Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grade Grammar Student?

Monday, July 253 min read

For many folks, the lessons learned during grade school have faded. We might remember the basic rules of capitalization and spelling, but it can be challenging to remember all the grammar details we were quizzed on when sitting at our desks back in fifth grade. Do you recall your lesson on progressive verb tenses? Can you identify a narrative point of view? Let’s see if you could still hold your own in a fifth-grade grammar classroom.

1) Which verb tense is used in the following sentence:

We have played many games this weekend.

a) past simple

b) present perfect

c) future progressive

We’re starting with a tough one. In fifth grade, students learn advanced verb tenses, such as past, present, and future. The correct answer here is b) present perfect. The sentence discusses an action that has been completed, which is what perfect tense verbs are designed to do. The progressive verb tense — also known as continuous tense — describes an action in progress.

2) Identify the pronouns and the point of view in this sentence:

She and I drove to the pet store.

Can you spot the pronouns? In this sentence, they are “she” and “I.” If you had trouble finding them, a pronoun is a word that’s used in place of a noun. For example, this sentence could read, “Nancy and Steve drove to the pet store,” but the pronouns “she” and “I” are substituted in place of the names, the nouns in this sentence.

How about the point of view? Remember that the point of view in writing refers to the story's narrative voice. This can be either first person, second person, or third person. The sentence above is first person. The pronouns give a clue as to the point of view.

First-person narratives typically use “I” and “we” pronouns to show the narrator is telling their own story. Second-person narratives use “you” as a pronoun because they are told from the reader’s point of view. Finally, the third person can use “he,” “she,” “it,” or “they,” since a narrator is typically telling a story about someone else.

3) Choose the correct homophone for the sentence below:

The trees are losing ______ leaves.

a) they’re

b) their

c) there

Even adults find this question tricky! The answer is b) their. That’s because “their” is possessive, referring to the leaves that belong to the tree. As for the other options, “they’re” is a contraction for “they are,” and “there” is about location, so those options don’t make sense at all.

These words are called homophones. These are terms that have the same pronunciation but different meanings. Other commonly confused homophones at the fifth-grade level (and beyond) include your/you’re, too/to/two, and whose/who’s.

4) What is the plural form for each of the words below?

Tooth = ____________

Person = ____________

Moose = ____________

Cactus = ____________

If you recognized these were all irregular plural nouns, you are a fifth-grade grammar superstar. Irregular nouns don’t easily become plural by adding “-s” or “-es” to the end of the word. Students need to memorize the correct forms for each noun. The answers for these words are as follows:

Tooth = Teeth

Person = People

Moose = Moose

Cactus = Cacti

Going beyond the fifth grade, many irregular plurals can trip up adults.

Memorandum = Memoranda

Neurosis = Neuroses

Son-in-law = Sons-in-law

5) Add the necessary commas and quotation marks to this sentence:

It’s Saturday Marko explained which means I have swimming lessons.

This can be tricky for fifth graders and adults alike. It requires understanding both the intention of the sentence, and the correct punctuation rules. The correct sentence looks like this:

“It’s Saturday,” Marko explained, “which means I have swimming lessons.”

People often forget commas and periods go inside quotation marks in American English. The rules are a little different in British English, but unless you attended elementary school overseas, you probably learned the American version.

Featured image credit: Wavebreakmedia/ iStock

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