Multiple Choice Error Detection

One of the four options is grammatically incorrect.


Without green plants, the sun's energy could not be used on the earth, and all other organisms live on the earth would die.


  1. Without
  2. could not be used
  3. other
  4. live

I think the third is the correct answer (wrong grammar = correct answer).

  • A question about what's appropriate to ask should be asked on meta. (I suggest asking it there and deleting this one or flagging it for delete.) Also, don't ask the same questions on both of English Language Learners and English Language & Usage – James Waldby - jwpat7 Jun 18 '13 at 4:41
  • @jwpat7 hi, as you see, there is one sample concrete question, Which is more suitable? ELL or ELU? – HyperGroups Jun 18 '13 at 4:43
  • I don't understand how the sample question works – ie whether the answer should be a letter, several letters, etc – but that aside, I suggest ELL. Also see on-topic help page. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Jun 18 '13 at 4:46
  • Your "seems true" addendum seems strange to me. I would assume that the hidden error would not be in the veracity of the statement but in the grammar- i.e. one or more of A,B,C, or D is in error. Having said that, I think you ought to tell us what your thoughts are on why any of A,B,C, or D might be questionable and we can comment. I don't think it's appropriate for us to blindly answer questions from the textbook. – Jim Jun 18 '13 at 4:47
  • @Jim well,I edited, how about this. – HyperGroups Jun 18 '13 at 5:00

The third one is not incorrect.

Both 'all other' and 'all the other' are acceptable English in the context, though I would lean towards all other as most correct. 'All the other' feels like it's referring to individual organisms, not whole classes of organisms which is the intent of the sentence.

The fourth one is the most wrong answer. There is a definite tense issue at play. This page has a fairly comprehensive Table of Tenses that looks correct (I only skimmed the content). This should point out a more correct word.

  • Most likely #4 is only "wrong" because OP has failed to transcribe the word that from the original context. But frankly, such questions don't seem at all appropriate for ELL. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 19 '13 at 16:58
  • 1
    Actually, I think #4 is incorrect, but it's because the word should read living, not live. Fumble's suggestion works, too, but I the test writers were aiming at the distinction between live and living. – J.R. Jul 6 '13 at 22:36
  • 1
    @J.R. and alive, too. – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 7 '13 at 1:32
  • @Stoney: alive works, too, which is why I think this is a bad test question. Still, I'd wager that the test writers were trying to wrongly conjugate a verb, and have that be the reason for the "correct" answer. They did an especially poor job, for the reasons you & Fumble have pointed out. Like in so many other "Help me on my ESL prep test question" questions, we've ended up talking about how bad the question is, more than we do about the English itself. At least future visitors will know not to read too much into these test questions. – J.R. Jul 7 '13 at 9:54

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