Brainteasers for ESL Classes

These are good to use as a warm up activity in ESL classes.

(1) If you went to bed at 8pm and set the alarm to get up at 9am how many hours sleep would this permit you to have?

(2) Why can’t a man living in Kingston, Ontario be buried west of Lake Superior?

(3) If you had only one match and entered a room in which there was a kerosene lamp, an oil burner, and a wood-burning stove, which would you light first?

(4) Some months have 30 days, some have 31 days, how many have 28 days?

(5) If a doctor gave you 3 pills and told you to take one every half hour, how long would they last you?

(6) A man builds a house with four sides to it and it is rectangular in shape. Each side has a southern exposure. A big bear came wandering by. What colour is the bear?

(7) How far can a dog run into the woods?

(8) I have two Canadian coins in my pocket and together they total 55 cents in value. One is not a nickel. What are the two coins?

(9) A farmer had 17 sheep. All but 9 died. How many sheep did he have left?

(10) Divide 30 by a half and add 10. What is the answer?

(11) Take two apples from three apples and what do you have?

(12) An archeologist claimed that he found some gold coins dated 46 BC. Do you believe him?

(13) A woman gives a beggar 50 cents. The woman is the beggar’s sister, but the beggar is not the woman’s brother. How come?

(14) How many animals of each species did Moses take aboard the ark with him?

(15) Is it legal in Canada for a man to marry his widow’s sister?

(16) An electric locomotive is travelling north at the rate of 40 miles an hour. It is being chased from the south by a wind blowing at 80 miles an hour. Will the smoke from the locomotive be blown ahead of the train at the rate of 40 miles an hour?

(17) There is a ten-foot steel ladder attached to the side of a boat. The rungs on the ladder are exactly one foot apart with the bottom rung resting exactly on the top of the water. If the tide rises one foot every half hour, how long will it take to cover the first three rungs of the ladder?

(18) Are there more doorknobs on the right side of doors or on the left side?

(19) You have 4 and a half, 5 and a half and 3 and a half haystacks and you put them all together. How many haystacks do you then have?

(20) A small planeload of Americans flying over Canadian territory meet with a fatal accident. None of the remains can be identified. In which country will the survivors be buried?

These were taken from a handout I received in Grade 9, so I can’t credit the original writer.



(1) One if the alarm has no a.m. or p.m. setting.
(2) He is still alive.
(3) The match.
(4) All of them.
(5) One hour.
(6) White as this house can only be built at the north pole.
(7) Half way. After that he is running out of the woods.
(8) A half-dollar and a nickel. (One is not a nickel, the other is.)
(9) Nine.
(10) 70.
(11) Two applies.
(12) No, as the person who made the coin could not know that it was 46 years before the birth of Christ.
(13) The beggar is a woman.
(14) Moses did not take any animals aboard an ark.
(15) No, as he would be dead.
(16) Smoke from an electric train?
(17) Never. AS the tide rises, so does the boat, and so does the ladder attached to the boat.
(18) Same number on each side.
(19) One.
(20) You want to bury the survivors?