Expression BY Ebere Wabara
DO you read, write and speak the English language with ease and confidence? Or do you confess to moments of embarrassment when faced with its exasperating uncertainties?
Today you can test yourself on the grammar of the English language, its punctuation, spelling and vocabulary offered as a series of interesting quizzes. For answers: send an e-mail—no calls and no short messaging service (SMS). Readers, it is hoped, will regard the tests as companions in their building up of knowledge of ‘‘correct English’’ in order to express themselves confidently through speaking, reading and writing.
If you can answer every question correctly then your English is superb! Even if you can only answer a small proportion correctly your English may still be good, and you will have a lot of fun improving it in the process.
The function of grammar, which is defined as ‘‘the general term for the science of language’’ is to examine and explain how words are formed, inflected, spoken, written, and arranged in sentence. But people spoke and wrote the language long before they formulated rules for speech and writing so grammar must be kept in its place as the servant, not the master or dictator of language. Language is always changing; the solecism (grammatical errors) of yesterday may be the accepted idioms of today, sanctioned by common usage.
At the same time, if we have a concern for the beauty and precision of correct English, we should remember that there are grammatical laws which do not change, and violation of them cannot be justified or condoned. ‘‘To deplore the misuse of words and phrases by lazy thinkers and slipshod writers is not pedantry.’’
In each of the exercises, a pair of sentences has been chosen to illustrate a common error in popular usage. Can you say in each case which sentence is too preferred, and what is wrong (according to the old rules) with the other sentence?
1.(a) Every room, attic, cellar and garage was searched by the police.
(b) Every room, attic, cellar and garage were searched by the police
2. (a) None of his old friends were able to help him
(b) None of his old friends was able to help him.
3.(a)Neither the British team nor the French team was successful in the athletics contest.
(b) Neither the British team nor the French team were successful in the athletics contest.
4. (a) Your birth certificate as well as your passport is required.
(b)Your birth certificate as well as your passport are required.
5. (a) I would never recommend those sort of films.
(b)I would never recommend that sort of film.
6. (a) She’s one of those girls who always look attractive.
(b)She’s one of those girls who always looks attractive.
7. (a) The two old campaigners always wrote to one another on the anniversary of the battle.
(b)The two old campaigners always wrote to each other on the anniversary of the battle.
8. (a) Are there less children in the village school today?
(b)Are there fewer children in the village school today?
9. (a) The tycoon’s estate was divided between his three surviving children.
(b) The tycoon’s estate was divided among his three surviving children.
10. (a)If either of the suspects is seen, he will be arrested.
(b) If either of the suspects are seen, he will be arrested.
11. (a)‘Nothing shall ever come between you and I,’ he told her.
(b) ‘Nothing shall ever come between you and me,’ he told her.
12. (a)I was introduced to the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the Company.
(b) I was introduced to the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Company.
13.(a) Can you imagine him forgetting a date like that?
(b) Can you imagine his forgetting a date like that?
14. (a)They are players who I think will one day be famous.
(b)They are players whom I think will one day be famous.
15(a) If you were him, what would you think of her conduct?
(b)If you were he, what would you think of her conduct?
16. (a)Playing the guitar, his dog howled all the time.
(b)While he was playing the guitar, his dog howled all the time.
17. (a)The secretary said he’d written back without delay.
(b)The secretary said he’d wrote back without delay.
18 (a) Candidates are advised to carefully and methodically read the instructions.
(b) Candidates are advised to read carefully and methodically the instructions.
19. (a)They used not to allow such goings-on here.
(b)They didn’t used not to allow such goings-on here.
20. (a)If I was wrong, I’d be the first to admit it.
(b)If I were wrong, I’d be the first to admit it.
21. (a) We never have and never will yield to threats.
(b) We never have yielded and never will yield to threats.
4. (a) This low-fat spread tastes as good as if not better than butter.
(b)This low-fat spread tastes as good if not better than butter.
22. (a)In competitive sport, one can’t afford to rest on his laurels.
(b) In competitive sport, one can’t afford to rest on one’s laurels.
23 (a) I can’t stand the heat as she can.
(b) I can’t stand the heat like she can.
Source: ‘Correct English’ by J.E. Metcalfe and C. Astle.