Dumb Laws

A collection of ridiculous laws from all around the globe.  But mostly America.


  • phrases and modals of prohibition
  • speculation
  • passives
  • clauses of purpose


  • Upper-Intermediate learners and upwards (CEFR B2-C2)
  • Ages 18+


This activity can be done in 30-45 minutes.  It involves a little reading, note taking, but mostly speaking.

  1. Start with a discussion:  In your country, are there any rules or laws which a tourist should be aware of?  Are there any laws in your country which you would change if you had the power?
  2. Pre-teach/elicit: a capital offence, to plow, an inn, inadvertent, a moose, to fart, to commit suicide, to frown, a porcupine, a bathtub. I usually do some drawings on the board and then elicit those before moving onto the more abstract terms.
  3. Break the class into 3 groups.  Each group will receive the same handout (A, B or C).  Inform them that on each list their are two laws which are false. they must first guess which ones they are. (speculation)
  4. Monitor the class, telling them how many they have got right.  Encourage them as much as possible to justify their ideas.  False Laws: A = 3+8, B = 13+17, C = 28+30
  5. Tell the class that you are going to read out the answers as numbers, but that they should try to be discrete as it’s important that the other groups don’t know which laws are in fact false.  Read out/Board the answers.
  6. Each group should then choose 3 laws from their 10, of which 2 will be true and 1 will be false.  They must make up convincing justifications for them all being true.  They are going to read these to members of the other groups and the other students will have to guess which is, in fact, true.
  7. Explain that these are a mixture/combination of: a) old, obscure laws, b) theoretical interpretations of existing laws, c) laws enacted to address a specific need.
  8. Give them 5-10 minutes to come up with their explanations.  Encourage them to take brief notes.  Give a warning 1 minute from the end of preparation time.
  9. Make new groups from the three, so that each group has 1 person with A, B and C.
  10. Tell them that the person who last broke a rule will start.  Allow a moment for them to find out who this is.
  11. The first speaker begins by briefly outlining the law and then giving its justification.   They present all 3 laws, their colleagues guess which one is false and the others repeat the same process.
  12. Once they’ve finished, ask them to show their handout to their group-mates (so they now have all 30) and discuss: Which law … is the most ridiculous / is your favourite / is actually quite reasonable / makes you (not) want to visit a particular place / should also be law in your country (and why)?
  13. Do feedback with students reporting the most amusing/convincing arguments they heard.  Also encourage speculation about some of the other laws.  Finish by telling the students about a selection of amusing British laws.


  • Student may already know some of these laws, but encourage them to be adventurous and imaginative anyway.

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