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Can You Pass This High School Grammar Test?

English grammar rules can certainly be confusing. You probably use them nearly every day without even thinking about it, but when's the last time you were actually tested on them? See how your grammar know-how stacks up with these high school–level questions.

playgroundNatalia Marshall/Shutterstock

Which of the following changes makes this sentence correct?

“The kids who meet up at the playground to play on the swings, climb on the jungle gym, and try the monkey bars.”

A. The kids who meet up at the playground, play on the swings, climb on the jungle gym, and try the monkey bars.

B. The kids meet up at the playground to play on the swings, climb on the jungle gym, and try the monkey bars.

C. The kids meeting up at the playground to play on the swings, climb on the jungle gym, and try the monkey bars.

monkey barsNatalia Marshall/Shutterstock

Answer:

B. The kids meet up at the playground to play on the swings, climb on the jungle gym, and try the monkey bars.

The issue with the first sentence is that the word “who” creates a clause with a subject but no corresponding verb so that the sentence is actually a sentence fragment. Removing “who” changes it so that “the kids” is the subject and “meet” is the verb. Taking a look at the 20 most confusing grammar rules in English might help you out with this grammar test.

Graduation Caps Thrown in the Air fotoinfot/Shutterstock

Which sentence is grammatically incorrect?

A. Me and my sister went to see our little brother’s high school graduation.

B. John and I are going to treat you all to dinner tonight.

C. Can you meet Sarah and me at Target later?

graduation cap closeupatsarapong lertkrathok/Shutterstock

Answer:

A. Me and my sister went to see our little brother’s high school graduation.

Choosing between “I” and “me” is very tricky, especially since people are very quick to correct anyone who says “…and me” with “…and I.” But sometimes, as in Choice C, “…and me” is correct. It depends on whether the first-person pronoun is part of the subject or the object. An easy trick to figure it out is to remove the other person and see if “me” or “I” sounds better. In Choice A, “Me went to see my little brother’s high school graduation” doesn’t make sense, so it should be “My sister and I.” In Choice C, though, “Can you meet me at Target later?” does make sense.

hand working on paper for proofreadingLamai Prasitsuwan/Shutterstock

Which sentence uses commas correctly?

A. No, I don’t think it’s a good idea to start your essay the day before it’s due.

B. I ate an ice cream cone, and a piece of cake.

C. I’m bringing my favorite snacks, bug spray and a beach chair.

closeup red marks on proofreading english documentLamai Prasitsuwan/Shutterstock

Answer:

A. No, I don’t think it’s a good idea to start your essay the day before it’s due.

A comma should be after the “No” to separate it from the clause that follows. In Choice B, you don’t need a comma because “and a piece of cake” is an object of the sentence, not a new clause (it has no subject or verb). You also don’t need a comma when listing only two items. (“I ate an ice cream cone, a piece of cake, and some cotton candy” does need, at the very least, a comma after “cone,” since it’s a longer list.) As for Choice C, you definitely need a comma after “bug spray”—unless the “favorite snacks” you’re referring to are bug spray and a beach chair, two pretty inedible things! Check out more comma rules everyone should know.

elegant new modern home kitchen with islandjulie deshaies/Shutterstock

Which sentence uses an apostrophe correctly?

A. Please pick up some banana’s at the grocery store.

B. Who’s cell phone is on the table here?

C. Please fill the cats’ food bowl—Tiger and Fluffy won’t stop meowing at me!

Bowl with food for cat or dog on floor. Pet careNew Africa/Shutterstock

Answer:

C. Please fill the cats’ food bowl—Tiger and Fluffy won’t stop meowing at me!

Choice A doesn’t need that apostrophe—”banana” just needs an S to make it plural, not an apostrophe and an S. The first word in Choice B should be “Whose,” not “Who’s,” since “Who’s” is a contraction of “who is.” As for Choice C, the apostrophe is correct here because “Tiger and Fluffy” makes it clear that there is more than one cat—so the apostrophe should, indeed, be after the S. (Choice C uses the apostrophe in “won’t” correctly, too!) Here’s more about when you should and shouldn’t be using an apostrophe.

close up of the calculatorsiro46/Shutterstock

Which sentence about quantity is incorrect?

A. I finished the race in less time than I did last year.

B. He scored less points than I did in Pac-Man.

C. There are fewer cookies than there were yesterday; do you know anything about that?

calculator closeupsiro46/Shutterstock

Answer:

B. He scored less points than I did in Pac-Man.

This rule trips a lot of people up. You use “fewer” for an amount that’s countable, like “cookies”—or Choice B’s “points.” Use “less” when the quantity you’re referring to is a general, unspecific, or uncountable quantity, like “time” or “money” (Choice A does this correctly.) So you would correctly say “less time” and “less money,” but also “fewer hours” and “fewer dollars.” This rule is a confusing one, so learn more about the difference here.

Fishing. Trout is caught in fishing net. Dramatic. Andrii Repetii/Shutterstock

Identify the error in the following sentence:

It’s actually more challenging to catch a fish with a net than catching one with a fishing rod.

A. It’s

B. More challenging

C. Catching

Underwater fragment of an old fishing netEvannovostro/Shutterstock

Answer:

C. Catching

As is, this sentence is not parallel—the two verbs should be the same form, but they’re not. The correct sentence would be “It’s actually more challenging to catch a fish with a net than to catch one with a fishing rod,” so that both of the verbs are infinitives and therefore match.

Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World ResortimageBROKER/Shutterstock

Which of the following changes makes this sentence correct?

“Attracting thousands of visitors every year, people who go to Disney World love its incomparable theme park experience.”

A. Attracting thousands of visitors every year, Disney World is beloved for its incomparable theme park experience.

B. Attracting thousands of visitors every year, people go to Disney World for its incomparable theme park experience.

C. Disney World attracts thousands of visitors every year, people who go to Disney World love its incomparable theme park experience.

Cinderella CastleimageBROKER/Shutterstock

Answer:

A. Attracting thousands of visitors every year, Disney World is beloved for its incomparable theme park experience.

If you recognized that the example sentence has a misplaced modifier, you’re a true grammar aficionado! When you begin a sentence with a present participle of a verb (“attracting,” in this example), you need to make sure that the subject of the sentence is what’s doing the action the verb describes. As is, the sentence implies that the people are attracting thousands of visitors, not Disney World itself.

fog in a dark forestandreiuc88/Shutterstock

Which sentence uses quotation marks correctly?

A. He asked me, “Do you believe in ghosts”?

B. I could hear her yelling “This place is awesome!” from all the way across the campground.

C. The lemonade stand on Fifth and Main has the “best” lemonade!

fog in a dark forestandreiuc88/Shutterstock

Answer:

B. I could hear her yelling “This place is awesome!” from all the way across the campground.

Quotation marks can be tricky: Which punctuation marks go inside them? When should you put a phrase in them? Question marks and exclamation points go inside quotations only if the text inside them is a question or an exclamation (respectively). For instance, the question mark in Choice A should be inside the quotes, because the section in quotes, “Do you believe in ghosts?” is a question while the full sentence is not. Choice B does this correctly, with the whole exclamation, “This place is awesome!” in the quotes, including the exclamation point. In addition, quotation marks are not used to add additional emphasis to something, as in Choice C. However, you’ll see this on advertisements all too often, as you can see from these funny examples.

Cape May beach New JerseySahani Photography/Shutterstock

Which sentence uses a semicolon correctly?

A. We’re going to the beach tomorrow; so you should pack your bathing suit.

B. I’m going to bring chips; Oreos, my favorite type of cookie; and lemonade.

C. The beach, which is called Mayflower; is supposed to be one of the nicest ones on Cape Cod.

Cape May, New Jersey. A day at the beach.rmb2020/Shutterstock

Answer:

B. I’m going to bring chips; Oreos, my favorite type of cookie; and lemonade.

The semicolon is the bane of many a writer! A semicolon’s primary function is separating two parts of a sentence that could each grammatically function as its own complete sentence, but having them as one sentence makes things flow better, whether because the sections are so short or because the ideas are closely related. In Choices A and C, “So you should pack your bathing suit” and “Is supposed to be one of the nicest ones on Cape Cod” cannot be complete sentences. The first is a dependent clause, and the second is a verb phrase with no subject, so they should be separated from the rest of their sentences by a comma, not a semicolon.

Choice B presents another important purpose of semicolons, though, and this one uses them correctly. You should use a semicolon, rather than a comma, to separate items in a list if one or more of the items in the list already has a comma in it. In Choice B, “Oreos, my favorite type of cookie” is a single item in a list, but it has a comma in it. So the semicolons should be there to make the separate items in the list more clear; if there were only commas, it would be difficult to distinguish the separate list items.

Checklist and red pencil closeupspacezerocom/Shutterstock

True or false?

“I.e.” is an abbreviation that means “for example,” and you use it to introduce a list.

Checklist and pencil close-up on white backgroundspacezerocom/Shutterstock

Answer:

False! “E.g.,” not “i.e.,” means “for example” (from the Latin exempli gratia), and it’s very easy to mix up the two. As for “i.e.,” this abbreviation actually means id est, or “that is.” You use “i.e.” to explain something another way or clarify something, not to introduce a list. For instance, you could say, “I’ll get back to you soon, i.e., by the end of the day tomorrow.” You’re clarifying what you mean by “soon.” Read on to find out the full difference between “e.g.” and “i.e.” and when to use each.

palette of watercolor paints, glass of water and a piece of blank paper on the table.toned.top viewcorrect pictures/Shutterstock

Which of the following sentences is correct?

A. He carefully laid the painting on the table to inspect it.

B. She lied down in her room to unwind after her workout.

C. They told their dog to go lay down so he wouldn’t bother the guests.

paintscorrect pictures/Shutterstock

Answer:

A. He carefully laid the painting on the table to inspect it.

“Lay” and “lie” are two of the most easily confused words in English—and we totally understand why. “Lay” means to place something down, and it must have an object. Its past tense form is “laid,” as correctly used in Choice A. “Lie” is the more commonly used one—it doesn’t take an object, and it means to adopt or be in a horizontal position. Choice B is incorrect because “lied” is the past tense of the version of the word that means “to tell a lie,” but the past tense of the “lie down” version is “lay.” Choice C is incorrect because it should be in the present tense, so it should say “lie down,” not “lay down.”

Field of tall annual yellow sunflowers grown for beauty as well as harvested for seed in an outdoor field in Poolesville, Maryland.Cvandyke/Shutterstock

Identify the conjunction in the following sentence:

There are lots of flowers in the park; however, you can see them only at certain times of the year.

A. In

B. However

C. Only

Sunflower close-up. Heart in a flower. Beautiful sunflower. Field with sunflowers. Sunflower seeds. Sunflower oil. Sunflower's pollination.Olivkairishka/Shutterstock

Answer:

B. However

Transition and connecting words like “however,” “because,” and “so” are conjunctions. “In” is a preposition, because it describes a spatial or positional relationship, and “only” is an adverb, because it modifies a prepositional phrase (“at certain times” in this sentence).

Empty movie theater with red seatsAboutLife/Shutterstock

Which sentence is correct?

A. There’s a sneak peak of the new movie being released tomorrow!

B. The show is now in its seventh successful year on Broadway.

C. She’s training everyday so that she’ll be ready to run the marathon.

Empty movie theater with red seatsAboutLife/Shutterstock

Answer:

B. The show is now in its seventh successful year on Broadway.

No, that “its” doesn’t need an apostrophe, because it’s not a contraction of “it is.” The possessive form of “its” has no apostrophe. As for the other choices, Choice A uses the form of “peak” that describes the top of a mountain; a “peek” means a quick glimpse or look. And Choice C uses “everyday” as one word when, in this sentence, it should be two words, since it means the same thing as “each day.” If you mastered this high school grammar test, see how you fare with this test of high school spelling words!

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.