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I just did an English test on the Internet because I have an entry exam tomorrow and I wanted to recap. I got 91% right, but I wanted to find out why I made these mistakes and what the correct way to answer the questions is.

  1. First exercise I got wrong said: "Choose the negative form of the words in:satisfy – (= feel that something is not as good as it should be)". I chose "unsatisfy", even though it sounded wrong, and I got it wrong. It obviously is dissatisfy, but could you let me know why it is that way? and how to make the difference?

  2. Second one was: "Which of the following is not correct: He was ..., he could do 10 km and not even sweat!". I chose "such a fit runner" and the rest of the answers were "so fit", "so a fit runner" and "such fit runner". Now when I think of it, "fit runner" sounds rather awkward. Is "so fit" the actual answer? If I were to answer with "such", would I still use an "a", like in the example?

  3. The last question was "Which of the following is not correct: The train was ..., it went from Tokyo to Osaca in two and a half hours!". The possible answers were "such fast", "such a quick one", "so quick" and, the one I answered, "so fast". I got it wrong. A train is fast. Why would the answer be different?

Thank you very much in advance for helping me out!

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    I think your answers to (2) and (3) are perfectly fine. I can't imagine why the test would mark you wrong for "The train was so fast, it went from T to O in two and a half hours". I suppose the test was looking for "so quick", but it baffles me that it wouldn't accept "so fast". In re: (2), "such a fit runner" is perfectly fine and should have been marked correct; that said, it's a bit wordy, and I would have preferred "so fit" (and if I were to write "such a fit runner", I would add "that", though it's not required, and could follow "so fit" just as easily). – Dan Bron Sep 18 '14 at 18:11
  • The un- prefix can go on the derived adjective satisfied, but not on the verb satisfy itself. He was unsatisfied with our answers, but not *Our answers unsatisfied him. – John Lawler Sep 18 '14 at 18:43
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    For problem 3, read the question carefully. If you copied it correctly, it asks: which of the following is not correct. That would be such fast; the other three answers are correct. (Although it's interesting that you copied the not correctly and spelled Osaka wrong.) – Peter Shor Oct 18 '14 at 20:52
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    Please ask your questions one at a time. – curiousdannii Nov 17 '14 at 23:37
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    If you've copied the second question correctly, then the question is incorrect. If the options are (a) “so fit”, (b) “so a fit runner”, (c) “such fit runner”, and (d) “such a fit runner”, and the question is, “Which option is not correct?”, then there is no real answer, because there are two options that are not correct. “So fit” and “such a fit runner” are both fine; “*so a fit runner” and “*such fit runner” are both incorrect. Another option would be “so fit a runner” (but not “*such fit a runner”). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 18 '14 at 0:42
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Question #1: The English verb for the negative of satisfy is dissatisfy. As far as I can tell, there is no reason discernible in the meanings of the prefixes un- and dis- why dissatisfy should have prevailed over unsatisfy—any more than why disarm prevailed over unarm as a verb—but it happened.

Question #2: The question asks which of the four options ("such a fit runner," "so fit," "so a fit runner," and "such fit runner") is NOT correct as a choice to fill in the blank in the sentence "He was ______, he could do 10 km and not even sweat!" The first two options work fine in that sentence, so the answer that the test giver deems the right one must be one of the other two. Unfortunately, as you have reproduced them from the test, both "so a fit runner," and "such fit runner" are faulty—and therefore either would be a valid answer as the INCORRECT choice. I suspect that you accidentally transposed "a" and "fit" in "so a fit runner" (since "so fit a runner" would be irreproachable English); that would leave "such fit runner" as the remaining INCORRECT choice, and therefore the right answer. The problem with "such fit runner" is that it omits the "a" before "fit runner," and in English including the indefinite article is standard in the singular form of such an expression (see?).

Question #3: Again the question asks which of the four options ("such fast", "such a quick one", "so quick," and"so fast") is NOT correct, this time as a choice to fill in the blank in the sentence "The train was _______________, it went from Tokyo to Osaka in two and a half hours!" The answer that the test giver wanted was "such fast." The other three options yield perfectly acceptable sentences when used to fill in the blank. So the issue here isn't some fine distinction between "quick" and "fast," but (once again) a problem with framing "such X" correctly.


It's easy to fall victim to test questions that break up a long series of questions asking "which of the following is correct?" by instead asking "Which of the following is not correct?" I suppose you could argue that such switcheroos enable the deviser of the test to (slyly) test how carefully the test taker reads instructions; but in view of the pressure that the test taker is under to complete the exam before time runs out, and considering how easy it is to miss the word not as you read what looks a lot like yet another iteration of the familiar instruction "Which of the following is correct," I think it's a cheap way to produce incorrect answers. (For evidence that the format is deceptive, you need only look at some of the comments and answers offered here to the OP's question, in which several well-informed English speakers likewise misread question 2, question 3, or both as asking "which is correct," instead of "which is not correct.")

I think it would be fairer if such test questions began with a sentence underscoring the against-the-grain nature of the negative question—something like "Three of the four multiple-choice options offered for this question are correct. Which option is not correct:"

  • Testing the candidate's ability to understand instructions, is part and parcel of English tests. Consider also that the OP might not have copied verbatim the questions. – Mari-Lou A Nov 17 '14 at 22:09
  • Your point is valid, Mari-Lou A. But I still think that by slipping the not into the introduction to a question that glazed-eyed test takers rapidly skim over before reaching what they expect is the meat of the question—the fill-in-the-blank sentence and multiple choice options—rather than clearly warning them that the question differs in a crucial way from the vast majority of the others on the test, the test deviser adds a tricky dimension to that question. Even capitalizing NOT (as you do in your comment to Gaurav Ramanan above) would make the question much less treacherous. – Sven Yargs Nov 17 '14 at 22:25
  • English tests are notorious for being deceptive and garden-path-like. That's how they make their money! They are programmed to trip up candidates who are not properly "trained". – Mari-Lou A Nov 17 '14 at 22:34
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    Yes, it reminds me of the children's game "Simon says": You run through five or six rapid-fire instructions along the lines of "Simon says touch your ear," and then you say "Clap your hands"—and all of the people who clap their hands have to sit down because they lack proper English comprehension skills. – Sven Yargs Nov 17 '14 at 22:43
  • “Which not of the following would it not be incorrect not to avoid not finishing the sentence with?” – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 18 '15 at 0:53
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For the first question, you can refer to the following question asked before :
What's the difference between "dissatisfied" and "unsatisfied"?

For the second question, I feel both "so fit" and "such a fit runner" should be correct.

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  1. Similar to what @v kumar has linked, dissatisfied refers to a state where one is displeased, one's expectation is not met etc. Unsatisfied usually means there has been some amount of satisfaction but not to the full extent. One is left wanting for more.

    Eg: I was dissatisfied at the speed of serving at the restaurant. The tiny portions of food left me unsatisfied during dinner.

  2. Is the option "such a fit runner" or "such fit runner", since you've mentioned both? If it's the latter, then the right answer is "so fit" because of the missing a. If it is the former, well I think one of the probable explanations can be that the sentence has unwanted details. From the predicate of the sentence we will automatically gather that he is a runner!

  3. Quick is a measure of time. Fast is a measure of speed. Which sentence sounds better? Time passes so quickly OR time passes so fast? Both are grammatically correct but refers to separate (albeit connected) properties.

    In your case we are explicitly talking about how quick the journey was.

Having said all this, I really don't find anything too wrong in your answers :)

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    I think you've misunderstood the 2nd question. The OP had to choose which expression did NOT fit in the sample sentence: so fit,; so a fit runner,; such fit runner,; and such a fit runner,. (note the comma is part of the original sentence) – Mari-Lou A Nov 17 '14 at 20:50
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    Again, for the 3rd question the object is to choose the incorrect answer. – Mari-Lou A Nov 17 '14 at 22:02

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