IELTS Grammar Clinic: Addressing Common Errors

IELTS Grammar Clinic: Addressing Common Errors

IELTS Grammar Clinic: Addressing Common Errors: The IELTS exam, whether in its speaking or writing components, heavily gauges candidates on their grammatical range and accuracy. While mastering the wide expanse of English grammar might seem daunting, addressing common errors can substantially boost your score. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll spotlight frequent grammatical missteps and offer strategies to circumvent them.

Subject-Verb Agreement

One of the foundational aspects of English grammar, ensuring that subjects and verbs agree in number, is often overlooked.

  • Error: The movies is entertaining.
  • Correction: The movies are entertaining.

Tip: Always identify the main subject and ensure that the verb corresponds in number (singular/plural).

Incorrect Tense Usage

Appropriate tense selection is crucial to convey when an action took place.

  • Error: I will go to the gym yesterday.
  • Correction: I went to the gym yesterday.

Tip: Familiarize yourself with the distinct tenses in English and practice discerning the correct context for each.

Misplaced Modifiers

Modifiers need to be positioned next to the word they are modifying to avoid confusion.

  • Error: He almost drove his kids to school every day.
  • Correction: He drove his kids to school almost every day.

Tip: Double-check sentences with adverbs to ensure clarity in what’s being modified.

Inappropriate Preposition Use

English prepositions can be tricky, primarily because their usage doesn’t always logically translate from other languages.

  • Error: She is good on playing the piano.
  • Correction: She is good at playing the piano.

Tip: Create a list of common prepositional phrases and review them regularly.

Incorrect Comparative and Superlative Forms

Adjectives change form when comparing items, and errors here can disrupt communication.

  • Error: This book is the goodest I’ve read.
  • Correction: This book is the best I’ve read.

Tip: Remember the rules: one syllable adjectives typically get ‘-er’ or ‘-est’, while longer adjectives use ‘more’ or ‘most’.

Fragmented Sentences

These are incomplete sentences that lack a subject, a verb, or both.

  • Error: Because I was tired.
  • Correction: I went to bed early because I was tired.

Tip: Always check if your sentence conveys a complete thought and can stand on its own.


Avoiding unnecessary repetition is essential for concise and clear communication.

  • Error: Return back to your seat.
  • Correction: Return to your seat.

Tip: Review your sentences for words that may be implicit and thus, redundant.

Misuse of Articles

Articles (‘a’, ‘an’, and ‘the’) can be challenging, but their accurate usage can elevate the quality of your sentences.

  • Error: She is the best student in her class.
  • Correction: She is a best student in her class.

Tip: Note the difference between specific references (‘the’) and general ones (‘a’ or ‘an’).

Incorrect Use of Conjunctions

Conjunctions join clauses, but they need to be chosen aptly to convey the correct relationship between them.

  • Error: I was tired, or I still finished my assignment.
  • Correction: I was tired, yet I still finished my assignment.

Tip: Ensure the conjunction matches the intent you’re trying to convey between clauses.

Overuse of Passive Voice

While passive voice has its place, over-relying on it can make your sentences convoluted.

  • Error: The novel was read by her in one day.
  • Correction: She read the novel in one day.

Tip: Use active voice for clearer, more direct sentences, unless the focus is more on the action than the actor.

Dangling Participles

A participle phrase must be immediately followed by the noun it’s modifying to avoid confusion.

  • Error: Walking through the park, the birds chirped loudly.
  • Correction: Walking through the park, I heard the birds chirping loudly.

Tip: Re-read sentences with participle phrases to ensure they’re positioned correctly.

Mixing Direct and Indirect Speech

When shifting from direct to indirect speech, ensure verb tenses, pronouns, and other elements shift appropriately.

  • Error: She said, “I am going to the store tomorrow.”
  • Correction: She said she would go to the store the next day.

Tip: Familiarize yourself with the conventions of reported speech.

Confusion between “Fewer” and “Less”

A common mistake is misusing “fewer” and “less.” The rule is simple: “fewer” is for countable items, while “less” is for uncountable ones.

  • Error: I have less books than you.
  • Correction: I have fewer books than you.

Tip: Before using “fewer” or “less,” determine whether the noun you’re referring to can be counted or not.

Misuse of Quantifiers

Quantifiers like “many,” “much,” “few,” and “little” are often confused, leading to grammatical errors.

  • Error: She has much friends in her city.
  • Correction: She has many friends in her city.

Tip: Remember: “many” and “few” are used for countable nouns, while “much” and “little” are used for uncountable nouns.

Wrong Placement of “Only”

The word “only” should be placed immediately before the word it modifies to avoid changing the sentence’s meaning.

  • Error: I only have five dollars in my wallet.
  • Correction: I have only five dollars in my wallet.

Tip: Think about what the word “only” is emphasizing in the sentence and place it accordingly.

Mixing Infinitive and Gerund Forms

Infinitive (to + verb) and gerund (verb + ing) forms can be tricky, and their misuse can lead to errors.

  • Error: She stopped to smoking after dinner.
  • Correction: She stopped smoking after dinner.

Tip: There’s no universal rule, so memorize verbs that are typically followed by infinitives and those followed by gerunds.

Split Infinitives

Split infinitives occur when an adverb or adverbial phrase is inserted between “to” and a verb. While not always incorrect, it’s generally best to avoid them in formal writing.

  • Error: She decided to quickly finish her assignment.
  • Correction: She decided to finish her assignment quickly.

Tip: Be mindful of the placement of adverbs when using the infinitive form of a verb.

Redundant Expressions

Often, in an attempt to sound formal or elaborate, test-takers use redundant expressions that don’t add any value.

  • Error: The reason why she left is because she was tired.
  • Correction: The reason she left is that she was tired.

Tip: Eliminate unnecessary words that don’t add meaning to your sentences.

Incorrect Use of “Whose”

“Whose” is a possessive form that often gets misused, especially when referring to inanimate objects.

  • Error: The book, whose was on the table, is mine.
  • Correction: The book, which was on the table, is mine.

Tip: “Whose” should be used for living beings. For inanimate objects, rephrase the sentence to avoid confusion.

Overuse of “Very”

While the word “very” can be used to emphasize an adjective or an adverb, overusing it can make your writing sound repetitive and uninspiring.

  • Error: The film was very very interesting.
  • Correction: The film was extremely interesting.

Tip: Instead of “very,” try using more descriptive adverbs or stronger adjectives to express intensity.

The Dangling Modifier

Modifiers are descriptive words or phrases meant to provide additional information about a subject. When placed improperly, they can create confusion, leading to a dangling modifier.

  • Error: Walking to the store, the rain began to pour.
  • Correction: As I was walking to the store, the rain began to pour.

Tip: Always ensure the modifier clearly relates to the word or phrase it’s intended to modify.

Misplacing ‘Only’

Misplacement of the word ‘only’ can change the entire meaning of a sentence.

  • Error: She only writes essays in the morning.
  • Correction: She writes only essays in the morning.

Tip: Adjust the placement of ‘only’ to ensure it emphasizes the correct word or phrase in the sentence.

Confusing ‘Since’ and ‘For’

‘Since’ and ‘for’ are often used to express duration, but they are not interchangeable.

  • Error: I have been reading for 3 o’clock.
  • Correction: I have been reading since 3 o’clock.

Tip: Use ‘since’ when referring to a specific point in time and ‘for’ when indicating a duration.

Overusing Passive Voice

While the passive voice isn’t incorrect, overusing it can make your writing sound distant or impersonal.

  • Error: The exam was taken by the student.
  • Correction: The student took the exam.

Tip: Unless necessary, opt for active voice for clearer and more direct sentences.

Conclusion: IELTS Grammar Clinic: Addressing Common Errors

Grammar serves as the backbone of any language, and English is no exception. By identifying and rectifying common errors, you’re not only enhancing your IELTS performance but also taking a significant step towards fluency. With consistent practice, awareness, and a keen eye for detail, you can minimize errors and communicate with confidence and clarity. Remember, every mistake is a learning opportunity; embrace them, learn from them, and watch your grammatical prowess soar

FAQs: IELTS Grammar Clinic: Addressing Common Errors

Q1: How can I ensure fewer grammatical errors under exam pressure?

A1: Regular practice and proofreading are key. The more you expose yourself to correct structures, the more natural they become.

Q2: Are minor grammatical errors heavily penalized in the IELTS exam?

A2: While the occasional minor error might not heavily impact your score, consistent mistakes will. Aim for clarity and correctness in every response.

Q3: Should I use complex structures to get a higher score?

A3: Yes, but only if you’re confident in their correct usage. It’s better to use a simpler, correct structure than a complex, incorrect one.

Q4: Is it okay to use contractions in the IELTS writing test?

A4: It’s generally better to avoid contractions in academic writing tasks. However, they are acceptable in the speaking test and more informal writing tasks.

Q5: How can I master articles in English?

A5: Articles can be challenging for many learners. Practice with focused exercises and get feedback from native speakers or language instructors.

Q6: How do I know if I’m overusing passive voice?

A6: After drafting your answer, go back and highlight passive structures. If they dominate the piece and aren’t necessary, consider revising.

Q7: Is it a grave mistake if I mix up “fewer” and “less” during the test?

A7: While not a grave mistake, it can affect your grammatical accuracy score. Being consistent in your correctness can make a noticeable difference in your overall grade.

Q8: How much attention should I pay to word order in English sentences?

A8: Word order is crucial in English because it affects the meaning and clarity of sentences. Always be mindful of the conventional patterns.

Q9: Can I use slang or informal language in the IELTS test?

A9: Slang should be avoided in the IELTS writing test, especially in the academic version. However, in the speaking test, informal language can be used when appropriate, but it’s crucial to strike a balance.

Q10: Should I always avoid split infinitives?

A10: While split infinitives are accepted in modern English, in formal writing, especially in exams like IELTS, it’s better to be cautious and avoid them.

Q11: How can I enrich my vocabulary to avoid redundancy?

A11: Reading diverse materials such as newspapers, journals, novels, and academic texts can significantly help. Also, use tools like thesauruses and vocabulary lists to learn synonyms.

Q12: Is it a mistake to start a sentence with a conjunction like “And” or “But”?

A12: Traditionally, starting a sentence with a conjunction was seen as informal. However, in modern English, it’s accepted, especially in more casual or narrative writing. For formal tasks in IELTS, it’s better to use them sparingly.

Q13: Are there times when using the passive voice is preferable?

A13: Yes, passive voice can be used to emphasize the action rather than the doer, or when the doer is unknown or irrelevant. For instance, “A cure for the disease was discovered” is apt if it doesn’t matter who discovered it.

Q14: How can I avoid dangling modifiers in my sentences?

A14: Always place modifiers next to the word or phrase they’re intended to modify. If a sentence begins with a modifying word or phrase, the subject should immediately follow.

Q15: What resources can help me with grammar?

A15: Grammar workbooks, online grammar quizzes, and tools like Grammarly can be beneficial. However, reading extensively and paying attention to sentence structures in quality publications can be equally enlightening.

About Jones Miller 81 Articles
I am Jones Miller, an experienced English trainer based in New York with over a decade of expertise in linguistics and pedagogy. Passionate about empowering learners to master the nuances of the English language, I have trained students from varied backgrounds and proficiency levels. Beyond the traditional classroom setting, I channel my insights and experiences into my educational blog on WordPress. Through enlightening posts, I offer practical tips, engaging exercises, and in-depth analyses, all designed to help readers elevate their English skills. Whether you're a student striving to overcome linguistic obstacles or a fellow educator on the lookout for fresh teaching perspectives, my blog is your premier destination for all things English. Dive in, and be part of a community passionate about the art and science of language.

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