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It's right in front of you!

It's right in front of you tests you on advanced prepositions.

In English we say, somewhat emphatically, 'It's right in front of you!' when something someone's looking for is (as we also say) 'staring them in the face'.

As usual, in this Quiz the Answers are all there ... but which ones?

  1. Which of these makes the LEAST reasonable sense?
    'The suspect parcel was ... ... in the middle of the crowded mainline station concourse.'
    The package (presumably a terrorist bomb) was LEFT ( = abandoned, prior to it detonating; Answer 1), RIGHT (Answer 2) in the precise spot where its blast would inflict most damage, or thereabouts (Answer 3); nobody with the commitment to do such a thing would set about it 'vaguely' (Answer 4), for sure!
  2. Which of these would be the LEAST natural way of completing the sentence?
    'If we let the children off the coach without any instructions, they'll be ... ... the park within ten minutes.'
    The first three Answers are acceptable (No.3 perhaps fractionally less good), but Answer 4 suggests a mode of distribution more like the spreading of a single, solid or viscous layer (e.g. a blanket, or butter and/or jam on a slice of toast), rather than that individual children or small groups would be 'dotted' or 'stippled' (good word: look it up!) through the grounds.
  3. Which Answer completes this sentence most helpfully?
    'There's a wall-switch ... ... behind the machine.'
    Answer 1 is too vague, Answer 3 doesn't make geometrical sense, and 'over' (Answer 4) suggests somewhere further away than the context leads us to expect (the machine is nearby, yet the switch is 'over there' ... beyond the machine perhaps, rather than just behind it?).
  4. This time only ONE answer makes plausible sense: which is it?
    'Someone's bike has been ... ... in the middle of the hallway again.'
    It might even have been 'left out' (i.e. not put away, or projecting across where people may need to walk), but no such Answer was offered. The bike may indeed have been left, right in the middle ~ odd though the double pun may seem!
  5. Which is the correct (if perhaps insensitive) idiom to complete this emphatic sentence?
    'It's not every day that you witness a traffic accident happening ... ... in front of your window.'
    These are all good English noise words (including the breaking glass in Answer 3), but for some reason the standard version is Answer 2.
  6. Choose the answer which completes the sentence in good, accurate and idiomatic English.
    His parents had built him a wonderful tree-house ... ... the leafy canopy of the big oak, ... ... the bottom of their wonderful garden.
    The tree-house is 'up' off the ground, yet still 'under' the main body of the tree, so these terms consecutively make good sense. Even if the tree (and house) is downhill as seen from the main building itself, 'down under' (Answer 2) does not sound right.
    The construction of the tree-house would indeed have involved moving and installing parts upwards and into the tree, but English would not bother with the 'into' preposition (Answer 3; confirming a sense of motion, as in where German would use the Accusative Case in preference to the Dative); while 'way up' (Answer 4) sounds rather too high for safety, and would need to be expressed as 'way up in the tree'.
    The second-blank Answers were all mostly reasonable but only Answer 1 offers a good pair.
  7. You have a problem with your domestic plumbing and someone arrives to help. Which of these versions would you be LEAST likely to tell them?
    'All I can tell you is that the valve you're looking for is ... ... '
    Any of the word-orders other than Answer 4 will do the trick fine here.
  8. Choose the answer which completes the sentence in good, accurate and idiomatic English.
    The washroom is ... ... along the corridor to your left.
    The point of the adverb here is to emphasise the shortness of distance, rather than the precision of the directions!
  9. Which of these does NOT offer a sensible ending to the sentence?
    'The penalty handed down by the judge to the criminal was just ... ... '
    'Just' can (originally) mean 'having the quality of justice' (as in Answer 1) or, adverbially, 'merely' (Answer 3) or 'virtually' (Answer 2). We do have a phrase 'Just a moment' (Answer 4), but that does not make relevant sense in the context.
  10. You are visiting a tall building and ask, on the ground floor, for directions to where (precisely) you are going.
    Which of these remarks would suggest the highest position within the building?
    Answer 1 is really quite vague; Answer 2 clearly enough suggests your destination is not on a very high floor; Answer 3 suggests that it is 'far, but not all that far' from the top (perhaps within the range of 25 to 15% below the top); but 'quite near' (Answer 4) appears to suggest a range just that little bit closer still. After all, it does not contain any contradictory negative element.

Author: Ian Miles

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