Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Do You Know English As Well As You Thought?

Yes, I know the question is strange. Of course you know English, you want to be a writer. You probably know English better than most people, and being so well read helps too. 

For one of my university courses I’m spending a semester studying the Middle Ages, most specifically the text Beowulf and Old English. But instead of launching straight into it, we’re going back to basics. We’re learning how to construct a sentence. We’re analysing sentences, naming nouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions . . . and do you know what I’ve started to realise?

 I don’t know English as well as I thought I did. 

Sure, I can construct a sentence. I’m doing it right now! But do I know what every word does? Do I know the exact function of it? Do I know what each part of the sentence can be categorised as? 

Not always, no. And don’t even get me started on finite and non-finite verbs. 

So today, I’m giving you all a little pop quiz. Good luck, and let me know how well you do! Answers will be lower down the page. 


Name the subject, verb, direct object and indirect object in this sentence:

Our teacher has given us so much work.

Name the noun, verb, adjective and adverb in the sentence:

The black horse bucked suddenly.

Name the conjunction and preposition in this sentence:

If I told you the truth, would you hold it against me?

Identify the finite and non-finite verbs in this sentence. If you actually happen to know what finite and non-finite verbs are (I didn’t until Sunday!), say whether it’s an infinitive, past participle or present participle for the non-finite ones:

I had to look as the sunset fell down in the sky.


Our teacher is the subject; has given is the verb; us is the indirect object; so much work is the direct object.

Black is the adjective, horse is the noun, bucked is the verb and suddenly is the adverb.

If is the conjunction, against is the preposition.

Had is the finite verb, to look and fell are the non-finite verbs, an infinitive and a past participle respectively.


How did you do? Do you know English as well as you thought you did?

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