coverOn Friday I posted these 2 puzzles:

How many mistakes are there in the following sentence?

“This sentance contanes one misteak’

What is the answer to the same question for this sentence….

‘Their are three misteaks in this sentence’

If you have not tried to solve them, have a go now. For everyone else the answer is after the break.

The first one contains 4 mistakes – 2 spelling/grammatical mistakes (contanes, misteak, sentence) and the fourth is that it states that it only contains 1 mistake.

The second one is tricky because it is paradoxical. It contains 2 spelling/grammatical mistakes (their, misteak) but says that it contains three. Therefore the sentence is wrong, but that would mean that it does indeed contain three mistakes, but that would make it right, which would mean that it only contains two mistakes, and so on. So, it has no answer.

Is that what you thought?

I have produced an ebook containing 101 of the previous Friday Puzzles! It is called PUZZLED and is available for the Kindle(UKhere and USA here) and on the iBookstore (UK here in the USA here). You can try 101 of the puzzles for free here.


  1. I failed to see the paradox in the second sentence because I counted as a mistake that, number three: It did not end with a full stop, which makes the number claim correct. But then, I’m an editor by trade.

    1. As an “editor” you should probably know that an isolated quote need not end with a full stop, particularly if it is within quotation marks.

    2. Dave, this IS supposed to be a sentence, as indicated in the instruction above it. So the fact that is has no period after it IS a mistake.

  2. It still depends on what you define as misteak 🙂 E.g. is Their 1 error (word is wrong), or two errors? (Added an I and forgot an E)? Is Misteak 1 error (E in the wrong place), or two errors? (extra E before the E and no E after the E).

    Further, is it a spelling check, or also a check on meaning of the sentences?

    Lots of assumptions that are not made explicit

    1. I agree, as the sentences were written with intentional falsehood then neither of them contain any mistakes. I think the puzzled would have to state initially that the sentences were written without the intention of falsehood.
      And what about the fact that both sentences have no period to end the sentence so neither could be called a sentence. Then there is the error in the quotation marks in text 1 too.

  3. I’ve found another error in sentence 1:
    the sentence starts with ” and ends with ‘

    Got the rest as well. Including the paradox.

    1. Oh, and the second sentence should have been: “There are no mistakes in this sentence” Making their-there three-no misteaks-mistakes and the error that there are errors, while the sentence says it does not contain errors. (well it does, but that’s an error, because three should have been no. Who says it’s not what the writer meant to write?)

  4. The first sentence does not say it only contains one mistake, only that it contains one mistake. It does, as well as a few others. So I say it has 3

  5. 1. “This sentance contanes one misteak’
    4 mistakes: sentance -> sentence, contanes -> contains, misteak -> mistake, lack of full stop
    2. ‘Their are three misteaks in this sentence’
    3 mistakes: Their -> There, misteaks -> mistakes, lack of full stop

    1. I was starting to wonder if anyone else saw the four mistakes in the first sentAnce.
      I thought it couldn’t just be me.

  6. 1. “This sentance contanes one misteak’

    4 mistakes: sentance -> sentence, contanes -> contains, misteak -> mistake, lack of full stop

    2. ‘Their are three misteaks in this sentence’

    3 mistakes: Their -> there, misteaks -> mistakes, lack of full stop

    is this really a puzzle?

  7. I say the truth value of the sentence is nonexistant, since the sentence as written is meaningless. to say that “This sentance contanes one misteak” should be read as “This sentence contains one mistake” and that this then is a fourth mistake is incorrect in my opinion. that is not what it says, it uses undefined wordsand if we have to interpret the sentence to get a truth value from it, we could just as well define the words so the interpreted version is true

  8. Actually, the second one is not paradoxical, just false. It contains three mistakes, while claiming to contain thirteen (the third mistake is that you misspelled “thirteen” as “three”.)
    Or maybe it’s true, and the third word misspelled “two”. Or maybe you misspelled “page” as “sentence”, and there are actually thirteen after all.

  9. The first sentence contained another mistake – “This sentance contanes one misteak’
    There are double inverted commas at the start and single at the end!

  10. the first sentence contains the term “misteak” once, so it contains one “misteak” whatever this means, and a few typoos…
    The second only contains the term “misteaks” once, so it is obviously wrong… and also may have a typo…
    I don’t know form wich animal the “Mi” steaks are cut from….

  11. If you specifically intended to write the original sentences/clauses with typographical or grammatical errors, then I would contend that there are no “mistakes” at all since they look as you intended them to look.

    The definition of “mistake” implies that such an action is not intentional, that it is caused either by lack of knowledge or incorrect reasoning.

  12. the num of mistakes in a sentance is surely the number of changes i has to make to make it have no mistakes. thusly.

    “This sentance contanes one misteak’

    1 change – the quote at the end
    “This sentance contanes one misteak”

    2 change – the spelling of mistake
    “This sentance contanes one mistake”

    3 change – the spelling of contains
    “This sentance contains one mistake”

    the sentence is now correct expect for the no of mistakes. so finally

    4 change – the number of mistakes
    “This sentance contains no mistake”

    Thereforely it must of contained FOUR mistakes.

  13. I thought there were five mistakes in the first and four in the second.

    In the first, I also considered the unmatched quotes and not ending with a punctuation mark to be mistakes.

    In the second, not ending in a punctuation mark was also a mistake.

    1. No, once someone died afer the message “hang him, not amnestied” has been received…,
      tragically the message sent was “hang him not, amnestied” …

  14. Richard,I counted 6.3 spelling- sentance, contanes, misteak.The subject of the sentance is incorrect- It has more than 1 mistake.The last set of quotation marks is missing a “hash” mark. What am I missing?

    Thank you,

    Stephen Fossler

    Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2013 07:30:47 +0000 To:

  15. The wording of your questions – “in the following sentence” – doesn’t necessitate that the sentence be accurate in its meaning, only in its grammar.

  16. No. I counted six in the first sentence–three spelling errors, the inconsistent quotation marks, the fact that it has no end punctuation, and of course the content was incorrect.

    The second one also had no end punctuation, so it actually did have three mistakes.

    I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with this one, Richard. NOT a good puzzle, at least not with those answers!

  17. humph! I counted no mistakes in either sentence – they only contain ‘misteaks’. trying to be too smart Alec I think 🙂

  18. I like this kind of puzzle, but these two are confusing. First of all, Nick C. is correct. The answers could well be that there are no mistakes in either as the word “mistake” is misspelled in both sentences. BUT, that’s not Richard’s answer. And what are those quotation marks, internal quotation marks and mismatched quotation marks doing there any way? Richard accepts them as correct, it seems. And Richard, are you saying that sentance, contanes and misteak in the first sentence are not THREE spelling mistakes? I could go on.

  19. “This sentance contanes one misteak’
    (1) “sentance”
    (2) “contanes”
    (3) “misteak”
    (4) mismatched quotation marks
    (5) not one mistake

    What is the answer to the same question for this sentence….
    (1) no question mark
    (2) four ellipses (although this could be viewed as the same error)

    i thought the trick was that the first question specified the “following sentence” while the second specified “this sentence.”

  20. Nooooo! I found 6 in the first one. No period. A single quote paired with a double quote. And either that it was inaccurate, or, or, something else I forgot.

    1. Also, the first has 5 mistakes: “sentance”, “contanes”, “misteaks”, no period, and the meanin of the sentance is inaccurate.

  21. Also, I think that it is a mistake to say that there is no answer to the second one. The correct term is that the truth is indeterminate, but that is an answer.
    Kinda like whether God answers all prayers and someone will say that sometimes the answer is “no.” I accept, but while “yes” is an answer, “no” is an answer, and even “I’m not going to give you an answer” is an answer; “” is NOT an answer.

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