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Grammar quiz

Serious about improving your skills?

Start by admitting (to yourself, that is) to each grammar, punctuation, spelling or usage situation that you are not absolutely sure of. This pushes you to find answers and gain the confidence of knowing you’re on solid ground.

Embedded in the sentences below are a number of errors. Can you find them? Be careful, because some items that look like errors may not be errors. As well, some of the situations are judgment calls rather than absolutes.

(a) Its often said that every dog has it’s day.

(b) We tried to accomodate everyone down to the most miniscule detail.

(c) The complimentary chocolate on the pillow contrasted sharply with the rampant grafitti on the walls outside the three star hotel.

(d) Everyone who’s last name began with d, g, j, m, r or t was asked to step out of the line. “Follow me, please”, said tour leader, Jeremy Stout, a long time jeweller.

(e) Belle had just read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and loved it.

(f) The manager allowed Helmut, Hassan, Lily and I eleven hours of overtime.

(g) We decided we had layed around long enough; besides we needed to buy supplies from the stationary store, and Manuel and Doreen had to get to there music lessons.

(h) Silas wasn’t phased by supposed limitations of the i-Phone so he got into the cue to await his turn to purchase.



(a) It’s = it is (and it has, as in it’s been a beast of a day). That’s it; it’s all you need to know. Correct: It’s often said that every dog has its day. (2 points)

(b) Correct spelling: accommodate, minuscule  (2 points)

(c) Complimentary is correct. No change is needed. Chocolate is given with the compliments of the hotel. Correct spelling: graffiti. Three-star is a compound adjective and should be hyphenated.  (3 points)

(d) Whose, not who’s (a contraction for who is or who has). Comma before or after the quote marks? Depends upon the accepted style. In North America, the comma usually comes before the quotes; in the UK, it’s usually after. Delete the comma after leader; if the sentence had read the tour leader, a comma would have been required. Longtime or long-time is correct, depending upon accepted style. Jeweller? Not in the U.S (jeweler), but definitely OK elsewhere, particularly Canada and UK. If you live in Canada or UK, score a point for leaving it as is; if you live in the  U.S., score a point for changing to jeweler.  (5 points)

(e) Capitalize Is. It’s a verb, and verbs are capitalized in upstyle titles, no matter how short they may be. Length is not the criterion for capping. No comma after Hunter.  (2 points)

(f) Me, not I. Test it by removing the other objects of allowed. Manager allowed I? No. It’s me, which is in the objective case (indirect object of the verb allowed; the direct object is hours.) Numerals are often used for numbers above nine; it’s a matter of style.  (1 point; no points added or deducted for eleven or 11)

(g) It’s not layed (a misspelling), nor is it laid. It’s lain, the past participle form of lie (to recline). Insert a comma after besides. Correct spelling: stationery. (Clue: stationery is used for letters.) There should be their.  (4 points)

(h) It’s fazed, not phased. And it’s iPhone, not i-Phone. Branding can get crazy, but you should get it right. (It’s really easy to check on such things on the web.) Finally, it’s queue, not cue.  (3 points)

20-22 points:  Great on detail; light brush-up recommended.
15-19 points:  Promising foundation; practice makes perfect.
10-14 points:  Not good, but could be worse (see below); build your basics.
0-9 points:     Try again after a good night’s sleep.