If you’re tired of just reviewing flash cards and having basic conversations with classmates, it may be time to branch out with riddles!
Riddles are word puzzles that require you to read carefully, take into account the possibility of multiple meanings behind words, and craft a logical response. Some riddles rely largely on puns and double meanings, while others are based on coming up with an out-of-the-box solution for a puzzle.
Both types of riddles are valuable learning tools for advanced ESL students because they help teach some of the subtleties of the English language and get students thinking about how best to explain their solutions.
There’s nearly an endless supply of riddles in the English language. For an added challenge, you might want to try coming up with your own or buying a book full of riddles and lateral thinking puzzles. In the meantime, here are 10 great riddles for you to try out. If you get stuck, you can check your answers at the bottom of this post.
- You’re standing in a room with 3 light switches in the ‘Off’ position. These switches trigger 3 light bulbs that are in the next room hidden from view. You don’t know which switch is connected to which light bulb, and you are allowed to go into the room with the light bulbs only once. How do you determine which switch is connected to which light bulb?
- A cowboy rode into town on Friday, stayed three days, and left on Friday. How is this possible?
- What month has 28 days?
- A father and son were involved in a car accident. The father was trapped in the car, but the son was rushed to the nearest hospital. Upon entering the emergency room, the doctor who was supposed to operate on the young boy exclaimed, “I can’t operate! This is my son!” How is that possible?
- Mr. Davis lives on the 30th floor of an apartment with a total of 30 floors. Every morning, he leaves his apartment for his job at the local bank promptly at 8am, gets into the elevator and goes down 30 floors to the street level exit. Every evening when he returns, he takes the elevator up to the 10th floor, then gets out and walks up 20 floors of stairs—except on rainy days, when he takes the elevator up to the 20th floor and walks the remaining 10. Why does he do this?
- A man is moving towards a field, but he knows that when he gets there he will die. Why does he keep going?
- If a rooster is standing in the middle (at the highest point) of a slanted barn roof, which side would its egg roll down?
- The one who built it didn’t want it. The one who bought it didn’t need it. The one who used it never saw it. What is it?
- Two identical women who have the same mother, father, birthdays, height, and weight go grocery shopping together. Another shopper stops them and asks, "Are you twins?" The two women reply that they are not, and they are telling the truth. How can this be?
- If your uncle’s sister is related to you but is not your aunt, what is the relation?
Answer 1: Flip the first light switch on and wait around for about 15 minutes. Then quickly turn that light switch off, turn the second one on, and run into the light bulb room. The one light bulb that is on matches up with the second switch. Touch the other two light switches; the one that is still hot matches up with the first switch and the cool one matches up with the third.
Answer 2: His horse is named Friday.
Answer 3: All of them. February always has 28 days except on leap years when it has 29, and all the other months have 28 days plus an extra 3 or 4 days.
Answer 4: The doctor was the boy’s mother.
Answer 5: Mr. Davis is very short and cannot reach the buttons for the 20th or 30th floor. On rainy days, he is able to reach the button for the 20th floor only because he has an umbrella with him.
Answer 6: The man was skydiving, and his parachute didn’t open.
Answer 7: Roosters don’t lay eggs.
Answer 8: A coffin.
Answer 9: They are triplets (or quadruplets, quintuplets, etc.).
Answer 10: She is your mother.