Tag Archives: quizzes

Spot the Grammatical Error! (Tattoo Edition)

posted by Simon Kemp

You know those kinds of language exercises where you have to spot the grammar, spelling or punctuation mistake and correct it? Well, here’s one.  What makes this one a little different is that every one of the errors below has been permanently inked on skin by French tattooists. The lucky clients can either wear the mistakes for ever as a sort of walking grammar test, or negotiate to find out how much it costs to add an extra circumflex to an existing design.

Your task below: spot and correct all the errors in the tattoos pictured. (We’ll tell you how many mistakes there are to find.) Answers at the end of the post.

1. One grammar mistake to find:


2. One grammar/spelling mistake to find (not counting the colloquial shortening of “ne” to “n'”):


3. Three mistakes to find in this one:



1. ‘Si j’avais le choix entre toi et la vie, je te choisirais car tu est ma seule raison de vivre.’ Should be ‘tu es’, not ‘tu est’. The whole sentence means: ‘If I had to choose between you and life, I’d choose you as you’re my only reason to live.’

2. ‘La vie n’se respire qu’une seule fois, Et le bonheur ça se vie sans aucune loi.’ Should be ‘ça se vit’ (from ‘se vivre’, to be lived), not ‘ça se vie’. The sentence means: ‘Life is only breathed once. And happiness is lived without any laws.’

3. ‘Ma vie à commencée le jour ou tu es né.’ Should be: ‘Ma vie a commencé le jour où tu es né’ (‘a’ not ‘à’;  ‘commencé’ not ‘commencée’; and ‘où’ not ‘ou’). The whole sentence means: ‘My life began on the day you were born.’


How did you do?

5/5: Excellent! There may be a lucrative career for you as a French tattoo artist.

3/5 or more: Well done! You can perform a useful public service as a French tattoo corrector.

2/5 or less: Good try! Maybe take a dictionary along with you when getting any French tattoos of your own, though.


These and many more French grammar fails are to be found at Bescherelletamere.fr.

Quiz time!



Right, it’s time for another Adventures on the Bookshelf quiz! This one is all about faux amis.

Below are two dictionary definitions. The red one is from a French dictionary, the blue one is from an English dictionary. Your job is guess the words being defined. The twist is that the French and English words are both spelled the same way, even though they mean completely different things.

Take a look. (There’s no need to understand every word in the French definition to play the game.)

_ _ _ _ (4 letters)

Petit animal domestique carnassier, à pelage de couleur variée souvent noir ou gris, se nourrissant de souris, de petites proies, et de la nourriture servie par ses maîtres. 

Talk in a friendly, informal way.

So, if you could work out a little of the gist of the French definition (the whole thing translates as: ‘Small carnivorous domestic animal, with variable fur colour, often black or grey, which eats mice, small prey creatures or food given by its owners’), you might have got that it’s a cat, or ‘un chat’ in French, which is a faux ami for the English verb, ‘chat’, meaning… to talk in a friendly, informal way!

OK, got it?

Ten questions below. No peeking at the answers until you’ve had a go at all of them. Time starts now!


  1. _ _ _ _ _

Numéral cardinal. Quinze plus un.

Take hold of suddenly and forcibly.


2. _ _ _ _

Qui se lave insuffisamment ou mal; qui manque de propreté.

A period during which a shop sells goods at reduced prices.


3. _ _ _ _ _

Susceptible de conséquences étendues, de suites fâcheuses, dangereuses.

A hole dug in the ground to receive a coffin or corpse, typically marked by a stone or mound.


4. _ _ _ _ _

Composante prédominante du corps humain ou animal, essentiellement constituée des tissus musculaire et conjonctif.

A separate seat for one person, typically with a back and four legs.


5. _ _ _

Endroit dans lequel un footballeur doit envoyer le ballon pour marquer.

Conjunction used to introduce a clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned.


6. _ _ _ _

Préposition. En échange de, en remplacement de, à la place de.

Flow rapidly in a steady stream.


7. _ _ _ _

Partie d’une cuisinière qui sert à la cuisson des aliments.

Even number, less than ten.


8. _ _ _ _

Aliment fait d’une certaine quantité de farine mêlée d’eau et de levain et cuit au four

Highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury.


9. _ _

Arbre à feuilles persistantes longues, étroites, vénéneuses, d’un vert très sombre, à baies rouges, qui est utilisé comme arbre d’ornement dans les parcs, les jardins, les cimetières.

Conjunction introducing a conditional clause.


10. _ _ _ _

Organe terminal du bras, formé d’une partie élargie articulée sur l’avant-bras et terminé par cinq doigts.

Chief in size or importance.


Answers below the French cat!



1. seize (seize = 16)

2. sale (sale = dirty)

3. grave (grave = serious)

4. chair (la chair = flesh)

5. but (le but = goal)

6. pour (pour = for)

7. four (le four = oven)

8. pain (le pain = bread)

9. if (un if = yew tree)

10 main (la main = hand)


How did you do?

7-10 correct: Carrément terrible! 

3-6 correct: Pas terrible.

0-3 correct: Frankly terrible.


Like this? Try our fiendish odd-one-out quiz as well!


Chassez l’intrus!

posted by Simon Kemp

The weather is getting warm. The sun is shining in a cloudless sky. In the garden, the strawberries are ripening and the clematis is in bloom. In my world, that can mean only one thing: it must be EXAM SEASON! For too long, this blog has been content to inform and entertain. It’s high time we had some Formal Assessment.

‘Chassez l’intrus’ (‘Flush out the intruder!’) is the French language’s rather aggressive and paranoid way of saying ‘find the odd one out’. So, below are five facts about French. Four of them are true*. One of them is false**. Your task is to chasser l’intrus.

* Strictly speaking, four of them are believed to be true by many eminent historians of the French language, which is not quite the same thing, but for the purposes of this examination, we are going to pretend that it is.

** One of them is definitely false because I made it up earlier this morning.

A cat demonstrating the principle of the exercise.

It is NOT PERMITTED to scroll down to find out the answers until the candidate has plumped for the one they think is fake.

It is PERMITTED for candidates to test their French teachers on the facts and see how many they didn’t know, and/or to attempt to persuade them that the false one is true.

It is NOT PERMITTED, subsequent to the test, for candidates to immediately forget the four true facts and just remember the one I made up.

 OK, here goes:


1. The reason the French use the same word, pas, for the negative ‘ne… pas’ construction and le pas, meaning a footstep, is that… they’re the same word. In Old French, the negative was made by ne alone, so ‘I’m not walking’ would simply be ‘je ne marche’. If your feet were especially sore, however, you’d be entitled to say ‘je ne marche pas’, or ‘I’m not walking a single step.’ Gradually the pas started turning up in other negatives too, until eventually it became an essential part of the construction.


2. The French word for a hedgehog, le hérisson, derives from a confusion between Anglo-Norman French and Old English at the medieval court of William the Conqueror. King William’s third son, the future King William II (known as Rufus), was famed for his unkempt appearance with long hair and beard. He was mocked by French-speaking courtiers for looking like a hedgehog, and nicknamed by English speakers the ‘hairy son’ of the family. Over time, the cross-linguistic insults merged, and le hérisson became an alternative French word for a hedgehog, and later the accepted name of the animal.


 3. The French word for a chair was originally la chaire. It became la chaise due to the fashion among sixteenth-century women to pronounce as a z any single letter r with a vowel before and after it. Chaire has an r sandwiched between an i and an e, so got pronounced ‘chaize’, and later the spelling followed suit. Fashionable ladies of the period would also refer to their husbands as ‘mon mazi’ and to the capital city as ‘Pazis’, but those ones didn’t catch on so well.


4. The French word for a dustbin is la poubelle because bins were introduced to France by Monsieur Poubelle, and named in his honour.


5. English borrowed the French word gentil three times to make three different words. It first entered English as gentle, with the original sense of noble-born (as in gentleman). Then, once gentle in English had shifted to mean mild or kind, we borrowed the French word a second time, now as genteel, to get back its sense of the upper classes. Thirdly, in the seventeenth century we borrowed it again to make the English word jaunty. If jaunty doesn’t look much like the other two, that’s because it’s a (slightly rubbish) attempt to capture the modern French pronunciation of gentil in English spelling.


Answers below. No peeking until you’ve made your choice!












Fact 1 is TRUE. In Old French you could also say ‘je ne bois goutte’ (I’m not drinking a drop) or ‘il ne coud point’ (he’s not sewing a stitch), along with other similar expressions. The constructions ‘ne…goutte’ and ‘ne…point’ are also still in existence, if rather old-fashioned now, and similarly detached from their original meanings of ‘drop’ and ‘stitch’.


Fact 2 is FALSE. But still a good way of remembering the French word for hedgehog.


Fact 3 is TRUE. I know, it sounds totally ridiculous, but apparently it really was the fashion to do that, and was mentioned by Erasmus. ‘La chaire’ still exists in French as a rostrum, Papal throne or professorial chair.


Fact 4 is TRUE. And is consequently my all-time favourite French word. I shall be returning to M. Poubelle and his amazing new bin idea in another post in the near future.


Fact 5 is TRUE. And just dull enough to try to convince you that it was the one I’d made up.


If you got the right answer, WELL DONE! If you didn’t, don’t worry – the people who got the right answer were only guessing anyway.