The writing biz: English grammar pop quiz

How well do you know your English grammar? I have to admit that I’ve forgotten a lot of rules and definitions over the years, despite holding an English degree. My grammar nazi days are far behind me and I have no desire to go back. Still, it’s never a bad idea to review the rules a bit. So, I thought I would post a series of English pop quizzes designed to do just that. What could be more fun?

Don’t roll your eyes. Read through the following quiz questions to test yourself. Then, scroll down to reveal the answers.

1) What is an adjective?

2) What are adverbs and how do they differ from adjectives?

3) What are modals?

4) Do you know the difference between a homonym, homophone and homograph?

5) What is alliteration and how is it used?

Dew-kissed purple flower


1) An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun.

Example: Let’s say you have a flower and you want to give it more description. Maybe it’s a pretty flower or a yellow flower or a dew-kissed purple flower. You could also say something like: That dew-kissed purple flower sure is beautiful. (Even though the word beautiful comes after the verb, it’s still referring back to the flower.

2) While adverbs serve a similar purpose, the primary difference is that they modify just about everything except for nouns and pronouns. This includes verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, clauses and even sentences. Leaving things on the simple side, here are two examples.

The skater glided effortlessly across the ice.

Grammar is too confusing for words. 

3) Modals are helping verbs that imply meaning such as ability, necessity, permission, possibility, etc. Clear as mud, right? The easiest thing to do is to learn many of the most common modals: can, could, should, must, might, may, ought to, shall, will, can, have to. Here are some examples.

This time, I must win the tournament!

You should learn more about modals in order to improve your grammar and impress your friends with your knowledge.

4) The difference between homonym, homophone and homograph can be a bit confusing to keep straight. In a colloquial setting, you could easily get away with simply referring to this as “a play on words.”

A homonym is two words that are spelled or pronounced the same but have two different meanings. (See the photo below with the cactus for a great example!)

A homophone is a type of homonym where a word is pronounced the same as another word but has a different meaning. An example of this is to, too and two.

A homograph is a type of homonym where a word is spelled the same as another word but has a separate meaning and pronouciation. The word bass is a an example of this as it can refer to a fish you might catch or an instrument you might play.

5) Alliteration has always been one of my favorite grammar terms. I love the word itself as well as it’s application. Alliteration is the repetition of letter or syllable sounds in order to produce a desired affect. Some definitions state that only the beginning sounds of words count, as in live and learn. However, I prefer the broader definition.

Alliteration has long been employed in poetry and it’s also a popular device in song lyrics. Here are two examples… see how many alliterations you can identify other than the ones I’ve highlighted.

“The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more.”

“The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel (check out all the wonderful s-sounds employed in this song!)

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence…

Great example of a homonym


  1. Four out of five, though #3 eluded me. 80% is pretty pathetic for a one-time English Lit major, isn’t it?

    Thanks to you, JoAnn, for keeping the language crisply vital. Just don’t make me diagram a sentence. Always hated that, even when I fancied a future in literature.

    Of a kind with proofs in algebra. Surely, devices to confuse and discourage outsiders. Just what is it you English and Math people don’t want us to see?

    Liked by 1 person

      • Congratulation on even attempting calculus – it’s daunting challenge leaving behind millions of baffled minds, mine included.

        As for our tongue, would you believe studying French improved my understanding of English? Not only do they share some (though certainly not all) grammar rules, but our lexicons share many a Latin inspiration. Sure, English is a Germanic language, so the similarities go only so far, but I was surprised at how many English words French taught me…or at least refined.

        Liked by 1 person

        • English is actually made up of a lot of different languages with all the different rules to go along with it, which is a big reason why it’s difficult to learn and for people to write. It’s what also makes it interesting for word nerds like me. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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