Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Epic fail 9/10

Ye gods and minnows! 
I decided to take the grammar test on the BBC's website.  Sailed through with 9/10.  ONLY 9!
The question that flummoxed me was Q3.

Read this sentence carefully. "I'd like to introduce you to my sister Clara, who lives in Madrid, to Benedict, my brother who doesn't, and to my only other sibling, Hilary." Which of the following is correct? 

1. Hilary is male

2. Hilary is female

3. It's impossible to know from the context

I chose number 3.

WRONG! He's male. The absence of a comma before "who doesn't", implies that there are other brothers. A comma after "my brother" would mean that there was only one brother.

It seems my formal grammar education, from 1957-8 has let me down.
Well, this is such a tiny difference that I think it would go unnoticed by most people.  Is it important?  The sentence reads as though it has been contrived. Wouldn't most us refer to a brother as a brother, not as a sibling? And isn't the sentence far more likely to be used in speech? We rarely hear punctuation in speech.
The sentence has been deliberately constructed to catch people out.  Oh yes, it succeeded in that.  And I'll probably remember the answer from now on. If I ever need to.

No comments: