Spotting Errors in English

These questions are asked on various competitive exams. They are considered a great style of questions to test one’s grammar skills. We are given sentences from which we have to pick out the one which is grammatically incorrect (or correct, depending on the directions).

These questions are basically aimed at testing your grammar usage and not to see if you know the complicated and/or some uncommon grammar rules.

Spotting errors questions would not pose great problems to you if your grammar knowledge is sound.

How to Solve

  1. Four or five options are given to you, out of which one is grammatically incorrect. So, first of all read out all the options quickly, but clearly (If the given four options will all be related, as if it is a short paragraph or information on a subject in four/five sentences. You should be able to grasp the verb tense of the event being talked about and pick your answer accordingly.)
  2. If a sentence sounds awkward, or ambiguous then it might be your answer; verify it, and you would have completed the question.
  3. In case you are not able to find the answer this way, then read each statement individually and see if you can find any grammatical mistake.

Tips for Spotting Errors in English

  1. Sometimes, the error could be just of the verb tense. But, how will you be able to spot the verb tense when any of the given part(s) of the sentence, or paragraph, could be wrong? You have to spot all those words which inform you about the verb tense, and then see which word is not complying with the verb tense the other words represent. If you can spot such a word, then you also have your answer, as the given option will have the verb–tense error.
  2. Keep all the common grammatical mistakes in mind while reading the options. These are the most commonly asked types and hence, a lot of the times, you can spot these errors before you even read the complete sentence.

Common Mistakes

  • Pronoun-consistency is one error which gets easily ignored, so make sure the options represent pronoun consistency.
  • The given options are given in a sequential order, even if they are just one sentence all together. So, reading the option individually and not in the sequence would lead to a mistake. Students sometimes see the options and just look at them individually in order to spot an error.

From Beginner to Mastery

Example 1.

  • “Meeting will take place at the Rancozy Hotel, hence I’m going to the Rancozy Hotel.”

What is wrong with this sentence?

Explanation: It is redundant, because using the same noun more than once in a sentence sounds unnecessary. In such situations, we make use of pronouns:

  • Meeting will take place at the Rancozy Hotel, hence I’m going there.

Example 2.

  • “I went there; because I wanted to.”

Find the flaw in the given sentence.

Explanation: The given sentence has incorrectly used the semi-colon. Instead, there should be a colon there.

Example 3.

  • “One is always conscious about how they look.”

Can you spot an error in this sentence?

Explanation: It suffers from the pronoun-antecedent error. The correct sentence would be:

  • One is always conscious about how he/she looks.

Example 4.

(a) In the forthcoming elections

(b) every man or woman

(c) must vote for the candidate

(d) of their choice

Explanation: Option (d) is incorrect, because it has a pronoun antecedent error. The word ‘every’ is a singular pronoun, so it mentions every man and every woman singularly, not collectively. But, the pronoun of antecedent of ‘every man and woman’ is ‘their’, so it refers to them collectively. The correction would be – ‘of his or her choice’.

Example 5.

(a) Almost all school teachers insist that

(b) a student’s mother

(c) is responsible for their student’s conduct

(d) as well as his dress

Explanation :The correct answer is option (c), because the pronoun ‘their’ used in the statement makes it look like the students belong to the mother instead to the teachers. The correct statement would be: “… for the student’s conduct”.

Example 6.

(a) it is essential that diseases like tuberculosis

(b) are detected and treated

(c) as early as possible in order to

(d) assure a successful cure.

Explanation: Option (d) has an error because of the word ‘assure’. Assure (verb) means ‘to inform positively, with certainty and confidence’. For example:

  • He assured me that this drink is safe to drink.

Hence, to assure, is to remove the doubts and tell someone something confidently. The appropriate word for this context is ‘ensure’. It basically means ‘to make sure’, so it refers to making sure that something will or will not happen. If used in the sentence, it would mean making sure there is a successful cure for the disease.

Example 7.

(a) If one has to decide

(b) about the choice of a career

(c) you should choose that option

(d) which is really beneficial.

Explanation: Option (c) is grammatically incorrect, because of the pronoun inconsistency. The pronoun used in (a) is ‘one’ whereas, the pronoun used in (c) is ‘you’. The correction would be – one should choose that option.

Example 8.

(a) He is the sort of person

(b) who I feel

(c) would be capable of

(d) making these kind of mistakes

Explanation (d); This part of the sentence makes the pronoun antecedent error. The pronoun: ‘these’ used here is for referencing the noun: ‘kind’. Thus, as you can see, it should either be ‘this kind’ or ‘these kinds’.

Example 9.

(a) Sumit found the new job

(b) more preferable to the one

(c) he had left

(d) so he decided to continue for a while.

Explanation (b); We need to choose (b), because ‘more preferable’ is an incorrect phrase. Preferable itself means more desirable than the other, and hence, ‘more preferable’ is a redundant phrase.

Example 10.

(a) Prakash said that,

(b) if he were elected president

(c) and that if funds were available,

(d) he would create a national theatre.

Explanation: Option (c) is wrong, because of the use of ‘that’. ‘That’ can be used as a relative pronoun to connect two clauses (but here there is no connection required). It can also be used to introduce the subject of the sentence, but here we have a dependent and difference conditional clauses in which the use of that is not required.

Example 11.

(a) Her acceptance of speech

(b) was well received

(c) eliciting thunderous applause

(d) in several points.

Explanation (d); The correct usage would be ‘on several points’.

Example 12.

(a) An oppressive solemnity

(b) and not the festive mood

(c) one might have expected

(d) characterised the mood by the gathering

Explanation: Option (d) is the answer because the correct preposition is ‘of ’ not ‘by’: … mood of the gathering.

Example 13.

(a) All aspiring artists must

(b) struggle by the conflict

(c) between faith in their own talent

(d) and knowledge that very few are great enough to succeed

Explanation: Option (b) is the incorrect part of the sentence because it has used the wrong preposition. The correct form is ‘struggle with’ and not ‘struggle by’.

Example 14.

(a) Despite some bad news

(b) Michel’s stature was not diminished

(c) and her fans or critics

(d) were unanimous in appreciating her work

Explanation: Option (c) is the correct choice because the word should be and in place of or. ‘Or’ is used to introduce an alternative or a similar word, but fans and critics are clearly not similar words. Also, the sentence means that both the parties agreed and hence the conjunction should be ‘and’.

Example 15.

(a) Jazz is an American art form

(b) which was now flourishing in Europe

(c) through the efforts of expatriates

(d) in France, Scandinavia and Germany

Explanation: Option (b) is the answer, because the given sentence is in the present tense, but the ‘was’ is used to denote past tense. ‘Is’ should be the replacement, to make it a grammatically correct sentence.

Example 16.

(a) Character, and

(b) not riches

(c) win us

(d) respect

Explanation (c); The correct sentence is:

  • Character, and not riches, wins us respect.

Direction: Each sentence below has four words or phrases, marked a, b, c and d. Identify the part that must be change to make the sentence correct.

Example 17.

(a) Neither the examiner

(b) nor his assistant

(c) were informed

(d) about the cancellation of the examination.

Explanation (c); Neither … nor would take a singular verb: ‘was’ and not the plural one: ‘were’.

Example 18.

(a) Being

(b) a short holiday

(c) we had to return

(d) without visiting many of the places.

Explanation (a); The structure of the sentence is awkward and hence creates an impression that the people were the holiday. This makes no sense. This is a modifier error.

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