There Are 35 Grammatical Mistakes in This Quiz — Can You Catch Them All?

EDUCATION

Elisabeth Henderson

7 Min Quiz

Image: Hill Street Studios / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

When people get annoyed at being corrected for poor grammar usage, they don’t understand the importance of proper grammar. Even in these times, when all truth seems subject to opinion, language depends on having accepted rules for us to communicate effectively. Without these rules of logic and organization, our communication would devolve into chaos. If I have my way of understanding grammar, and you have your way, then how can I translate my thoughts for you? It’s hard enough, even with clear grammar. 

Grammatical mistakes let a little bit of chaos into our communication. The simple misplacement of a comma can change the meaning of a sentence entirely. By using imprecise grammar, a writer relinquishes the power of communicating what they intend and abandons their thoughts for readers to decipher. 

A firm grasp of grammatical rules and conventions, on the other hand, allows a writer to shape ideas with subtlety and precision. Knowing the rules that govern grammatical logic, a writer can write about what works well and what may cause confusion in a sentence. 

Exercising the muscles that find grammatical mistakes in a public arena can quickly earn you the ire of friends and colleagues. But, if you exercise those muscles in the privacy of your computer, you’ll become a stronger writer and communicator. Start scrolling to put those muscles to work!

When she arrived at the beach, their wasn’t anyone else by the ocean. What’s wrong in this sentence?

This is a classic error that all of us have made at some point, whether by autocorrect or by ignorance. “Their” is a possessive pronoun and should be used to show when something belongs to “them.” In this sentence, the homonym “there,” which indicates location, is correct.

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Her favorite thing to do when she was a child is burying her brother in sand. Where is the mistake here?

Since this sentence refers to the past with the phrase “when she was a child,” the verb “is” should be in the past tense “was.” Even though some childhood memories seem to occupy the eternal present, they should still obey verb tense rules.

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My sister and me paddled out on our boogie boards into a growing storm. Where is the error in this sentence?

Because “me” is used as the subject of the sentence, along with “my sister,” it is incorrect. “Me” should only be used as an object (as in “to me”), while “I” should be used as a subject (as in “I went surfing”). People often try to differentiate which one to use by how it sounds in the sentence, but that is not as trustworthy as knowing this simple rule.

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When I finally woke up I realized my raft had drifted out to sea. What’s the problem here (other than the problem of being lost at sea)?

There should be a comma after “up.” Because “when I finally woke up” is an introductory phrase with more than four words, it requires a comma to set it off. Grammarists recommend commas to show when a phrase is not essential to the meaning of the sentence as a whole. The sentence clearly can make sense without this phrase, so a comma works here.

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When asked what his family does for fun, Ralphie responded that they enjoy laying in the sun, to have drinks, and playing in the surf. What convention is the mistake in this sentence violating?

This sentence violates the convention of parallel strucutre. Writers create parallel structure when they use the same grammatical form for all items in a list to emphasize that they are being compared on the same level. This sentence could be revised into parallel structure in this way: “they enjoy laying in the sun, having drinks, and playing in the surf.”

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Before getting a picture, the shark swam away.

This sentence is missing a noun to show who was “getting a picture.” As it is, the sentence is left ambiguous, leading readers to wonder whether the shark was going to take a selfie before it swam away. When a phrase is left hanging like this, and it is unclear who is doing the action, it’s called a dangling modifier.

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She warned him to not swim out to sea, but he didn’t listen. What is the error in this sentence called?

This sentence contains a split infinitive: “to not swim.” Split infinitives live up to their name: they split an infinitive. An “infinitive” is a verb which expresses an action or state of being. Many grammar experts, like the Purdue Online Writing Lab, hold that infinitives should not be split in formal writing, but can be split in informal writing. This sentence could be formally revised to say “She warned him not to swim.”

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I wanted to just sit in the surf and enjoy my drink, but the waves were to big. What’s the grammar error here?

The end of this sentence should read “were too big.” “To” is a preposition that has many meanings, including toward and until. “Too,” on the other hand, is an adverb that shows excess or an addition. Confusing the two changes the meaning of the sentence and makes it nonsensical. How can a wave be to big? By moving toward becoming big? It just makes no sense.

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I told my father that when I go to the beach I have to bring my paper umbrella for my drink and he told me that was ridiculous. Where does this sentence need a comma?

This rambling sentence needs a comma before “and” to separate the two independent clauses. An independent clause has a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought. When there are more than one independent clause in a sentence, they need to be separated by a comma and a conjunction.

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She look very tan, which makes sense; she has been laying in the sun for three months. What’s the problem here, aside from skin damage?

The sentence should read, “She looks tan.” This is a classic subject-verb agreement mistake. Since “she” is a singular subject, the sentence needs the singular form of the verb in order to be correct. The semicolon works here because it divides two independent clauses. The comma before “which” is necessary because it sets off a phrase that isn’t essential to the sentence.

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Wishing she had applied sunsreen. What is the name for this grammar error?

This sentence provides an example of a sentence fragment, otherwise known as an incomplete sentence. Incomplete sentences lack either a subject or a verb, or they contain a phrase that needs to be completed in order to express a complete thought. In this case, the introductory participle “wishing” opens an idea that is left hanging. This sentence needs another clause to complete it, like “Wishing she had applied sunscreen, she regretted her decision to stay in the sun an extra hour.”

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At the end of the day spent fishing, Claude was content, he had four large bass in his net. What needs to be changed here?

This sentence constitutes a run-on because two independent clauses are melded together with a comma and no conjunction. One way to fix this would be to add a conjunction (and, but, or) before the second comma. Another fix is to swap the comma for a semicolon. That works in this case since the two clauses are closely linked.

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Now that the children are grown, I have less things to carry down to the beach. What needs to be changed here?

In this sentence, “less” should be “fewer.” The rule of thumb to follow for this tricky usage issue is that “fewer” applies to countable nouns, while “less” applies to uncountable nouns. Since the plethora of things the speaker of this sentence used to carry to the beach could likely be counted, fewer is the best selection.

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Stanley was made to drink saltwater by his older sister. What usage error would many editors suggest revising in this sentence?

This sentence contains an example of passive voice: “Stanley was made to.” Many editors and grammarians would suggest revising this sentence into the active voice, by changing it to “Stanley’s older sister made him drink saltwater.” Passive voice is negative because it removes the action away from the doer of the action. It may, however, be appropriate in some instances, as when you want to emphasize passivity.

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I packed my bag for a day at the beach with my towel water bottle and four books. What is missing here?

This sentence requires at least one comma to clearly organize the series of items in the beach bag. It should read “towel, water bottle and four books.” Depending on a writer’s view of the controversial “Oxford comma,” they may also include a comma before “and.”

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I always thought the sun didn’t effect me, until now. What needs to change here?

In this sentence, “effect” should be changed to “affect.” These are perhaps the two most misused words in the English language and for a good reason. They’re confusing. The simple rule is that “affect” is a verb, and “effect” is a noun. The effect of the sun is a sunburn. The sun affects you by giving you a sunburn. To complicate matters, “effect” can also be a verb, but it has a different meaning, “to cause.”

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Who should I give this surfboard to next? What needs to change in this sentence?

To be grammatically correct, this sentence should read “Whom should I,” because “whom” acts as an object, as in “to whom.” The pronoun “who” acts as a subject, as in “who is next,” so it doesn’t work here. Realistically though, no one expects anyone to say “whom” when handing over a surfboard.

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All beachgoers must follow these rules no drinking, no smoking, no glass, and no drowning. What is missing in this sentence?

A colon should follow “rules” in this sentence. The colon is used following a complete sentence to show that what comes after it will further describe what happened before. So, it’s often used to introduce a list, which is a detailed description. In this case, the list describes the rules mentioned earlier.

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Let’s go ahead and start grilling Roger. What does this sentence need?

This sentence gives a clear demonstration of why the direct address comma is important. When you address someone directly, you set off their name in commas, to make it clear that you are talking to them instead of about them. This is important in this case, because it makes the difference between asking Roger to grill with you and grilling Roger.

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I finally conquered my fears and swam in the ocean for the first time: then I met a jellyfish. What is wrong in this sentence?

The colon in this sentence should be a semicolon. Colons are used to show that what comes after further describes what came before, but the next clause here does not do that. Instead it continues the thought by taking it a different direction. Because what follows the punctuation is an independent clause, it needs a semicolon rather than a comma.

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I could have sworn that a shark bumped me while I was swimming, I didn’t see it. What is the term for this grammatical error?

This sentence contains a comma splice. A comma splice is the use of a comma to separate two independent clauses. To correctly separate independent clauses, you need to either add a conjunction (and, but, or) or switch out the comma for a semicolon.

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Its OK; I think I know how to swim. What mistake can you find here?

In this sentence, “Its” should be changed to “It’s.” Unlike other nouns and pronouns, the possessive of “It” is formed by adding an “s” without an apostrophe. The word “it’s,” with the apostrophe, is the contraction of “it is.”

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I wanted to go surfing, in the morning, but there was a thunderstorm. What’s the problem here?

There is no need for commas before and after “in the morning” in this sentence because the phrase is an essential part of the sentence. “In the morning” is crucial to the thought expressed by the sentence, so it does not need to be set apart by commas.

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Surfing requires many skills: courage, balancing and strength. What needs to be changed in this sentence?

In this sentence, “balancing” should be changed to “balance” to maintain parallel structure. Parallel structure is a technique that writers use to show that the items in a list are being compared at the same level. If you say courage, balancing, and strength, it’s unclear whether you’re comparing characteristics or actions.

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Emma asked me how I slept on the beach that afternoon, and I said, “Pretty good.” What should be changed in this sentence?

In order to be grammatically correct, “good” should be revised to “well” in this context. The reason for this is that “good” acts as an adjective, while “well” acts as an adverb. Whenever you’re describing an action, “well” should be your choice modifier.

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It surprised everyone when Marianne the bride stepped into the surf and soaked her dress. What should be added to make this sentence more clear?

Commas should offset “the bride” to clarify that this is a descriptor of Marianne and not an additional person. Because the sentence can be read and make sense without this appositive, it is a nonessential element and should be set apart with a comma before and after.

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Right before the wave engulfed her raft, Justine heard someone shout “Watch out!” What’s wrong with this sentence?

This sentence needs a comma after “shout” to properly introduce the quotation. A comma is necessary to introduce quotations in most cases because the quotation interrupts the flow of the sentence. In some cases, as when the quotation is introduced by “that” or “whether,” it fits in with the flow of the sentence and needs no comma.

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It’s hard to believe but Jack really did have a squid stuck to his arm. What is missing in this sentence?

Because the conjunction “but” joins together two independent clauses, it should be preceded by a comma. An independent clause contains a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought. The first clause has a subject and a verb, though they’re both contained in the contraction “It’s,” it is.

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“But when” I asked Dani as she ran out the door, “will you be back?” What needs to change for this sentence to be correct?

Since the quotation is interrupted by the clause “I asked Dani,” there should be a comma after when. It’s perfectly acceptable to interrupt quotations mid-sentenece, as long as you include punctuation to show how the quotation fits in with the rest of the sentence. In this case, the quotation is separate from the flow of the rest of the sentence and needs to be set off with a comma.

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I put on allot of sunscreen, but I still look like a lobster. What’s the issue with this sentence?

In this context, “allot” should be changed to “a lot.” The word “allot” is a verb, meaning “to portion out.” “A lot,” on the other hand, is the more common phrase used to mean “many” or “a large amount.” Getting the right word here is the difference between sense and nonsense.

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That’s when it became clear to me that sharks are faster. What’s the problem here?

This sentence contains an incomplete comparison. In order for the sentence to make sense, it should include the rest of the comparison. What are sharks faster than? People, for one thing. Leaving the comparison incomplete leaves readers wondering what you mean or filling in the blanks with their own ideas.

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It looks like that seal is going to become all those shark’s dinner.

The apostrophe is misplaced here in this plural possessive. It should read “sharks’,” showing that all of the sharks will soon have ownership over the lone seal. If “shark,” were plural, the apostrophe would go before the “s.” But we know it is “sharks” because of the plural demonstrative adjective, “those.”

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I’m looking for the person that took my beach towel. What should be changed in this sentence?

In this sentence, “that” should be “who.” Since the sentence clearly indicates that the towel-stealing culprit is a person, the pronoun to gesture to that person should be “who,” which indicates a person. “That” can be used as a demonstrative pronoun, but it always points to a thing, not a person.

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My hand popped up in the air after dad asked, “Whose ready to go to the beach?”

In the context of this sentence, “whose” should be “who’s.” “Whose” refers to ownership, asking the question “To who do these belong?” “Who’s,” on the other hand, is a contraction for “who is.” In this case, Dad is asking who is ready to go to the beach, so the contraction makes sense.

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I like to run for one hour, lay on the beach for six hours, swim for 30 minutes, than go up to my balcony for a drink. What’s the problem here, besides all the exercise?

In this sentence, “than” should be “and then.” “Than” is used primarily to make comparisons, and the speaker does not compare having a drink with the other items in this series. Rather, the sentence needs “then” to show that the drink is happening later in time.

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