Word Crimes: Can You Solve These Grammar Mistakes?

By: Kevin Zed
Image: Mlenny/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

There are certain grammatical mistakes in this world that are so severe, they should be illegal (cc: misusing "your" and "you're.") They render you speechless, making you feel as if the world is on the brink of extinction and ... OK, maybe this is a bit melodramatic, but nonetheless, grammar mistakes are awful. And, worst of all, everyone is guilty of committing some pretty embarrassing errors, but let's not talk about it. Essays, tweets, reports ... It seems that no matter where we look, there's always some sort of mistake taunting us. As much as we hate to admit it, our elementary school teachers were right when they told us we'd better pay attention in class.

If you need reassurance that you won't repeat a big blunder or just want to test your skills for the fun of it, you've come to the right place. This quiz is full of terrifying mistakes that you'll have to identify, from sentence fragments and misplaced semicolons to improper diction and (gasp) missing apostrophes. So tuck in, put your thinking cap on, and get ready for a fun (or harrowing) grammatical ride. Oh, and if you get some answers wrong, nobody's judging you, we promise.

Which of the following is a sentence fragment?

Sentence fragments don't express complete ideas but are incorrectly written as if they're complete sentences. This option doesn't contain an actual subject or verb, so there isn't a period at the end.

Which of the following shouldn't contain a semicolon?

Semicolons separate two closely related independent clauses and lists containing internal punctuation, such as the third option. They aren't needed before coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet).

Can you identify the run-on sentence?

Contrary to popular belief, run-on sentences don't always have to be long. Commas shouldn't separate two independent clauses. If there had been a coordinating conjunction between the two clauses, a comma would be fine because the conjunction would render the second dependent on the first.

Which of the following is grammatically incorrect?

The pronoun "I" is a subject pronoun, meaning that it should be doing the action, not receiving it. While the second option sounds wrong, "me" is actually an object pronoun and therefore correct.

Do you know which one isn't an object pronoun?

"They" is always a subject and never receives the action. For example, it would be wrong to say, "Let's talk to they." Its object counterpart is "them" because it would be fine to say, "Let's talk to them."

Where is the apostrophe missing?

Since "women" is already plural, it wouldn't make sense for there to be a "S" and apostrophe at the end, as there normally is for plural possessive nouns. This rule also applies to "men." Use "women's."

Which sentence contains a dangling modifier?

Dangling modifiers are descriptive phrases that make it unclear which noun is being described, and are therefore misplaced. With this error, it appears as if the letter itself was leaning in slightly.

What's wrong with this sentence? "She was eager to swim, trail hiking, learn French and would attempt to do all simultaneously.

When listing items, they should always be grammatically equal. This sentence should be, "She was eager to swim, trail hike and learn French, and would attempt to do all simultaneously." The last element, doing it simultaneously, is distinct in verb tense from the list, and is offset by an extra comma.

Do you know what's wrong with this sentence? "He attempted to slowly drive on the highway but felt like he was in a hurry."

While not the worst of sins, split infinitives happen when "to" is not followed directly by the verb. This sentence technically should be, "He attempted to drive slowly on the highway but felt like he was in a hurry."

Can you identify the option with the wrong word choice?

"Peak" refers to the highest or sharpest point, including the climax. "Peek" means "to look briefly at something," and "pique" denotes "to stimulate" or "to trigger." We hope this quiz is piquing your interest!

Which of the following is correct?

It sounds weird, but "whom" is an object pronoun so it receives the action of the sentence. In this case, someone was written a letter, meaning they were the recipient of the action "to write."

One of these is correct, which is it?

While not commonly used, "allot" means "to allocate" or "set aside." People sometimes omit the space in "a lot" but it's always needed. Grammar nerds, who allot their time to studying sentences, like that space a lot.

What's wrong with this sentence? "Even though I have less friends than you, I still have an active social life. Last week, I did the following: ran, swam and had lunch at the local diner."

It sounds a bit funky, but "fewer" should precede "friends" because it's used in front of countable nouns. Comparatively, "less" modifies abstract nouns. For example, it would be correct to say, "I have less sympathy than you."

Can you tell us what's wrong with this sentence? "Looking between his shirts, the man couldn't decide whether to choose a formal or casual top. He ended up asking his wife, but she couldn't decide either."

"Between" is used when discussing a clearly quantifiable group of nouns ("He couldn't decide between the four shirts.") "Among" is for an uncertain number of nouns that are part of a mass of objects ("He couldn't decide among all his shirts.")

An option here is correct, do you know which one?

"Than" is used for comparison, while "then" denotes time. A good way to remember the difference is that "then" contains the word "hen," which is similar to a rooster, the bird that acts like an alarm clock for farmers in the morning.

Which contains the wrong use of "effect"?

"Effect" can either be a noun, meaning "consequence," or verb, meaning "to trigger," hence why the first option is correct despite looking off. If you want to say "to impact," use the verb "affect."

Oh snap! Can you tell us why this sentence is wrong? "The amount of times I've called you is obscene! I'm not sure why you weren't answering me — make sure you hear your phone next time, please and thank you!"

"Amount" precedes nouns that aren't countable, are abstract or are part of a mass group that's hard to measure. For example, "amount of water" and "amount of money" are correct. In contrast, "number" precedes nouns that are quantifiable, such as "number of lakes" and "number of bills."

Which of the following is incorrect?

"Insure" means "to take out insurance," while ensure means "to make something certain" or "to guarantee." "Assure" denotes saying something confidently or making a promise.

There's a mistake in this sentence. Do you know what it is? "The cat which has a gray tail is very adorable. I'm still not sure if I want to adopt her, but I'll definitely think about it. Regardless, thanks for your consideration, my friend."

There should be two commas surrounding "which has a gray tail." These commas are referred to as parenthetical commas because they encase non-essential information that you can remove without changing the sentence's grammatical correctness.

Can you identify the incorrect option?

Okay ya'll, this one's a bit crazy: "compliment" can either be a noun, like a statement praising someone, or a verb meaning "to express praise." Comparatively, "complement" is used for something that improves another thing or makes it more complete.

Do you know which one contains incorrect colon use?

Colons should always follow complete sentences or proclamations. While the last option doesn't start with an independent clause, it is a declaration. The other correct options contain clauses with colons that are interchangeable with periods, meaning the clauses express complete thoughts.

Which of the following contains an Oxford comma?

Ah, the Oxford comma: one of the most contested pieces of punctuation in history. Some say it's unnecessary, while others lose sleep over its absence. It's the comma you find (or sometimes don't) between the second and last elements in a list.

Can you identify the mistake in this sentence? "I'm not sure, because I don't know the answers. I could of found them earlier, but I was too lazy — next time will be different, I promise."

This also applies to "should of," "would of," and "must of": "could have" precedes verbs and is the correct term because "have" often accompanies verb conjugations, whereas "of" is a preposition.

One of these is correct, can you tell us which one?

"There" refers to a place, while "their" is a possessive pronoun and "they're" is a contraction for "they are." "They're getting their things over there" is a perfect example.

Do you know the incorrect response?

This is a grammar mistake that's unfortunately too prevalent. When referring to a person, "who" is the correct pronoun, whereas "that" is used for non-human nouns. Imagine saying, "A grammar mistake who's unfortunately too prevalent," that's actually kind of funny.

Which of the following is incorrect?

"At first" is an introductory clause, which is always followed by a comma. Introductory clauses function in the same way as dependent clauses: they can't stand alone as a sentence, so they require some sort of punctuation to connect them to the independent clause.

Which sentence contains the passive voice?

The passive voice is largely maligned, in part because it often makes sentences unnecessarily long and clunky. Passive voice constructions follow an "object + verb + subject model," whereas active voice is "subject + verb + sometimes object."

Do you know the mistake in this sentence? "I, too, am really excited for this trip. I just hope I remember my hiking shoes. Irregardless, I'm sure I'll still enjoy myself. We're visiting one of the most fun places on Earth."

No matter what anyone tells you, "irregardless" isn't actually a word — the correct term is "regardless." Irregardless, lots of people will still probably say it in the future. Oh wait...

Can you tell us the wrong option?

It's counter-intuitive, but "per say" is actually spelled "per se." It's maintained its original Latin spelling, possibly because it has nothing to do with saying anything and instead means "intrinsically" or "by and in itself."

What's wrong with the following sentence? "I also think we should paint the living room yellow, but we need to be careful about whom we hire. As long as we exhibit do diligence, we'll be okay. I'm still not sure if it'd be better to go with a light or dark shade of yellow."

A legal term, "do diligence" should be spelled as "due diligence." It refers to the precautions and discretion a business or person should apply before entering into an agreement with a third party.

Which of the following is correct?

A comma should precede the name of the person a speaker is talking to. Awkward situations could ensue without the comma. Think of, "We want to eat, grandma!" vs. "We want to eat grandma!" In the former, the speakers are obviously talking to the grandma, whereas the second refers to eating the grandma.

Which one contains correct internal quotations?

When using a quotation within a quotation, only use single quotation marks around the internal expression. Just don't ask us what to do when using a quotation within a quotation within a quotation.

Can you identify the wrong option?

Indeed, "forthrite" should be spelled as "forthright." Meaning "upfront" or "straightforward," it's probably only been used in the world a total of four times, but now we've made it five.

Which of the following is correct?

When two nouns share ownership of a common thing, only the second noun has to be possessive. When they each have their own respective things, both nouns should be possessive.

Which option contains an incorrect compound adjective?

Compound adjectives are needed when two adjectives modify the same noun. No hyphenation is required in this option because "horribly" is an adverb that modifies "behaved" and not the noun.

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