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A Grammar Test -
January 28, 2005 10:19 AM   Subscribe

A Grammar Test - How is your grammar? Are you proficient with the English language? Here is a little test of 34 questions to help you check yourself. Or, perhaps grammar doesn't trip your trigger. You may want to try the Punctuation and Capitalization test.
posted by Crackerbelly (50 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I must have studied hard!
posted by ORthey at 10:24 AM on January 28, 2005


Does it ever get beyond subject-verb agreement?
posted by smackfu at 10:25 AM on January 28, 2005


Does it ever get beyond subject-verb agreement?

I was wondered the same thing.
posted by alms at 10:27 AM on January 28, 2005


It is mostly subject-verb agreement but there are a few clauses rolled in later.
posted by Crackerbelly at 10:33 AM on January 28, 2005


d)Dr. Stephens is one of those professors who do whatever it takes to get his point across to his students.

They say this is a correct answer. I beg to differ.
posted by Clay201 at 10:33 AM on January 28, 2005


That one threw me, as did:

b)She is one of those doctors who make house calls.
c)She is one of those doctors who makes house calls.

I must go off to find the rule for X is one of those Ys who...
posted by trharlan at 10:40 AM on January 28, 2005


Clay201, I was just coming over here to say the same thing. Unless all of the professors are working to get Dr. Stephens' point across, that just sounds wrong wrong wrong.
posted by kenko at 10:41 AM on January 28, 2005


Yes, that one accounted for one of the 3 that I missed as well. I'm almost certain that it should be "one of those professors who does" because he is ONE of a group.

But then again, there could be a huge group of professors who do a lot of stuff, and he's one of them. I would avoid the issue altogether and say that he is one of those professors who will do anything blah blah. That way your bases are covered. :)
posted by salad spork at 10:49 AM on January 28, 2005


Neither Don nor I am playing hooky? It may be correct, but it sounds whacked. I'd give it a big 'rewrite to avoid the troubled agreement' if I were editing.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:49 AM on January 28, 2005


Salad spork:

"Dr. Stephens" is the subject, "is" is the verb. Singular, Singular.

What is he?
He is "one".

One what?
"of those professors who do whatever it takes to get [their] point across".
It is the professors that do whatever it takes to get their point across, so subject-professors must agree with verb-do. Plural, Plural. I agree with those who have stated that it should be "their point" rather than "his point".

Anyway, 31/34. Some of the sentences do sound weird.

Jacquilynne: When you have a "neither/nor" construction, the verb agrees with the subject closest to it.

I think the reason why the test focuses on subject-verb agreement is because that is one of the most common problems in writing. I am a writing counselor at my university, and nearly everyone who comes in has problems with that.
For ESL students, articles, pronouns, and idiomatic expressions are the biggest problems.
posted by papakwanz at 11:02 AM on January 28, 2005


I'm not disputing the correctness of it, papakwanz, but it sounds awkward. That's why I'd suggest writing around it instead of leaving it in place.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:06 AM on January 28, 2005


That sentence is bugging me too. This is what the American Heritage Book of English Usage (via Bartleby) has to say about the construction:

"one of those who. Constructions such as one of those people who pose a different problem. Many people argue that who should be followed by a plural verb in these sentences, as in He is one of those people who just don’t take “no” for an answer. Their thinking is that the relative pronoun who refers to the plural noun people, not to one. They would extend the rule to constructions with inanimate nouns, as in The sports car turned out to be one of the most successful products that were ever manufactured in this country.
But the use of the singular verb in these constructions is common, even among the best writers. In an earlier survey, 42 percent of the Usage Panel accepted the use of the singular verb in such constructions. It’s really a matter of which word you feel is most appropriate as the antecedent of the relative pronoun—one or the plural noun in the of phrase that follows it. Note also that when the phrase containing one is introduced by the definite article, the verb in the relative clause must be singular: He is the only one of the students who has (not have) already taken Latin."


Back to me: the real problem it seems is that the second half of the sentence is a mishmash of singular and plural. If they were consistent with either one it would really be fine.

Now I'll stop procrastinating and prepare some points for my own students!
posted by Pattie at 11:13 AM on January 28, 2005


oh, there were only 34? I got to 32, got bored and quit.

Fun, though. I'm incredibly anal about spelling and punctuation, though my grammar can be lax. I had particular trouble with who/whom.
posted by corvine at 11:14 AM on January 28, 2005


c)Neither Don nor Donna is playing hooky.

Bollocks is this correct.
posted by salmacis at 11:16 AM on January 28, 2005


There are a number of other answers that seem to me contentious. For instance, "Who are you voting for?" is far more common usage, even in respectable mainstream sources, than the dorkish "Whom are you voting for?". I gave up at that point. Jane Straus appears to be just another self-appointed grammar pundit (see Bill Poser's Language Log comment on similar faults in the well-known Grammar Quiz).
posted by raygirvan at 11:17 AM on January 28, 2005


Bollocks is this correct.

Yep: I'd use "are". At least in UK usage, the choice between "neither ... is" and "neither ... are" has long been open to choice (as this BBC World Service Guide says) but prescriptivists continue to claim that only the singular form is correct.
posted by raygirvan at 11:24 AM on January 28, 2005


Well, I've always preferred for whom are you voting? since I think prepositions are bad things to end sentences with.
;)
posted by trharlan at 11:28 AM on January 28, 2005


I love being told that I must have studied very hard to speak my native language fluently, but it seemed like there was an anti-British bias to this quiz. I notice that subject verb agreement is different in North America than it is in Britain. Any thoughts from speakers of non-American English?

I wish they made a bigger deal of pronouns. I am so tired of hearing "she gave this to David and I" and "Please contact Jim or myself". I have nothing against dialects, but I hate hyper-correction.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:39 AM on January 28, 2005


I hit the "back" button before completing the quiz. It invoked a maddening sense of self-doubt in my own language skills.
posted by Feferneuse at 11:46 AM on January 28, 2005


Having gotten 33/34, I feel authorized to say that the Dr. Stevens question was stupid. Their students!

On preview: are we sure it's an anti-British bias? I assumed it was just an anti-common-usage bias. Which is what I expected going in.
posted by squidlarkin at 11:57 AM on January 28, 2005


"I hit the "back" button before completing the quiz. It invoked a maddening sense of self-doubt in my own language skills."

Telling people that that natural flow of their everyday speech is Wrong can do that. As a linguist, I get frustrated with grammarians for ignoring context.

I would not use "neither ... are" in a job application, but I would never ask someone in a bar "whom are you voting for".
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:58 AM on January 28, 2005


No one's going to deny that whom has fallen out of common usage, but I like it. The problem is if someone tries to use it as a subject and thus comes off sounding both pretentious and stupid. As opposed to merely pretentious.
posted by squidlarkin at 12:08 PM on January 28, 2005


d)Dr. Stephens is one of those professors who do whatever it takes to get his point across to his students.

They say this is a correct answer. I beg to differ.


When teaching English, I learned that the subject of a sentence cannot be in a prepositional phrase. "of those professors" is a prepositional phrase, and so the verb should agree with the subject "Dr. Stephens."

But, hey, it was a pretty crappy (private) school I taught at, so I could be wrong.

Also, not ending your sentence with a preposition has never been a rule in spoken English: it was translated from the Latin and has no actual relevance to modern English (so sayeth my grandfather the English prof, anyway).
posted by carmen at 12:12 PM on January 28, 2005


Ask not for whom the whom applies...
posted by cortex at 12:12 PM on January 28, 2005


Grammar is more about social class than language. English is organic, not rule based. There is no consistent fixed grammar for the English language.
posted by Osmanthus at 12:22 PM on January 28, 2005


I taught high school grammar for a couple years and really enjoyed getting the logic of all these things straight. The "one of those" construction is not commonly used, but if you think about it, it does make more sense, as the descriptive clause is referring to "those professors" not "dr. stephens".

And I like "whom", also... although I try not to use it in cases where it sounds pretentious. For instance, I wouldn't say "for whom are you voting?" but would try to reconfigure the sentence, eg, "so, who is getting your vote?"
posted by mdn at 12:30 PM on January 28, 2005


carmen: When teaching English, I learned that the subject of a sentence cannot be in a prepositional phrase. "of those professors" is a prepositional phrase, and so the verb should agree with the subject "Dr. Stephens."

Yes, but this sentence has two verbs. "Is" is the primary verb (and agrees with "Dr. Stephens," the sentence subject), and "do" is a part of the clause "who do whatever..." modifying "professors," the object of the prepositional phrase "of those professors."

Or am I all wet?
posted by syzygy at 12:35 PM on January 28, 2005


I think #16 is wrong...

It is us who must decide.
It is we who must decide.

The verb 'is' should be followed by an object, not a subject. You wouldn't answer "Who is it?" with "It is I", you would say "It is me."
posted by knave at 12:43 PM on January 28, 2005


I got 32/34, but I will claim 33/34, because I'm sure that papakwanz is correct: it should be "Dr. Stephens is one of those professors who do whatever it takes to get their point across".

Actually knave, to be technically correct, you would say "it is I". As in "Who is at the door?"/ "It is I" ("I am at the door" - not "Me is at the door".)
posted by taz at 12:58 PM on January 28, 2005


syzygy: Like I said, it wasn't the least-crappy school around. What you said sounds right. The sentence still sounds wrong, though.

My grammar is pretty good, but there are these technical bits that I never learned (and my spelling is terrible). If something sounds weird, I usually re-write it entirely to something I *know* is correct.

Now that I mark papers at the university level, I've learned a lot about why teaching grammar rules is a good idea. I've gotten papers (in a 3rd year class, mind you!) with sentences like "From the beginning of all time, and to the present day, when people in our culture think of family, and to cases across the world the definition has withheld."
posted by carmen at 12:59 PM on January 28, 2005


Holy crap taz, you're right, and it's for a very weird reason.
posted by knave at 1:10 PM on January 28, 2005


Let's get irregular with some copulative verbs.
posted by eatitlive at 1:20 PM on January 28, 2005


One of the big problems with English-language usage rules (the ever-famous "don't split infinitives", and others) is that they're borrowed from Latin.

However, it is an unfortunate fact that the whole who/whom, it's me/it is I debate is lost on my students. I usually have to start at the beginning, as in: "Your paper doesn't have an introduction and is organized incoherently." And most of the time I can't even use a big fancy word like "incoherent." "Dude, this makes no sense" is more like it.

/bitter
posted by MiHail at 1:39 PM on January 28, 2005


MiHail,

I told a person that I met outside of a school context that my future was "vague and undefined." He said "you must be a university student because you're using big words like 'vague' and 'undefined'."
posted by carmen at 2:24 PM on January 28, 2005


The puncutation test is equally absurd. Four dots in an ellipsis? A wrong answer for "Isabel enjoys the museum, although she cannot afford the entrance fee"? Bah!
posted by vorfeed at 2:44 PM on January 28, 2005


Pish-posh! Purple prose perplexes pretty profoundly!
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:16 PM on January 28, 2005


Grammar is more about social class than language. English is organic, not rule based. There is no consistent fixed grammar for the English language.

Agreed. It's a living language. Use the common usage whenever possible. Eventually, the "rules" will adapt and come into line. May "whom" die soon. :)

I'm more concerned about the number of people that do not seem to know the meaning of what I would consider "common" words. I used the word "genre" recently and several people (0 out of 4 adults) didn't know its meaning.
posted by Bort at 3:52 PM on January 28, 2005


I must of studied hard.
posted by dreish at 8:03 PM on January 28, 2005


Two things: the grammar test seems to be only subject-verb agreement, and this is different between American English and UK English. "The crowd is on their feet" vs. "The crowd are on their feet."

And that punctuation test...there's a lot of emphasis on the comma, but ask any decent English professor--the comma has some concrete rules, but its usage is often intuitive. You can kinda make up your own comma rules (kinda), much like with the sentences I've just typed.
posted by zardoz at 8:06 PM on January 28, 2005


I'm from canada and gave up after about number six. Neither x nor y IS z? Bullshit. If I heard this in Canada I'd swear the person was fresh off the boat and weren't done their ESL courses yet.

I know Canada shares some spelling with the UK, perhaps we share a lot of grammar with them also? I hope so.

[ Then again, it could just be me -- having British parents I've often confused the locals by saying things like "We're off then, bye" to someone when just me, by myself, is departing; thus leaving the other person scratching their head wondering where the other person is. ]

Now... to remember to answer the person asking on the phone if they're speaking to me with "This is he" instead of "This is him".
posted by shepd at 8:59 PM on January 28, 2005


Around question 7 I noticed the "one of these things is not like the others" criterion for selecting the correct answer. Badly designed quiz.
posted by Aknaton at 9:22 PM on January 28, 2005


I gave up after confronting Dr. Stevens, whose grammar rules all those professors.

Only in Marin, as Herb Caen used to say ....
posted by hank at 9:45 PM on January 28, 2005


She is one of those doctors who make house calls.

Dr. Stephens is one of those professors who do whatever it takes to get his point across to his students.


The verb in a relative clause takes its number (singular or plural) from its antecedent (the word in the main clause that it refers back to). In the first example the antecedent is "doctors," and in the second it is "professors." I think the reasons for this rule are consitency and clarity. Still, I really think that, as most have pointed out, it sounds better the "incorrect" way, unless you are applying to law school or something.
posted by mokujin at 12:18 AM on January 29, 2005


Neither x nor y IS z?

That is correct. Think neither one of x nor y is z.
posted by emf at 3:57 AM on January 29, 2005


That is correct.

But not exclusively so. Usage nowadays is split pretty evenly between "is" and "are", as Google demonstrates: "neither of them is" 43,600 hits / "neither of them are" 37,900 hits.
posted by raygirvan at 4:28 AM on January 29, 2005


emf, I noticed a lot of those terrible sounding sentences become much more natural sounding when words are added in.

Yes, neither one of x nor y is z sounds great. But now there's a new word.

Just like:

Dr. Stephens is one of those professors who would do whatever it takes to get his point across to his students.

Sounds perfect. Why is that?
posted by shepd at 3:13 PM on January 29, 2005


A wrong answer for "Isabel enjoys the museum, although she cannot afford the entrance fee"? Bah!

In speech there's often a pause before although, but that doesn't mean there has to be punctuation. Substitute "even though" and you'll see the test is right.
posted by wolfey at 4:02 PM on January 29, 2005


The puncutation test is equally absurd. Four dots in an ellipsis?

Vorfeed- sometimes 4 periods is appropriate. If you are omitting something WITHIN a sentence, then you use three periods. However, if you are omitting something and then skipping to a new sentence, 4 periods is correct.

Ex:
If you are omitting something... you use three periods.

vs.

If you are omittiing something.... However, if you are omitting something etc etc.

However, that 2nd one doesn't really make sense for non-elliptical reasons.
posted by papakwanz at 4:34 PM on January 29, 2005


Shepd, it's one of those natural progressions - we drop words for convenience's sake and then forget them.

Usage doesn't make mistakes correct.
posted by emf at 10:45 PM on January 29, 2005


Usage doesn't make mistakes correct.

Pity there aren't more linguists here. In the long run, if usage wins out, it most certainly does make mistakes correct. Would you doubt the correctness of "apron", "cherry" and "pea"? Yet "apron" comes from mistaking "a napron" for "an apron"; and "cherry" and "pea" exist through mistaken interpretation of the imported singulars, "cherise" and "pise", as plurals.
posted by raygirvan at 5:01 AM on January 30, 2005


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