Thursday 15 April 2004 — This is 19 years old. Be careful.
I guess grammar is in the air these days. Here’s a twenty-question grammar quiz: How grammatically sound are you? I found this quiz disappointing on a number of levels (and before we get into it, I scored Master on it).
First, there are no answers given, and the final score is simply a qualitative ranking, so there’s no opportunity to learn from the exercise. Second, question #7 has a typo in it!
But more importantly, answering some of these questions, I was divided: there was the way I knew I should answer to be “correct”, and the way I would actually speak. For many questions, there was more than answer that I would consider acceptable. In some ways, this quiz provides a perfect demonstration of how little grammatical correctness matters.
Language changes, it’s a dynamic living creature. Any label of linguistic “correctness” is only good for a certain period of time, measured in centuries or maybe only decades. After some period of time, the distinction between the correct and the incorrect is eroded (“The puppy which is without a home” vs. “The puppy that is without a home”). Once this happens, the language maven who still cares about the distinction is branded as pedantic. Eventually, the correct can fall out of use, and be considered archaic. Who says, “Whom should you ask?” any more?
In the very long run, everything we say will be gone. Ever read Chaucer in the original? It’s a completely different language, but the difference between his tongue and ours happened gradually over centuries. The forces that changed his language continue to work on ours, and no number of dictionaries or grammarians will stop them.
On the other hand, I don’t believe that anything goes: I cringe when I hear people say “There are less people there”. But I know that my great-grandchildren won’t. Some people decry that shift. I don’t. It’s inevitable. My great-grandfather would probably cringe to hear how I speak, so who am I to throw stones?
What really matters in language, whether written or spoken, is communicating effectively. Some grammatical issues (like the misplaced modifier covered in question #19) touch on that effectiveness. Others (like #20: what is the plural of Mr.?) do not.
Language changes, the people will speak as they speak. Long live language!
I am generally suspicious to the select-one-of-these kind of tests and this one clearly proves the point. ;-)
Was anyone else bothered by #17? “There are a lot of things” vs. “There is a lot of things.”
You are a complete and utter BASTARDIZATION of the English tongue!
Yes, I really tried.
I hail from Australia, so English is my first (and only) language, and both my parents are English teachers. I hereby denounce the quiz as a useless fraud.
my doubt arises from the fact that a lot of is singular so "is" is used, whereas lots of is plural so "are" is used.. despite the fact that you are talking about "things" which is in the plural..
well, I hope u can help me
THANKS! Please answer my question!
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