Learn English – Is “give an exam” grammatical for “writing the answers to exam”


Amongst North Indian Students, the phrase "give an exam" is very popular. These students use the phrase to describe the act of writing the answers to examination questions.

The reason being, in Hindi, it's known as "exam dhena" which translates literally to "to give an exam".

In South India, however, a majority of people use the phrase "to take up an exam".

Which of these usages is more common/appropriate/grammatical? (As a prof I have developed a strange aversion toward the "give an exam" phrase; I find it wrong and ugly.)

Best Answer

It depends on what it means. In American English, students take an exam, while professors give an exam. This is very normal usage.

The metaphor is that the professor provides something, and the students accept it, which is straightforward in any educational context.

On the other hand, you didn't provide any examples, so I suppose it's possible that your students might use the phrase give an exam to refer to what the student does, rather than what the professor does (i.e. setting, composing, or presenting an exam). This usage would be decidedly odd in American English, and potentially confusing.

"Ugly", on the other hand, is a personal esthetic judgement; my experience is that personal judgements of beauty and its opposite vary enormously, and have nothing to do with language per se.

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