The Words We All Misuse Quiz

EDUCATION

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."

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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

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

Advertisement

The Empire State Building is taller __________ the Chrysler Building.

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

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

__________ 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."

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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."

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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

"Principle" always refers to a rule or belief.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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

"Towards" is never the correct answer.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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

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

Advertisement

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

Amused means displaying amusement ; bemused means bewildered or confused.

Advertisement

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."

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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).

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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!

Explore More Quizzes