The Telegraph’s Good Grammar Test
Posted: 21 August 2013 06:01 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A quicky, only 12 questions but tougher than some.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationquestions/9987757/Good-grammar-test-can-you-pass.html

If you don’t want to read two of the questions and some comments about them, don’t read the following.

I got the following one right but it seems iffy:
“This is nowhere near good enough.” What part of speech is “near”?
“Adverb qualifying an adjective-phrase” is the answer. I would think a case could be made that “nowhere near” doesn’t work in the same way as the adjective “near”, and that in this case near is an adjective just as it does in “This is nowhere near Idaho”, which I suppose implies that “good enough” is nounish. Mostly, though, I think it would be better not to break “nowhere near” up into separate parts of speech. But I got the right answer so what the hey.

“This is nowhere near good enough.” What part of speech is “nowhere”?
The correct answer is “Adverb qualifying an adverb”, and I got this one wrong.

Your thoughts.

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Posted: 21 August 2013 07:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Another awful test that has almost nothing to do with good writing (which is what most people really care about).

The adjective/adverb identification is often arbitrary. This type of hair splitting is probably necessary if you’re a linguist writing a descriptive grammar of the language, but the distinction is moot when it comes to practical writing advice.

The who/whom and less/fewer distinctions are not “incorrect.” In contemporary English it is perfect acceptable to use “who” in place of “whom” (as the Oatmeal comic snidely points out) and the less/fewer distinction is out-and-out hypercorrection. It has never been wrong to use “less” for “fewer.” And the last question is just silly and pointless, not to mention that it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with English usage or grammar.

I can’t figure out the Amanda/Mark/Evelyn question. The answer is that Evelyn is male, but as far as I can see, the answer cannot be determined.

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Posted: 21 August 2013 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I checked “impossible to know” on that one. I also didn’t get this this:

Q.12 Which of these names is in fact the nominative feminine singular of the gerundive mood imported direct from Latin?
Amanda
Miranda
✓Both
Neither

But then, my Latin is sad. But what exactly does this have to do with English grammar which I presume this test is supposed to be about?

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Posted: 21 August 2013 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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as the Oatmeal comic snidely points out

but then, in a genius bit of poetry they say, “Using whom puts a smoking jacket on whatever you just said. It turns sweatpants into trousers, a sputtering Honda into a well-groomed steed. Whom is drenched in bourbon, Monocles and Mustaches. So why use whom? Do it for the bourbon. Do it for the Monocles. Do it for the Steeds.”

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Posted: 22 August 2013 01:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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"I can’t figure out the Amanda/Mark/Evelyn question. The answer is that Evelyn is male, but as far as I can see, the answer cannot be determined. “

It is to do with the absence of a comma.

If Evelyn were female, you might say “Mark, my brother, who doesn’t” rather than “Mark, my brother who doesn’t”.

BTW, what the hell is wrong with saying “Firstly…, secondly…, thirdly…” ?

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Posted: 22 August 2013 02:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Saying “First ... secondly ...thirdly ...” sounds to me like it violates parallelism.  Personally I prefer to say “A ... 2 ... Þ ...”

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Posted: 22 August 2013 05:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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It is to do with the absence of a comma.

I guessed that it had to do with a comma. But here is perfect example of how grammatical pedantry does not lead to better writing. That’s an awful lot of semantic weight for a poor comma to bear. If you’re depending on punctuation to clarify what you mean to this degree, you’re doing something wrong.

Saying “First ... secondly ...thirdly ...” sounds to me like it violates parallelism. 

Yeah, another bad question. I recognized the parallelism problem too. “Firstly” is another of those terms that nineteenth-century grammarians took an irrational dislike to. I was taught not to use it. A better framing would be to present the alternatives as “firstly, secondly, thirdly” and “first, second, third,” but that would still be reinforcing a pointless objection.

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Posted: 22 August 2013 05:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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John McIntyre presents another great example of a grammatically correct and badly written sentence.

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Posted: 22 August 2013 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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“Firstly” is another of those terms that nineteenth-century grammarians took an irrational dislike to.

They must have been batshit.

To my mind, “first, secondly, thirdly” looks worse.

I note that the question is:

“Which of these lists is more traditionally correct...”

Okay.

“and technically perfect? ”

What does he mean by that?

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Posted: 22 August 2013 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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It is to do with the absence of a comma.

If Evelyn were female, you might say “Mark, my brother, who doesn’t” rather than “Mark, my brother who doesn’t”.

I think that’s the intent, but if Evelyn is male, it should be “my sister, Amanda” (non-restrictive: there is no other sister), not “my sister Amanda” (restrictive, she has another sister). 

Regardless of Evelyn’s sex, the sentence is badly punctuated and therefore ambiguous.

Regarding “firstly”, the argument is that “first” is already a suitable adverb without addition of “-ly”.  I can see the point, but it applies with equal force to “second”, “third”, etc.  However, there was no available choice to omit all the -ly‘s.

[ Edited: 22 August 2013 07:50 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 22 August 2013 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Regarding “firstly”, the argument is that “first” is already a suitable adverb without addition of “-ly”.

True enough, but firstly is a suitable adverb without the omission of “-ly”. A good writer will not needlessly restrict himself.

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