he saw a UFO.

This is a problem akin to subject-verb agreement. To make this sentence correct, you could write, "Being a professional astronomer, he seemed like a credible witness when he said he saw a UFO."

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But we really didn't believe him when he said he saw an unicorn.

Some people will argue with you about this rule -- they've been taught that a word starting with a vowel always requires "an." But the actual rule is that when a beginning vowel is pronounced like a consonant, it does not. So you'd say, "an unkind act," but "a unicorn."

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In the city park, we found a studded dog's collar.

Technically, this needs to be "dog's studded collar." After all, it's not the dog that was studded. We say "technically" because the meaning here is clear, and when that's the case, this rule isn't one you should lose sleep over.

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Stop exercising if you feel pain, dizziness, faint or short of breath.

This phrase, usually found on cardio equipment, bothers us every time we go to the gym. The words "pain" and "dizziness" are nouns. "Faint" and "short of breath" are adjectives (the latter being an adjective phrase). When you're creating a list like the one above, all the items should be the same part of speech. Don't mix and match.

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Running can be really hard on your joints.

"Running" is a gerund, a present-participle verb that acts as a noun. So it absolutely is the subject of the sentence and needs no appositive or "helper" noun.

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My grandfather Jeb can still split his own wood at 80.

When someone is identified in two ways -- often as a proper noun that follows a common noun, as above -- the second noun is called an appositive. Some people would put a comma before and after "Jeb," but that's a matter of personal preference.

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Meg, my grandmother, is learning to code at 78.

This example inverts the one previously given of "My grandfather Jeb." In this sentence, commas are essential to "hearing" the pause after "Meg." That's the essential purpose of punctuation -- to convey to the reader the pauses or inflections that they'd hear if the sentence were spoken. The classic example of this is the question mark, reflecting the upward lilt a question has, but commas do similar work.

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I went with her to the movie's opening night.

The key is that "her" is an unusual pronoun -- the same whether it is personal or possessive. There's a little schoolyard rhyme based on this: "She's got freckles on her, but she's cute!" (Say it aloud a time or two and you'll get the joke.)

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In "The Wizard of Oz," Dorothy is accompanied by the tin man, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion.

If you're ever seen the "Onion" headline that reads, "4 Copy Editors Killed in Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang War," you'll have an sense of how seriously some grammarians take the Oxford (or serial) comma. Its detractors call it snobbish, a marker of belonging to an educated elite. Its supporters say without it, the second-to-last item is rendered slightly less important than previous ones. Cooler heads, trying to prevail, call it a matter of personal preference and leave it at that.

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We opened the door for the dancers, Pope Francis and Clint Eastwood.

Here's an example of a sentence in which the Oxford or serial comma really is needed (and the humorous "can't possibly" choice above hints at why). The way the above sentence is written, it looks like Pope Francis and Clint Eastwood *are* the dancers! An Oxford comma, though, turns the sentence back into a short list -- which is what is is.

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We had to stop at the bakery; Alice loves croissants.

Does it make us grammar geeks that we think the semicolon is the most elegant of all punctuation marks? It take two independent clauses that could be their own sentences, but links them to each other, subtly underscoring the fact that they are thematically linked or sequential. While a colon or the word "because" could work, the semicolon is arguably the best choice.

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The deer was in my garden, eating all my roses.

"Deer" is that rare word that is the same singular as plural, so listeners and readers must rely on context. Here there isn't enough context to know whether it was a single deer or several, so there might or might not be a subject-verb agreement problem here.

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It was me who let the dogs out!

"is" is a linking verb, setting "it" and "me" on equal footing as the subject of the sentence. Therefore, "me" should be "I". That's also why "who" is correct here, not whom.

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Cutting corners was an anathema to her.

Anathema is a noun, but a non-count noun, meaning it is a concept, not a tangible or quantifiable thing. It helps to think of it like an adjective: "Cutting corners was [repugnant] to her."

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Our children play together all the time.

Here, "play" is an intransitive verb -- it requires no direct object. The children aren't playing a game called "together," they're just playing. The sentence would work equally well as "Our children play all the time," suggesting that they just play, not necessarily together.

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The assistant chef fried.

The issue here is that "fry" is a transitive verb, needing an object. "The assistant chef fried some fish" is grammatically correct. An indirect object ("for the hungry crowd") isn't needed.

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The boss rained praise on him.

While "rain" is an impersonal/defective verb, only the most rigid of grammarians would not accept its use here, which is metaphorical. If you really don't like it, though, you can always use "shower."

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The classroom aide handed out milks to the children.

Yes, "milk" is a non-count noun -- it's usually quantified only by the containers or units it's divided into (buckets, quarts, etc). However, we're not going to be sticklers here, since English speakers have been making non-count nouns into count nouns at least as long as Shakespeare! ( "... before we reckon with your several loves," Macbeth, Act V).

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So beautiful, so solitary, my old homeland!

It's tempting to mark "no error" here because the line looks like it's taken from poetry, and poets get away with this kind of thing. But we just made it up for this quiz, and when we average folks write a sentence without a verb, it's just a plain old fragment.

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To be the bank robber, he would have had to have done his first heist at 14.

The phrases "would have had to have done" is complicated, but it's not grammatically wrong; you certainly can speculate about the past. " ... to have committed" might make the sentence sound a little more elegant, but it's not necessary.

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Get out of my garden, right now!

In the imperative mood, the one that conveys commands or orders, "you" can be omitted. It's understood, and is the subject of the sentence.

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I wish I was a judge, and could just wear a robe to work every day!

The subjunctive mood -- which deals with wish, hope, might-have-beens, and so on -- sometimes uses different verbs than the indicative. In the first person, "was" becomes "were."

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However, I left the party fairly early.

There's a popular but incorrect belief that you can't start a sentence with a conjunction, like "but," "and," "so" ... or "however." However, this is wrong: if the sentence is clear and the context understood, it's fine.

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She had yet to pick her Maid of Honor.

English already capitalizes far more words than many other languages do. Not content with this, English speakers tend to promote words to capitalized status that don't merit it. Editors spend a lot of time correcting this tendency in the work of inexperienced writers.

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In his spare time, he likes to lager beer.

Sorry -- we were just winnowing out the home brewers from the casual beer drinkers! Home brewers will know that "lager" is a verb; to casual drinkers, it's an adjective.

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The new student, Storm, said they were gender-nonbinary.

Welcome the forefront of the culture wars, 101st Grammar Battalion! It's long been okay, at least in informal conversation, to use "they" to refer to a theoretical person of unknown gender. It's only recently that gender-nonbinary individuals have begun to claim "they" for a single, known person. On liberal-arts college campuses, people are likely to bristle if you don't want to use it; in more conservative settings, people are likely to bristle if you do (unless they're just confused). Stay tuned to see how this one shakes out.

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