11 December 2009

A grammar test from David Foster Wallace

Some of these are very easy, while others are quite difficult -

1. He and I hardly see one another.

2. I’d cringe at the naked vulnerability of his sentences left wandering around without periods and the ambiguity of his uncrossed “t”s.

3. My brother called to find out if I was over the flu yet.

4. I only spent six weeks in Napa.

5. In my own mind, I can understand why its implications may be somewhat threatening.

6. From whence had his new faith come?

7. Please spare me your arguments of why all religions are unfounded and contrived.

8. She didn’t seem to ever stop talking.

9. As the relationship progressed, I found her facial tic more and more aggravating.

10. The Book of Mormon gives an account of Christ’s ministry to the Nephites, which allegedly took place soon after Christ’s resurrection.

"All sentences have one crucial error in punctuation, usage, or grammar."

No need to post answers in the Comments section; the answers are here. Via Kottke.


  1. All three links working via Firefox @1815 Dec 11.

  2. As a quasi-linguist, I find the idea that we should adhere to these ridiculous post-hoc rules for English to be not only repulsive, but ultimately futile.

    Correct grammar, in the linguistic sense, is important so that we can understand each other with as little ambiguity as we can manage. But none of these sentences is confusing or ungrammatical to a native English speaker.

    And "proper" grammar, in the prescriptivist English teacher sense, is important so that one can convey to an audience his or her level of education. But if even the most educated among us cannot find the "mistake", then there is no sense is trying to "correct" it.


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