IELTS grammar: Two of the biggest grammar mistakes

The 2 most common IELTS grammar mistakes. (and how to avoid making them)

Do you know what most IELTS students have trouble with in their grammar?

 

It’s articles “The, a, an” and countable/uncountable nouns.

Over many years of marking IELTS essays and listening to students when speaking, I have noticed a few common mistakes, but most commonly are The and uncountable, countable nouns.

Correct use of grammar in IELTS Writing and Speaking counts for 25% of marks in the exam. If you have more than one grammar mistake in each sentence, then the chances are that you will get a Band 5 or 6 in the writing. Also in the Speaking test grammar is important. For articles (The, an, a) there are a lot of different rules in English regarding these. With some knowledge on this you can learn to avoid making these common errors in your writing and speaking. Try the exercise at the bottom of the page and see how well you do.

 

When to use The:

1. When there is only one of something : The Queen, The Moon, The Sun, The Environment , The Government, The World, The Sky, The Country, The Ocean.

2. When the other person knows what we are talking about:

  • John: “ I’m going to the shop, do you need anything?
    Sally: “No thanks”   (both speakers know the shop in question)
  • John:  ” How was that restaurant? ”
    Sally: ” The food was good and the service was great”  (both speakers know which food and service)

3. With superlatives: The best , The worst, The longest, The latest, The most interesting, The most expensive, The tallest, The greatest, The least important, The most important…

4. With cardinal numbers: The First, The second, The Third, The fourth etc..

5. With adjectives connected to people: The young, The old, The unemployed, The injured, The disabled, The rich, The poor.

6. With nationalities: The British, The Chinese, The Americans, The Egyptians, The Australians . (in some cases the nationalities end in “s” The Canadians, The Italians, The Thais ….etc)

7. With particular places: Hotels – The Sheraton , Theatres- The Old Vic , Museums – The British museum,  Oceans or Seas – The Indian ocean, The Atlantic ocean, The Mediterranean sea.

(In some cases we need “of” ..The tower of London, The Bank of England, The University of London, The Houses of parliament.)

 

When not to use The:

1. Speaking generally: I like flowers, I don’t like noise,  environmental problems are getting worse,  crime is on the increase, workers are getting higher salaries, Chinese manufacturing is increasing,  sugar isn’t healthy.
(none of these nouns have the before them)

(when we speak about something in particular we need “the” eg: The flowers over there look nice, The crime rate is rising, The workers are not happy..)

2. Particular countries : England, Ireland, France, Japan, China, Korea, Australia
(unions need the “The USA,  The EU,  The UK,  The UAE)
Continents: Africa, Europe, India, Antarctica
Cities: London, New York, Rome, Sydney
Mountains: Everest, Fuji, K2

 

Countable and Uncountable Nouns:

Many nouns are always uncountable,  it is easy to make mistakes with these especially when using  much, many, a few, a, an, all of, ... here is a list.

  • Progress
  • News
  • Information
  • Work
  • Weather
  • Climate
  • Travel
  • Traffic
  • Pollution
  • Money
  • Education
  • Music
  • Electricity
  • Advice
  • Permission
  • Shopping
  • Research

When the noun is uncountable it is not possible to use:

  • We got many information from the tourist office.
  • There is much traffic in the city.
  • We spent many money at the shops.
  • There was a few news on the TV about the accident.
  • All of advice he gave me was good.
  • I listened to a music on the train.
  • An pollution is getting worse in the city.
  • A research was carried out on the problem.

 

There are 5 Sentences below which are incorrect, can you find the mistakes and correct them? (some sentences have more than one mistake.)

1. These days there are much problems with the environment, a government needs to do something about a problem.

2. The crime is a growing issue in modern societies because of an unemployment.

3. Eating many fast food is unhealthy and leads to the obesity.

4. Due to recent economic problems, many young people can’t find a job.

5. Traffic fumes in modern cities causes health problems for children and the elderly.

6. I asked my friend for some advices about the best way to pass a exam.

7. Many progress has been made in a research into cancer.

8. The media has a responsibility to report honest facts on the news.

Click below to check the answers..

1. These days there are a lot of problems with the environment, The government needs to do something about the problem. (a lot of + uncountable, we also need The with government and problem)

2.  Crime is a growing issue in modern societies because of unemployment. (crime and unemployment do not need an article)

3. Eating a lot of fast food is unhealthy and leads to obesity. (fast food is uncountable so we need a lot of,  also the word obesity doesn’t need an article)

4. Due to recent economic problems, many young people can’t find a job. (correct sentence)

5. Traffic fumes in modern cities causes health problems for children and the elderly. (correct sentence)

6. I asked my friend for some advice about the best way to pass the exam. (advice is uncountable, cannot add s , also we can’t use a for exam in this case, we need the because there is only one exam in this situation)

7. A lot of progress has been made in research into cancer. (progress is uncountable,  always use a lot of with uncountable nouns, we can’t use a research either)

8. The media has a responsibility to report honest facts on the news. (correct sentence)

 


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