Skip to main content

Welcome to the third annual Globe and Mail grammar quiz. This list of 16 questions includes spelling, usage and grammatical errors published in The Globe and Mail and noted by our clever readers. It’s a sampling of both common and not-so-common mistakes.

The test is multiple choice. If you score 12 to 14, well done. Higher than that makes you a charter member of The Globe’s good-grammar fan club. Good luck!

1Education curriculums are overhauled every decade ...
A. correct
B. curricula
C. curriculae

Answer: A.

(Photo: Franz Maier/The Globe and Mail)

2Just look at the Southern United States, which is dotted with statutes of the heroes of the Confederacy ...
A. correct
B. statues
C. statuettes

Answer: B – although, of course, statutes with roots in the days of Confederacy, although less conspicuous than statues, also pepper the South.

3... my numerous sister-in-laws and brother-in-laws ...
A. correct
B. sisters- and brothers-in-law
C. sisters’ and brothers’ in law

Answer: B.

4A reference to Conservative MP Kellie Leitch as a boogeywoman
A. correct
B. bogeywoman
C. bogeygirl

Answer: B, although some reference books consider "boogeyman" to be a legitimate variant of "bogeyman."

(Photo: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

5Drake, who first payed homage to ...
A. correct
B. paid
C. painted

Answer: B.

6Bracelets and other bobbles ...
A. correct
B. bobblae
C. baubles

Answer: C.

7They were teaming with excitement ...
A. correct
B. teeming
C. taming

Answer: B.

8In the collapse, Lehman Brothers floundered like a fish.
A. correct
B. foundered like a fish
C. floundered, as would a fish

Answer: A. As The Globe and Mail Style Book notes: To flounder means to struggle clumsily, either physically or in a speech, a job, an enterprise etc. To founder means to sink (as with a ship), to cave in, to fail completely (as with a business) or to stumble and go lame (as with a horse). A business might be described as floundering (if our legal advisers say this would not be libellous), but should not be described as foundering.

(In the interest of avoiding a related error, although one of perhaps lesser scale, albeit greater scales, the style book also notes that flounder is not a single species of fish, but the name for several species of edible flatfish.)

(Photo: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory)

9Headline: Design thinking on its own
A. correct
B. it’s
C. its’

Answer: A.

10Trump also visited a neighborhood that had sustained flooding but had dried out to greet residents.
A. correct
B. Trump visited a neighbourhood that had flooded but was now dried out, where he greeted residents.
C. Trump dried out to greet residents of a neighbourhood that sustained flooding.

Answer: B. The original sentence was begging for help to clarify who – Trump or the neighbourhood? – was drying out and who was doing the greeting.

11Headline: How high of a tax rate is fair?
A. correct
B. How high a tax rate is fair?
C. How high off a tax rate is fair?

Answer: B. Although of is increasingly slipping into such constructions as this one – “How big of a deal is this?” “How loud of a rock band was it?” have become common enough to border on colloquially legitimate – the preposition is not needed here.

12Headline: Activist shined a light on clerical abuse
A. correct
B. shone a light
C. shoned a light

Answer: B. One reader wondered if we would write: “I drived all the way from Ottawa to Toronto.” No, we wouldn’t (I hope!). That said, we would say: “An activist shined her shoes while waiting for the priest to confess his sins.” There’s no excuse for our error, but shine is among the verbs that are both “strong” and “weak,” depending on the precise meaning. Some verbs vacillate (and more so in Canada than many places, depending on whether the British or U.S. version has prevailed; thus, while we have pleaded guilty to this grammatical infraction, many criminals on U.S. crime shows would have pled instead). Strong (or irregular) verbs – drive, think, take, forgive – are so-called, as grammar expert Bryan Garner once put it, “because they seem to form the past tense from their own resources, without calling an ending to their assistance.” Weak verbs, by contrast, just sit there passively as humans turn them into the past tense by appending an “ed” suffix to their pliant backsides.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Getty Images)

13And note to whomever reported Mr. Crook to the authorities: He appears to be a thoroughly modern parent.
A. correct
B. whoever
C. whosever

Answer: B. Constructions involving a dependent clause are vexing. Sometimes they take "whoever"; sometimes "whomever." Go with the choice that agrees with the verb in that clause. You’d say, for example, “She (not her) reported Mr. Crook,” so whoever (not whomever) is the right choice here. But if the full sentence had read: “And note to whomever was deemed guilty by the authorities: You are, in fact, innocent,” "whomever" would have been the object of the verb "deemed," and so "whoever" would be incorrect.

14[An expert] said the central bank’s failure to decide whether or not cryptocurrencies are actually currencies or not has created challenges for the regulator.
A.correct
B. second "or not" is redundant
C. both uses of "or not" are redundant

Answer: C. A reader wrote to say that this sentence caught his eye because the word whether includes the concept or not.Thus, the reader continued, “Saying whether or not is redundant. This reporter added yet another or not later in the sentence. Thus the concept or not is presented three times.” True, true, and true.

As The Globe Style Book notes, “Whether does not usually require 'or not' ('I don’t care whether you reach the house')” although it adds this coda: “The words are essential in such constructions as: 'I will call you whether I reach the house or not.'”

15Educated at the exclusive Eton College, Harry’s teenage years were overshadowed by negative press headlines.
A. correct
B. Harry, who was educated at the exclusive Eton College, found his teenage years were overshadowed by negative press headlines.
C. Harry’s teenage years were educated at the exclusive Eton College.

Answer: Of course it’s B. The sentence as it appeared in The Globe was a classic dangler. Answer C effectively spells out the meaning of that dangler, and thus fully delivers the misreading we invited.

(Photo: Dave Caulkin/The Associated Press)

16The woman said her and husband always made sure ...
A. correct
B. The woman said she and her husband ...
C. The woman said her and her husband

Answer: B. "Her" cannot make sure of anything; but obviously "her" or some other modifier is needed before "husband."

How grammatical are you?

Answer all of the questions to see your result
Well done! You're a real grammar slammer.
Well done, you!
Nice try, but you missed some.
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter