Advanced Grammar Test for a High IQ



By: William J. Wright

6 Min Quiz

Image: TimeStopper/ Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

For a structure to be sound, it must have a solid foundation. This is as true for a sentence or a paragraph as it is for a house or a skyscraper. In English, grammar provides both the material and the tools for constructing clear and understandable written communication. Although it may be the least fun part of writing, cultivating a basic familiarity with the rules can make all the difference between a bad writer and a good one. A real, in-depth understanding of grammar separates the skilled amateurs from the professionals who can really make their prose shine! 

Whether you're writing an email, a term paper or the next great American novel, grammar should be embraced as a friend, not shunned as an enemy. If writing is art, then grammar is your oils and brushes, so why not have the best palette you can muster? After all, Michelangelo didn't paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with a couple of broken crayons. And remember, you have to know the rules before you can break them.

This is a quiz for hardcore grammarians, but even if you don't know a split infinitive from split-pea soup, we invite you to come along on this journey into the cogs and gears of the English language. Have you got what it takes to conquer our advanced grammar challenge?

Particles such as "-ed, "-er" and "-est" added to the end of a word are examples of what?

A suffix is a syllable or series of syllables (in linguistics called a "morpheme") added to a stem word to form a new word, change the meaning or alter the grammatical function of a word. For example, "-d" or "-ed" added to a regular verb will form the past tense of that verb.


Which part of speech names a person, place, thing or idea?

This should be an easy one! Nouns are words that denote people, places, things, qualities, events, ideas or states of existence. This is probably the first thing you learned about grammar in grade school.


Which is the most common word order for sentences in English?

The most common word arrangement in English is the simple sentence constructed with a subject (a noun or pronoun) followed by a verb (an action performed by the subject) followed by an object (a noun or pronoun receiving the action). "He started the car" is an example of the form.


What are the two basic parts needed to form a complete sentence in English?

The two essential elements for making a sentence are the subject and the predicate. The subject is what the sentence is about. The predicate makes a statement about the subject with a word that expresses an action or state of being. The simplest sentences can be composed of just a noun and a verb.


Can you name the comma placed after the next to last item in a series before a conjunction?

A serial comma, also known as an Oxford comma or Harvard comma, is the last comma occurring in a list just before a coordinating conjunction like "and," "but" and "or." The use of a serial comma is largely a matter of style; however, it may lend clarity to the sentence.


What is the appositive phrase in this sentence? "Spelt, a type of grain, grows in Central Europe."

An appositive phrase is a group of words that identifies or explains a word it adjoins. In the question, "a type of grain" is the appositive phrase. Set off by commas, it serves to define the subject "Spelt," adding clarity to the sentence.


What is the subject of the sentence "Jack and Jill went up the hill"?

When the subject has multiples elements, it is known as a compound subject. In this case, "Jack and Jill," two nouns joined by "and," are the compound subject. The action "went" is the verb beginning the predicate in this simple sentence.


Which category of pronoun includes the words "I," "he," "she," "you" and "it"?

"I," "he, "she," "you" and "it" and their inflected forms make up the category of personal pronouns. Personal pronouns take the place of the noun in a sentence to refer to the one speaking, spoken to or spoken about.


Can you pick the correct word to complete this sentence? "The jury _____ at noon."

In order to make a complete sentence, the correct option is the singular verb "deliberates." "Jury" is a collective noun. In this case, 12 jurors make up the single unit that comprises the jury. When a collective noun is regarded as a single unit, it takes the singular verb form.


What do adjectives do?

Adjectives are descriptive words used to modify a noun or pronoun. They usually come just before the word they modify. Adjectives can also be found in the predicate to complete the meaning of a sentence. For example, "skinny" and "hungry" are the adjectives in "The skinny cat looks hungry."


Which of these sentences is punctuated correctly?

Introductory phrases should be followed by a comma. "Although it was unseen by the campers" is an introductory phrase (and a subordinate clause) giving context to the sentence. "The bear lurked nearby" is an independent clause that could stand on its own as a complete sentence.


What is a group of words lacking either a subject and/or predicate that functions as a single part of speech?

Phrases have many functions in language. Some common types of phrases include noun phrases, verb phrases and prepositional phrases. Noun and verb phrases can be linked to form sentences as in "The early train (noun phrase) was late (verb phrase)."


Can you identify the subordinate clause in the sentence "He was hungry because he skipped lunch"?

Clauses are groups of words containing both a subject and a predicate. Independent clauses can work as full sentences. Subordinate clauses, however, can't work as a sentence because they begin with words like "because" or "which." They are used to elaborate on the independent clause.


This grammatical error is made when two independent clauses occur in one sentence without a conjunction or proper punctuation. Can you identify it?

Although its name may conjure the image of an overly long sentence, a run-on sentence, also called a comma fault or a fused sentence, occurs when two independent clauses are butted together as one sentence.


What punctuation mark would you use to link two independent clauses into a compound sentence without using a coordinating conjunction?

Compound sentences can be constructed by using a semicolon in place of a comma and "and" between the independent clauses. For example, "The hour was growing late, and we decided it was time to leave" can be altered to "The hour was late; we decided it was time to leave."


Which part of speech can substitute for a noun in a sentence?

A pronoun is a word that can be substituted for a noun. Pronouns change form according to their function as the subject or object in a sentence. Some common pronouns are I, he, she, it, we, they, him and her.


A verb that takes an object is said to be what?

Transitive verbs are verbs that express action and take a direct object. In the sentence "Giles kicked the can," "kicked" is a transitive verb because it has a direct object that is being acted upon: "the can."


What are words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings?

Homonyms are one of the many elements of grammar that make the English language interesting and occasionally confounding. Some commonly confused homonyms are "there," "they're" and "their."


What is a phrase or subordinate clause written as a sentence?

A fragment is a phrase or a subordinate clause written as a sentence. Beginning with a capital letter and ending in a period, a fragment lacks a subject, a predicate or both. Your high school English teacher likely told you to avoid fragments at all costs, but they can be effective in some writing.


This term describes a sentence in which the subject performs the action indicated by the verb. Can you name it?

Active voice reflects the direct action of the subject as in "The knife cuts" or "The pony gallops." The active voice is clear and strong. In passive voice, which your English teacher likely told you to avoid, the subject is acted upon by the verb as in "The bread was cut by the knife."


Here's one for the Trekkies! What frowned upon but not technically incorrect grammatical practice is in the phrase "to boldly go"?

An infinitive is comprised of the word "to" followed by a verb. Placing a word, usually an adverb, between "to" and the verb splits the infinitive. To use split infinitives or not is a matter of style, not a rule, but if they're good enough for James T. Kirk, they're good enough for us!


What word is missing in the following sentence? The director gave the job to Olivia _____ he knows works hard.

The usage of "who" and "whom" is a sticking point for even the most adept of English speakers. In the question, the correct word is "who" because it's the subject of "works." In this sentence, "who" is performing an action. "Whom" is an objective form or the person receiving the action.


No less than 99 percent of the words in the dictionary are verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs. What are these parts of speech known as?

Nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives are called lexical words or vocabulary. They make up the bulk of the words found in the dictionary. These words are the basic building blocks of grammar.


This grammatical term refers to the word or words replaced by a pronoun. Can you name it?

The antecedent is the word or word group referred to by a pronoun. The antecedent usually precedes the pronoun, but in some cases, it may follow it. In the sentence "The captain steered his ship," "captain" is the antecedent of the possessive pronoun "his."


What's a verb form ending in "-ing" used as a noun?

A gerund is a verb form that serves as a noun. It can have an object, complements or modifiers, which together make a gerund phrase. Here's an example. In the sentence "Eating vegetables is good for you," "Eating" is a gerund. "Vegetables" is its object making the gerund phrase "Eating vegetables."


What is the name for a helping verb that precedes the verb?

Auxiliaries, also called verb markers, are helping verbs that precede the main verb. Two common auxiliaries are "be" and "have," as in "They will be studying in the library." In questions like "Have the children eaten lunch?" other words may occur between the auxiliary and the main verb.


This word describes the position of a noun or pronoun in relationship to the other words in a sentence. Can you identify this grammar word?

The use of a noun or a pronoun in a sentence determines its case. In English, there are three cases: subjective (or nominative) as when used as the subject, possessive (genitive) as when showing ownership, and objective (accusative) as when used as the object or subject of a preposition or verb.


What type of sentence is "Although I missed the bus, I arrived on time"?

A complex sentence is comprised of one independent clause and at least one subordinate clause. The sentence "Although I missed the bus, I arrived on time" is made up of the subordinate clause, "Although I missed the bus," followed by a comma and the independent clause, "I arrived on time."


Which word is the definite article in the sentence "The cow jumped over the moon"?

The words "a," "an" and "the" are called articles. They are used as adjectives that signify that a noun is to follow. "The" is a definite article referring to a distinct noun; "a" and "an" are indefinite articles that don't indicate a specific noun.


What kind of statement is the sentence "Go back now!"?

English sentences can be divided into four categories of statements: declarative (statements), imperative (commands or requests), interrogative (questions) and exclamatory (exclamations). The example, "Go back now!" is a command making it an imperative statement.


Words are generally grouped into how many classes?

Generally speaking, words are grouped into eight parts of speech. They are nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections. Understanding the functions of each is the bedrock of grammar.


Which part of speech is used to show a relationship such as time, space or cause between its object and another word?

Words showing relationship such as "about," "between" or "with" are prepositions. Prepositions always have objects. The preposition, its object and any modifiers included make a prepositional phrase. In the sentence "The seal was on the beach," "on the beach" is the prepositional phrase.


What are the forms of verbs used to denote tense called?

Tense, a determination of time, is denoted by the principal parts of verbs. The principal parts are present, present participle, past tense, and past participle. For example, "give," "giving," "gave" and "given" are the principal parts of the verb "give."


Can you pick the past participle of "lie" as in "to lie down"?

"Lie" and "lay" are often confusing for even the most advanced students of grammar, especially when identifying their principal parts. "Lie" is to assume a state of repose. Its past participle can be conjugated as "has lain." "Lay" means to place something. Its past participle is "laid."


How many subordinate clauses must a compound sentence have?

A compound sentence is made up of at least two independent clauses linked by a comma and a coordinating conjunction like "and" or "but." The clauses in a compound sentence could each function as complete sentences.


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