Another Quiz for You!

It seems from the engagement so far for the American Grammar Checkup quiz I posted just yesterday morning that you’re all in the mood to learn — to guess — to find out that you ARE as smart as you think you are!

So, let’s see how you do with common homophones — those tricky words in English that sound alike, but mean something different and are spelled differently — in the following sentences. There are also a couple that are not homophones, but they are tricky just the same. And no, I didn’t include to/too/two. Not in this one, anyway. I just liked the picture.

1. The cold temperature will have a strong (affect / effect) on Sheila.

2. Some professionals, like Joe, go to work (everyday / every day).

3. Karthik’s company is (composed of / comprised of) several divisions.

4. Milos really needs to (hone in / home in) on his science homework.

5. Lynda felt really (bad / badly) about missing the movie.

6. Robyn has (a / an) MBA in Communications.

7. John’s guiding (principal / principle) is honesty.

8. Neil just ordered his new (stationary / stationery) for his company!

9. Sarah was (laying / lying) down after lunch.

10. Marietta (laid / lay) down after lunch.

11. Heather (layed / laid) the book on the table.

12. Jacqui (has laid / has lain) down all night.

(Hmmmmm, how much do you hate me for #9-12?)

Answers and a few comments.

1. The cold temperature will have a strong (affect / effect) on Sheila. (Generally affect is a verb, and generally effect is a noun. Not 100%, but usually close enough for most writers.)

2. Some professionals, like Joe, go to work (everyday / every day). (Every day=each day)

3. Karthik’s company is (composed of / comprised of) several divisions. (Comprise=include, contain. We could never write or say “is included of” or “is contained of.” Therefore, we cannot ever use “is comprised of.” We can say/write “The company comprises several divisions.”

4. Milos really needs to (hone in / home in) on his science homework. (We hone — sharpen — skills or other things. We home in on something, like a carrier pigeon does. And yes, you could write or say “Milos really needs to hone his skills in science.”

5. Lynda felt really (bad / badly) about missing the movie. (The verb “to feel” takes an adjective after it, not an adverb. We can sleep badly, we can drive badly, we can write badly. But we cannot feel badly, unless we’re saying we have no capacity to feel. The trick here is to link the word bad with sad. It’s doubtful we’d ever say “I felt sadly about that.”)

6. Robyn has (a / an) MBA in Communications. (Complete definition of a & an: Use before words beginning with a consonant SOUND. Use an before words beginning with a vowel SOUND.) Therefore, a master’s degree but an MBA, a horse but an hour.

7. John’s guiding (principal / principle) is honesty.

8. Neil just ordered his new (stationary / stationery) for his company!

9. Sarah was (laying / lying) down after lunch.

10. Marietta (laid / lay) down after lunch.

11. Heather (layed / laid) the book on the table. (There is no such word as layed.)

12. Jacqui (has laid / has lain) down all night.

In all cases concerning lie and lay — use a synonym if you’re not sure. I would have trouble saying “She has lain down all night,” even though I know it’s correct. But it just sounds so weird! So I often say “She slept all night. She took a nap. She rested.”

How did you do? Better than you thought? Not quite as well as you’d hoped?

These are among the worst offenders in terms of words we often get confused. My idea is this: Learn one of each pair 100%. Absolutely, positively, without a doubt. And if that’s not the right usage for your sentence, use the other one. I mean, how can that hurt? It’s better than throwing a coin up in the air, right?

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