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common grammatical mistakes

3 Nov 2017

avoid these common grammatical mistakes in your ielts test

IELTS grammar mistakes

To get to grade 7 and above you need to have frequent error-free sentences. If you do not have this you cannot get to 7 and above. If you want to get to 8 or 9 you need to decrease errors to a similar frequency as a native writer. In order to achieve this, you need to identify your areas of weakness and work on these by learning the rules, doing quizzes, and getting feedback on your writing.

Articles (a, an, the)

An article is a word that is used with a noun to indicate to the reader whether the noun is a particular and specific noun or an instance of a noun in general. There are two types of articles the indefinite (a/an), which refers to the general usage of a noun; and the definite article (the) which refers to a specific noun that will be identifiable by the reader.

An indefinite article indicates that its noun is not a specific one that can be identified by the reader. It may be something that the writer is mentioning for the first time, or the writer may be making a general statement about something. The indefinite articles are a and an. The word a is used before words that begin with a consonant sound (even if the word starts with a vowel, as in a unicorn). An is used before words that begin with a vowel sound (even if the word starts with a consonant, as in an hour).

Example: She had a house so large that an elephant would get lost.

A definite article is used with a noun that refers to something specific the reader should be aware of. It may be used to refer back to something that the writer has already mentioned, or it may be used with a noun that has only one possible instance [The capital of China is Beijing]. The definite article, the, can be used for both singular and plural nouns.

Example: The best place to live is the capital.

Summary of the usage of articles

  Indefinite (a or an) Definite (the)
Singular a cat (any cat)
an orange (any orange)
the dirtiest cat
the red orange
[None used] Definite (the)
Plural Plurals, languages, sports, subjects, cities, countries… with a few exceptions! The  best cats)
the sweetest oranges

Note the following:

  1. First versus subsequent mention of a noun

A or an is used to introduce a noun when it is used for the first time in a piece of writing.

“Please give me a pen.”

The is used afterward each time you mention that same noun.

“Where is the pen?”

There was a cat in my room. When my dog came in, the cat ran away.

  1. Zero articles:

Some common types of nouns that don’t take an article are:

  1. Plurals usually have no articles: “please give me some apples,” “I like apples.;” unless they are definite “these are the best apples.
  2. Names of languages and nationalities: “I am Chinese.”
  3. Names of sports: “I like playing soccer.”
  4. Names of academic subjects: “I studied math for three years.”

 

  1. Places usually have no article:

Do not use the before names of streets, countries, lakes, and mountains.

There are a few exceptions such as: the USA, the UK, the EU [note that these are all areas that are made up of different regions]; likewise with groups of lakes like the Great Lakes, and ranges of mountains like the Himalayas.

 

Prepositions

Prepositions are used to locate something in time and space, modify a noun; or tell when or where or under what conditions something happened. The following are guidelines for using prepositions correctly. This covers many common situations.

Prepositions of Time: at, in, on

Preposition Usage Example
At at is for specific times The exam is at 12:15 PM
In in is for nonspecific times during a day/month/year. The exam is in the morning
On on for days and dates The exam is on Monday.
The exam is on Christmas Day.

  

Prepositions of Place: at, in, on

Preposition Usage Example
At We use at for specific addresses. I live at 50 Pong Lai Road.
In We use in for the names of land-areas (towns, counties, states, countries, and continents). I live in Taipei.
On We use on for the names of streets, avenues, etc. I live on Pong Lai Road.

 

 Prepositions for describing our work:

at company’s I work at Comtrend
in departments in the marketing department, as a technical writer.
on projects I am working on a new manual
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