A post appeared here a few days ago on how it feels to not understand anything in a grammar class:
Jim then reminded us of Robert Harrell’s grammar quiz for teachers, which can be given to teachers who teach using the old grammar model of teaching languages. So if you get into one of those uncomfortable discussions with a teacher in your building who still touts grammar as the (“academic”) way to teach a language (there is no research to support such a stupid claim) then offer them this quiz from Robert. Maybe when they see what they are really doing to their students it will help them come around to a greater awareness of what the actual research says, that we learn languages holistically by focusing on the language itself in listening and reading and not its various written forms.
A Modest Grammar Quiz
Please give the correct form for each of the following verbs:
- to drink – 3rd person neuter singular present perfect active
- to go – 2nd person plural future perfect active
- to hang – 1st person singular future perfect passive
- to speak to – 3rd person plural pluperfect passive
- to equivocate with the idiom “to go” – 3rd person feminine singular future continuous active
- to hang – 3rd person neuter singular pluperfect passive
- to hear – 2nd person singular pluperfect passive
- to lay – 3rd person masculine singular future perfect progressive active
- to lie (= be in a horizontal position) – 3rd person feminine singular present perfect active
- to know – 3rd person masculine singular pluperfect passive subjunctive
Bonus: Use the verb in #10 in a conditional sentence.
For those who don’t want to think this through, here are the answers
- It has drunk
- You will have gone
- I will have been hanged
- They had been spoken to.
- She is going to be equivocating
- It had been hung
- You had been heard
- He will have been laying
- She has lain
- Had he been known
Bonus: Sample sentence: Had he been known to the bouncer, Sir Paul McCartney would not have been turned away from Tyga’s Grammy party.
Naturally, as with all grammar-based quizzes, if any part of an answer is wrong the whole answer is wrong. Non-standard constructions are also wrong. I would be interested in knowing how many questions are missed.
- a typical error will be “it has drank”
- some sociolects will say “you will have went”
- when referring to people, “to hang” uses a regular/weak past participle (remember the judicial sentence in the Old West: “to be hanged by the neck until dead”)
- Some people will try to avoid putting “to” at the end of the sentence, thinking of it as a preposition rather than part of the verb. (Think of Winston Churchill’s famous “. . . and that is something up with which I will not put”)
- My guess is that there will be a number of “She is going to equivocate” answers, forgetting the progressive element is in both parts. This is the opposite of number 3; when referring to things “to hang” uses the irregular/strong past participle (”the stockings were hung by the chimney with care”)
- This one’s pretty straightforward if you know the jargon
- and 9. deal with the confusion of lay/lie; 9. may very well get a response of “she has laid”
- Most people have no idea that the pluperfect subjunctive even exists, let alone what it looks like
If one of the “Grammar Master” colleagues complains that the “quiz” is advanced, remind him/her that it merely tests at the level the language is used. These are, after all, advanced speakers. It is no harder for them than the typical grammar quiz in a beginning, “intermediate” or “advanced” high school language class is for the students at that level.