Students often do not realize their own problems with grammar and spelling. Please take the following sample test to determine the areas in which you might need help. Answers and links to grammar help are below.
This selftest does not cover all the possible problems you will be tested on. For more information (and more selftests), see the following:
Read the following. If the sentence contains any errors of spelling or grammar, rewrite and correct all errors. If the sentence contains no errors, do nothing. NOTE: Some sentences contain no errors, some contain a single error, and some contain more than one error.
No errors. If you (wrongly) changed the word "principal" to "principle," remember that "principle" is always a noun, and NEVER an adjective. See here.
If you don't know what a noun or an adjective is, read this essay on the parts of speech.
See Washington State University Professor Paul Brians' page for a very comprehensive list of common errors in English usage.
No errors. If you (wrongly) changed "its" to "it's," please read pages 4-5 of O'Conner and look here.
Rewrite: There are a large number of desks in that room.
Desks are countable, so you say "number." You use "amount" for things that aren't usually put into the plural, such as money, happiness, dirt, sand, etc. For more examples, see here.
Rewrite: Shoplifting is an everyday occurrence.
"Everyday" (one word) means ordinary, commonplace, usual. "Every day" (two words) is as an adverb phrase, modifying a verb.
The word "everyday" is an adjective, and so is the word "every" in the phrase "every day". Because "everyday" (one word) is an adjective, using it always implies that some noun is being modified. For example, it's correct to write "Safeway has everyday low prices". "Prices" is a noun. The sentence says Safeway's everyday PRICES (the ordinary prices, not the sale prices) are low. To say Safeway has everyday low prices suggests that their sale prices (not the everyday ones) are really spectacularly low.
It's also correct to write "Shoplifting is an everyday occurrence" because the adjective "everyday" correctly modifies the noun "occurrence."
It would be incorrect to write "I visit my husband in the hospital everyday," for the same reason: "everyday" is always an adjective that means "ordinary". What you need here is an adverb to modify the verb ("visit"). The correct form would be "I visit my husband every day."
Students often find this "everyday/every day" distinction really confusing because they see the error so often, e.g., when Toyota says "Toyota / Everyday". What that means is that Toyotas are "everyday" (adjective) somethings (i.e., there must be some NOUN being modified by the adjective "everyday" -- "vehicles," "cars," "trucks," etc. presumably); and that means these Toyota vehicles are ordinary, commonplace, nothing special (because that's what "everyday" means). But the PHRASE "every day" (two words) is NOT an adjective. What Toyota wants to say is that Toyotas RUN unusually reliably ("every day", the adverb), so they need to use the phrase "every day" to imply a VERB is being modified. It's the difference between "Safeway has everyday low prices" (Safeway's ordinary PRICES are low) and "Safeway's prices are low every day" (how often ARE Safeway's prices low? Every day.)
I actually saw the following on a huge banner outside a school -- "EXCELLENT EDUCATION EVERYDAY." That's quite puzzling, if you know the difference bwteen "everyday" and "every day", because the education (noun) can't be both "excellent" (i.e., unusually good, NOT "everyday") AND "everyday". What they mean is that students RECEIVE excellent education on a daily basis, i.e., "every day" (adverb modifying verb "receive"). See?
If you don't know what an adverb is, read this essay on the parts of speech
If you didn't spell "occurrence" correctly, review your spelling words!
Rewrite: You're wasting your time in that class.
"You're" always means "you are"; the "you" in "you are" is the subject of this sentence.
"Your" is never a noun; it is a possessive adjective.
If you don't know what nouns or adjectives are, read this!
Rewrite: To me, if people are gay, that is their business.
Or: To me, if you're gay, that's your business. (less formal)
Or: To me, if a person is gay, that's his business. (grammatically correct but not politically correct)
Or: To me, if a person is gay, that's his or her business. (grammatically correct but wordy)
The problem here is that "a person" is singular but "their" is plural. Fix the sentence so there's no mismatch. For complete information, see here.
Incidentally, when I learned grammar, we were taught to say "To me if a person is gay, that's HIS business." The word "man," the pronoun "he," and the possessive adjective "his" were all understood to refer to both males and females. Today many people consider it politically incorrect to use any of these masculine terms to refer to mixed-sex groups. Some teachers are pretty punitive about this, so I'd be careful to avoid giving offense. See here for a brief discussion of avoiding gender bias in writing.
Rewrite: I can see why kids who watch a lot of television have trouble in school.
You want to fix it so it's perfectly clear who's watching television. O'Conner calls this sort of error a dangler. Review Chapter 7 of her book and see here.
No errors. If you're not clear on "affect" and "effect," see O'Conner p. 88.
If you think "a million" is wrong, see here for a concise account of when to use numerals versus writing out numbers.
Rewrite: Every user must choose a password.
Or: All users must choose their passwords.
Or any variant that gets rid of the singular-plural mismatch ("user" with "their").
Rewrite: Fewer and fewer students score above 600 on the SAT.
Students are countable, so you need "fewer." See O'Conner p. 99, or go here.
If you thought "600" should be "six hundred", see here. Use numerals when writing percentages, scores, or statistics.
No errors. If you changed anything here, see O'Conner p 109. Or see Washington State University Professor Paul Brians' page for a very comprehensive list of common errors in English usage.
No errors. The relative pronoun "whose" is correct here. Use "who's" ONLY when you mean to say "who is" or "who has."
Rewrite: The premises don't imply the conclusion; this argument is unacceptable.
Or: This argument is unacceptable, since the premises don't imply the conclusion.
Fix the comma splice (punctuation help here) and change "infer" to "imply." Why? Because inference is a psychological process; only conscious beings infer, and premises aren't conscious. See here for the difference between "infer" and "imply."
See here for excellent information on use of the semicolon.
No errors. Study this sentence carefully if you have problems with these words.
Rewrite: The executor split the inheritance equally among the three brothers.
Rewrite: Parents often don't know grammar themselves.
No errors. Use "each other" when you're talking two; "one another" for more than two.
Rewrite: Philosophers have been unable to prove the existence of God.
See your spelling words!
Rewrite: Ann and Bob are getting married? I can't conceive of it! I thought they were just casual acquaintances.
See your spelling words!
Rewrite: You can't believe in both science and supernatural phenomena.
"Phenomenon" is singular; "phenomena" is plural.
Rewrite: My dessert is better than yours.
You CANNOT confuse "then" and "than"! See O'Conner p. 107-108!
Rewrite: I'm not conscious of any inconsistency in Kant's views.
Rewrite: It's not necessary to have a precise definition of every word.
Rewrite: Some words denote classes with more than one member, e.g., "apple," "book," and "dog."
Rewrite: An excellent Chardonnay complemented the meal. Yum!
A complement completes, while a compliment flatters: "She complimented him on the way the nose ring complemented his outfit." For more info see O'Conner P. 94, or here.
Rewrite: All the nations in the European Union now accept the same money.
See O'Conner, p. 88 or just look here. "Accept" means "to receive". "Except" is usually a preposition meaning "but" or "leaving out."
Rewrite: When Bart played the wrong chord, Homer and Marge looked at each other and smiled feebly.
Rewrite: "Hey, man, you've got to love those Falcons, man!"
Punctuating dialog, particularly direct address, can be confusing! See here for complete info on using commas.
Rewrite: "Pearls before swine" doesn't mean first the pearls, then the swine. It means you're wasting your good stuff on an audience that doesn't know the difference.
Rewrite: Toyota / Every day (if you mean to emphasize how reliable the car is; it's so reliable you can drive it every day)
OR: Toyota / Everyday reliability, for everyday people, everyday performance, etc.
See answer for #4 above.
Rewrite: I am completely uninterested in military history.
"Disinterested" means "impartial." "Uninterested" means "not interested." See here.
If you'd like more practice, go here. This site has many quizzes with answers.
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