Is Your Vocabulary Actually Good?



By: Monica Lee

6 Min Quiz

Image: ozgurdonmaz/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Sometimes just using one word incorrectly can ruin that good impression you're trying to make. To ensure that doesn't happen, you'll want to take this quiz and recall all the tricks and tips for using the correct word properly. 

You don't want an embarrassing moment like asking your host, "Can I use the restroom?" and the host answers, "I don't know, can you?" In this instance, you should have used "may" instead of  "can" because "can" implies whether it is physically possible, while "may" means you want permission. It's all about having a solid command of the language to express yourself confidently and accurately. 

Since many words are learned from context, other people may use a word loosely. Therefore, the precision of the definition might allude you. In this quiz you'll see a few of these vocabulary questions where you need the precise definition, as well as queries that ask you to find the best word to use in a sentence.  

Since the English language is constantly changing with new words and updated definitions, you'll want to take this quiz to see if you know the latest and greatest vocabulary words. 

We don't want to harassment you, but you really should take this quiz. 

When you talk about the "enormity" of the situation, what are you talking about?

There are two meanings. One definition is that enormity means great or extreme in seriousness. The other means a grave crime or sin.


When you think of "principle" what do you think of?

When you're talking about principle as a noun it means a fundamental truth or belief. As an adjective, principle means first or foremost. Although it sounds the same, when spelled as principal, this word means the top supervisor of a school.


What's the correct definition of "redundant"?

Although most people think redundant means repeated, if actually means unnecessarily and excessively repeated. Another way to express it is, "It's like beating a dead horse."


"She assured me the house would not flood.” What's wrong with this sentence?

It's a little complex, but when you "assure" someone, you are promising or telling that person someone something will definitely (or will not) happen. Whereas "ensure" means to make sure of or make preparations for an occurrence." While "insure" has to do with actual insurance policies.


What does "irregardless" mean?

Irregardless is listed in the dictionary since it has become a common term, however it's opposite of the word you may think you're using. Regardless means without regard. So irregardless means without, without regard. It's a double negative which means regard.


"She practiced speaking English by reading the passage allowed." What's wrong with this sentence?

The word "allowed" means to get permission, whereas "aloud" means to say it loudly and audibly; not silently or in a whisper, which is how someone might practice a language.


What does "irony" mean?

It means contrary to what you're expecting. So, for example, the Titanic was touted as being unsinkable, then it sank. That's ironic.


When you say "It's a travesty." what are you trying to convey?

It doesn’t mean anything bad happened. It means someone is mocking or a making a parody of something. Take Weird Al Yankovic, his music is a silly parody of popular songs.


"He was almost a half mile further down the road than she was.” How would you correct this sentence?

The word "farther" is used to talk about a difference that can be measured. Whereas "further" refers to something that can't be measured or is abstract. For instance, “The crisis was bound to do further damage in the years to come."


Which of these is the correct usage for "ultimate" as an adjective? Tricky, tricky.

You have to know your parts of speech in order to answer this correctly. You could substitute the word "ultimate" for "finally" as in "At the store we need eggs, milk, juice, and ultimately, butter.” As a noun, it means the best.


"There are less and less fish in the sea." What changes would you make to this sentence?

Use fewer when referring to items you can count, like "fewer fish" or "fewer dollars." Use "less" when referring to items you can't count, like "less sand" or "less air."


You may not use "peruse" very much, but if you do, which one is the correct meaning?

When you peruse something, you are actually taking a very close look at it. It's not a glance, it's more of a study.


"I can't wait to eat desert, I don't even want to finish my dinner." How would you change this sentence to correct it?

If you ever get mixed up with which word is a barren land and which is a sweet treat, just remember that desserts are so sweet they have an extra "s".


"I was averse to paying $4 a bottle for plain, old tap water." How would you correct this sentence?

It's fine as is, since averse describes feeling of dislike or opposition. If you chose to substitute averse with "adverse" you would be wrong since adverse means harmful or unfavorable.


Are you "bemused" with this quiz? What exactly does that mean?

Even though it looks almost identical to the word amused, that's not what it means. If you are bemused then you are actually confused.


"I was so mad, I was literally seeing red." How would you correct this sentence?

Only use this vocabulary word when it describes what is actually happening ‘in a literal manner’. When you're mad, you don't actually see red. It's an exaggeration. So the word "literally" is being used incorrectly. If you take that word out, the sentence is correct.


"The prize drawing is designed to illicit survey responses." How would you change this sentence.

"Elicit" means to draw out or coax and is the correct word to use in the above sentence. "Illicit" means illegal or unlawful,


If you're "compelled" to do something, what does that mean?

Although most people use it to substitute for the word "yearn' or "crave" it really means "forced" or "obligated" Here's an example: "After reaching the age of 18, he was compelled by law to register for the army."


“She decided to wear a historical costume for the Renaissance fair." How would you correct this sentence?

Historic means “famous,” whereas historical means “related to history.” So this sentence is correct just as written. No changes needed.


This one includes the archaic meaning. What does "terrific" mean?

When people say they feel terrific, they mean to say they feel fantastic. But the archaic meaning is horrific or to inspire fear. An example of something terrific is a vampire. You see blood and fangs and it inspires fear and terror.


It's a slight difference, but if you want to use the word "nauseous" correctly, you should know what it really means. Which one is right?

You're not quite ill, yet. That's what "nauseous" means. If you actually feel sick then you are nauseated. Two words describe two different stages of sickness.


This one is the bane of our existence. What does "effect" really mean?

Because "affect" and "effect" get mixed up all the time, most people use "impact" to make sure the idea is conveyed properly. But if you're a stickler for good grammar, remember it this way: If it’s a noun, it’s an effect. If it’s a verb, it’s an affect.


"How did you loose your phone and your keys?" How would you change this sentence to make it correct?

It's easy to confuse loose and lose because they sound similar. However, "loose" means that something is not firmly or tightly held in place. Whereas "lose" means being unable to find something, or no longer possessing it.


You better not be "disinterested" in this quiz. What does that word really mean?

Disinterested means neutral. In other words you don’t care either way about something. If you're bored, you are uninterested. We do hope you care about this quiz!


"Although we were going to town, we didn't have to dress nicely and could wear our everyday shoes." How would you change this sentence?

Leave as is, since "everyday" means commonplace or normal, whereas "every day" means just that, each and every day.


When you think of "chronic," what should come to mind?

Chronic conditions and diseases are called chronic because they won’t go away and not because they’re overly severe and painful.


"I wanted to complement your staff on the excellent service I received." How would you correct this sentence?

Compliment means to say something nice. Whereas complement means added to, enhanced, improved, completed or brought close to perfection.


Are you using "i.e." properly? What does it actually mean?

Admittedly, this is confusing. So we'll spell it out. The initials "i.e." mean in other words. When you use "i.e." you’re about to state the same information in different words.


Just to add to your knowledge, we are looking for the common and the historical definition. What does "decimate" mean?

Today decimate means to kill, destroy or remove a large percentage or a remove a part of something. In historical times, to decimate was to kill one in every ten of a group of soldiers or others, as a punishment for the whole group.


What's your best guess on this one? What does "panacea" mean?

A mother's kiss on a skinned knee, on a feverish forehead or on any bumps or bruises is a panacea for whatever ails a toddler. It means it can cure a lot of things, not just a single, particular problem.


How do you define "plethora"?

If you were criticizing the bureaucracy of the government, you might say there is a plethora of committees and subcommittees, meaning there are more committees than necessary to create and monitor laws.


For this one, it's the precision of the definition. What does "defective" mean?

Thanks to Amazon reviews, people are using this word incorrectly by saying their product was defective because it was missing a screw or other part. The product may work perfectly once the missing piece has been restored, therefore the product was NOT defective.


What does "unwieldy" mean?

If you don't use a word often, you might be a bit foggy recalling the precise definition. Use unwieldy to describe an unproductive system or a hard-to-transport item.


When you think of "obsolete," what comes to mind?

The literal definition of obsolete is an item that it isn’t produced, needed or used anymore. Obsolete is kind of the next step after old and out of date, when it's no longer produced.


"I use course sandpaper to remove large imperfections in the wood." How would you change this sentence to make it logical?

These two words sound similar and are spelled almost the same, with only one letter that is different. But it makes a big difference because "coarse" means rough as in an uneven surface that is unpleasant to touch. Whereas "course" has many meanings including a meal, a track, a direction or route.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!