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Write it Right - Correct Spellings

Quiz playing is a wonderful way to increase your knowledge of English as a Second Language. Remember that all of our ESL quizzes have titles that are both friendly and serious at the same time… In the case of this quiz you might like to tell your friends about “Write It Right” but no doubt your teachers will talk about the “Correct Spellings quiz”! If you hear a specific term and you want to find a quiz about the subject then just look through the list of quiz titles until you find what you need.

As you will have discovered, correct spellings in English can sometimes be tricky: we have words that sound the same but look different. At least, it's not quite as complex as Mandarin Chinese... we only have 26 letters, but we need to work them pretty hard, and some of them do several jobs rather than just one. Try and find the correct spellings in this quiz.

  1. Please choose the best version of the word(s) to fit in the gap(s).
    In my country all the policemen wear blue ...
    A nice easy one to start with ... four sounds, four letters.
  2. Please choose the best version of the word(s) to fit in the gap(s).
    The girl ... ... her new pony* slowly down the ... ... .
    (A pony is a small, young horse.)
    'Rode' is the past form of 'ride' ('I didn't know you rode a bike'); 'road' is the general word for a public street. They sound the same but they have different meanings.
    'Rowed' is also a real English word, and connected with the idea of travelling: it's the past form of 'row', when you propel a small boat forwards by pulling on the oars (as in the world-famous Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race, held on the River Thames in London each spring). But it has no place in this sentence; you can't 'row' a horse!
  3. Please choose the best version of the word(s) to fit in the gap(s).
    ... ... we used to go ... ... in the pool.
    You need to get all three words right here:
    'Every' should have an E in the middle (even though often, it is not pronounced);
    'Week' is right for a time-span of seven days. There is a similar-sounding word 'weak', meaning the opposite of 'strong';
    When we make the '-ing' or '-ed' form of a verb that ends in a vowel followed by a single consonant, we double that consonant before we add the ending: 'chat / chatted / chatting', 'jog / jogged / jogging', 'swim / swimming'. (A bad example, actually ... because the past form is irregular. It ought to be 'swimmed', but the correct form is 'swum', as you may know. How many of you, out there, have 'swum [across] the English Channel to arrive in Britain'? Probably not very many!)
  4. Please choose the best version of the word(s) to fit in the gap(s).
    When he left his job, many of his ... ... gave him ... .
    Yes, we know: the 'I' in friends makes no difference to the sound. (But you might like to think that when you have a friend, there's a part of them within you, and a part of you in them: 'I am there before the end'.)
    'Present' (= gift) is the same word, as written, as the name of the Present Tense (the verb-form that says things are happening 'now'.) The word 'presence' does exist, and is related, but the versions in Answers 3 and 4 are simply wrong. We might say 'This form must be signed by the young student in the presence of an adult', meaning that a grown-up person needs to be there ('present') to witness them doing the signature.
  5. Please choose the best version of the word(s) to fit in the gap(s).
    ... ... , ... ... been a problem!
    This one has several 'traps' in it!
    'Weight' is how we measure the heaviness of something, such as a bag of rice, in kilos. 'Wait' means to let some time go by before you do something. (You will see it on button-controlled pedestrian crossings over the street: you have to 'wait' until the green light allows you to cross.)
    There is only one correct way to spell 'minute'. The word 'minuet' means an old-fashioned European dance (a bit like a grandfather to the Waltz), with three beats to the bar ('Oom-pah-pah ...'!)
    ... And we 'might HAVE done' something another way; but 'of' doesn't make any sense at all in that position. Lots of English native-speakers make this same mistake, because we just tend to say 'I might-v dropped it'. You can do better than them, once you know!
  6. Please choose the best version of the word(s) to fit in the gap(s).
    If you're travelling to Scotland, make sure you take plenty of warm ...
    A shorter and (we hope) easier question here.
    'Cloth' means any fabric, such as silk or velvet or maybe something far less precious. We talk about a 'tablecloth' (to protect the top of a wooden table if anything is spilt on it), and indeed a 'dishcloth' for cleaning the plates and cutlery after a meal, and a 'facecloth' for washing yourself before you go to bed.
    'Clothes' (items of clothing; both pronounced with a long O sound) are things that you put on and wear, like socks and shirts.
  7. Please choose the best version of the word(s) to fit in the gap(s).
    You can pay him the ... ... , ... .... you ... ... to the ... ... of the queue.
    In this case we have four quite common words with the 'short u' sound in them (the same as you hear in simpler words like 'cup' and 'bus'). Very unfortunately, none of these four words is actually spelt with a U. And even the word 'none' (= not one) sounds as though it has a U in it, but there isn't one there either!
    Let's try and be positive about this!
    We would hope that you already know such really common words as 'come' and 'money', so you would have some idea that something a bit odd is going on. ('Something' ~ pronounced 'sum-thing' ~ is in fact another everyday example!).
    When you started learning English you may have sat (not 'may of sat'!) at the front of the class, or at least you would have (not 'would of'!) begun at the front of a course-book.
    That only leaves 'once' (pronounced 'wunce'). Perhaps you have been to Britain, but only 'once' in your life so far. Maybe you go to an English class or club 'once' a week. You may have heard fairy-tales (like Cinderella) which, in English, usually start with the phrase: 'Once upon a time ...'.
    Once (!) you know a few examples, you will probably remember these words, because they keep coming up.
    One of the most famous things that people watch from Britain on the television ~ along with the Boat Race (see Question 2, earlier), and perhaps the Last Night of the Proms (concerts) from the Royal Albert Hall in London ~ is the Service of Nine Lessons (= readings) and Carols from King's College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve each year (= 24 December). It tells the story of the very first Christmas, about 2,000 years ago in the Middle East. The whole event begins with one young boy singing the first words of a famous Christmas song about the birth of the baby Jesus at Bethlehem. And the very first word of all, every year, is the start of the phrase: 'Once in royal David's city, stood a lowly cattle-shed'.
    So the very first sound that choir-boy has to make, into the microphone connecting him with people all across the world at Christmas, is the 'W'-sound on the word 'once' ('wunce') ... the letter that isn't really there!
  8. Please choose the best version of the word(s) to fit in the gap(s).
    How many times can you hear the sound of a short 'i' (as in 'sit'), in the phrase: ...
    This is a really horrible example, but in fact it's just composed of three quite frequent words:
    'English' ... well, we reckon you knew that much already!
    'Women' on the back: irregular plural form of 'woman' (like 'man/men', but it isn't pronounced so clearly or obviously);
    'Business' in the middle. This one is indeed very strange, but because of how important it is, most people just learn it pretty early. It is (in case you didn't know) pronounced 'bizniss'.
    ... which means that, in answer to the actual Question, the 'short-i' sound comes six times in the phrase 'English businesswomen'. It actually sounds like the (false) spelling that we offered you as Answer 2. The only one of those times when it is actually spelt with an 'I' is in the back half of the word 'English'; in every other place, the spelling uses a different vowel. And in the word 'business': yes, there is an 'i' there, but nobody ever pronounces it!
    However, if you are learning English so you can do business with English women (or British women, which is better and slightly clearer), we are sure you will manage to get used to this!
  9. Please choose the best version of the word(s) to fit in the gap(s).
    My aunt, who lives on a farm in Wiltshire, bakes all her ... ... with special ... ... .
    'Bread' is an everyday food that you will get to know very quickly (Jesus taught his followers to ask God to 'Give us this day our daily bread'). English bread may be a bit different in shape, colour or texture from the bread you have in your own country, but it's all bread still!
    In English you will see plenty of words with -EA- together in the middle. Usually this will be pronounced as a long E (as in 'God save the Queen': words like 'Please' and 'Mean' and 'Seat'), or a short 'e' (as though in words like 'bed', such as 'dead', 'head', 'breath' and 'sweat').
    The white powder which is the main ingredient for baking is 'flour' (not 'flower', which sounds quite similar; a flower, of course, is the pretty bit on top of a plant, which insects and gardeners enjoy).
  10. Please choose the best version of the word(s) to fit in the gap(s).
    You'll find the paper-clips in the ... ... at the back ... ...
    At last! The final version of the last question was the right one.
    We can offer no excuse for the funny spelling of 'cupboard' ~ except that it's a really everyday word (almost every building probably has at least one of them inside), and what could be more natural to keep there than cups, while you're not using them? (Cup + board = a flat space to put a cup on).
    'Office' has two F's (you will have seen this word on lots of signs such as the Post Office, Foreign Office, Passport Office etc.), but the little word 'of' only has one.
    'Of' ( = belonging to, or from, as in 'The King of Belgium') is NOT the same word as 'off' ( = 'not working', 'away' : 'He switched the machine off, and went off to the park to get some fresh air'.)

Author: Ian Miles

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