The Words We All Misuse Quiz


By: Staff

5 Min Quiz

Image: FG Trade/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Whether you're a self-proclaimed grammar nazi or use the phrase "intensive purposes", there are still some words that confuse us all. Some all too common mistakes have found their way to memes and mugs like the notorious "you're" v. "your" argument. However, there are still several oft-misused terms that have not reached a high level of awareness. Ask someone to discuss the proper uses of "lie" v. "lay" and you'll find that a quick Google search is a safer bet than asking the average person. 

Some people might pick up on pop culture references like Alanis Morissette's incorrect use of "ironic", or on everyday references like the popular "irregardless", which somehow lives on despite the fact that it's not a real word. This quiz is a chance for you to test your own knowledge and learn something along the way.

Are you unsure of the difference between "affect" and "effect"? Do you use "enervate" and "energize" interchangeably? Do you ever find yourself using "bemused" even if you're not exactly sure what it means? Take this quiz to and get these answers and more. 

I'm done with the job for all __________, but I haven't had my exit interview yet.

It sounds like "intensive purposes," but it's "intents and purposes."


The __________ of New York is Albany.

The capital of New York is Albany — "capital" is for cities (and money matters). "Capitol" always refers to a building, and "Capitol" with a capital C refers to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.


Tom wasn't too upset that Amy had been fired. He had never really liked her __________.

Always "anyway," never "anyways." Ever.


The Empire State Building is taller __________ the Chrysler Building.

"Than" is for comparison, and "then" tells when.


The teacher's pointed questions failed to __________ any answers from the class.

"Illicit" is an adjective referring to going against morals or rules. "Elicit" is a verb meaning to draw out or evoke.


Justin was __________ by the fireworks; he'd seen better pyrotechnics.

This is a controversial one. "Nonplussed" means "stunned or bewildered." But so many people use it to mean "unimpressed" that grammarians say the word is transforming. It's a tough call, but we're saying "unimpressed" is the correct word here.


It's so __________ that it rained on their wedding day.

Rain on your wedding day, or a free ride when you've already paid, are not ironic events. They're just unusual, unexpected or unfortunate happenings. This is not the spot to debate the many usages and definitions of irony, but most coincidences are not ironic.


Rebecca went shopping for some __________ outfits to wear on her work trip.

We guess it is possible that Rebecca wanted some outfits to be "put into use successfully," but more likely she wants "suitable" clothing for her trip.


__________ of what you think should happen, we're still going ahead with the renovation.

"Irregardless" seems to be gaining a foothold in the language, but it's not a word. Just say "regardless."


I'm __________ of that mean-looking dog next door. It could be nice, but you never know.

"Weary" means tired. "Wary" and "leery" are synonyms meaning suspicious or watchful.


Don't __________ the rules: __________ __________ for your protection.

"Flaunt" means to show off, and "flout" means to break the rules. "Their" is possessive, "they're" means they are and "there" always refers to a place.


We were terrified on the __________ mountain roads.

They differ by only one letter, but the meanings are very different. "Tortuous" means twisting or winding and "torturous" means "causing pain and suffering." So, tortuous roads could be torturous in some situations, but they're not the same thing.


I'm not under any __________ that our plane will actually leave on time tonight.

An allusion is an indirect reference. An illusion is a misguided perception or belief.


She was clearly __________ to the fact that she lost her job last week.

Because an allusion is an indirect reference, "alluding" means to indirectly refer to something. To "elude" is to hide. And "illude" is just a fake word.


The __________ quilt looked lovely in the master bedroom.

"Simplistic" actually means "overly or naively simple," like a simplistic explanation or a simplistic view of life. A quilt is just simple.


The child's tantrum had absolutely no __________ on his mother. She just took his hand and quietly led him out of the store.

When we're talking about nouns, "effect" is a change that resulted from some kind of action. "Affect" is a person's emotional demeanor.


Paul __________ an English accent every time he answered the phone.

"Affect" and "effect" are also verbs. "Affect" as a verb means "to have an influence on," "to touch someone emotionally," or "to put on a pretense." "Effect" means "to cause something to happen," or "to bring about."


Lawrence was so __________ after the motivational speech that he went for a jog when he got home.

"Enervated" and "energized" are often used interchangeably for some reason, but they're actually opposites.


We've decided to pay down the __________ of our mortgage instead of going on vacation this summer.

"Principal" has many meanings, including your "pal" the head of school (or the head of a business) — and the non-interest portion of a loan.


On __________, I refuse to buy from any cosmetics company that tests on animals.

"Principle" always refers to a rule or belief.


The soldier was __________ at dawn the day after he was convicted of murder.

In general, "hung" is for inanimate objects, like curtains and coats, and "hanged" is for people.


The __________ moment in the movie came when the hero was dangling from a bridge.

"Climactic" is for the climax, or high point. "Climatic" refers to the climate.


I'll give you some money __________ your tuition if you get good grades this semester.

"Towards" is never the correct answer.


My grandparents __________ here from Ireland.

"Emigrate" and "immigrate" are very similar in both spelling and meaning. When the focus of the sentence is on the place the person left, it's "emigrate." When the focus is on the place the person ended up, it's "immigrated." It's the "here" right after the verb that puts the focus on where hey wound up in this case.


__________ never going to win that race if you don't start training.

"You're" = "you are," and never anything else.


Taylor was __________ by the joke because she understood it well.

Amused means displaying amusement ; bemused means bewildered or confused.


She had never been so happy as when she finally __________ that heavy suitcase down on the floor.

"Lay" requires a direct object: You lay something down. "Laid" is the past tense of "lay."


I'm going to __________ down in bed and take a nice, long nap.

Again, "lay" requires a direct object: You lay something down. "Lie" does not require a direct object: You lie down in bed.


When I __________ down in bed last night, I fell right asleep.

But of course it's not always so straightforward. "Lay" is also the past tense of "lie," so it's not totally true that "lay" always needs a direct object. You can also "lay" on a bed (but only in the past).


Lisa said she __________ if Tony went to the party with another girl. They had broken up weeks ago.

If you want to get literal about a figure of speech, "couldn't care less" is correct. If you "could care less," you're saying that it is possible you could care even less. But if you <i>couldn't</i> care less, you are officially at rock bottom of caring. Lisa could not possibly care any less about Tony.


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