common basic errors

problem: It's difficult to concentrate on grammar when you are crafting an essay and focussing on ideas.
solution: Make a note of the errors you make most often, and check for these when you have finished your essay.

subject/verb agreement
in particular, check for he/she/it in present simple
Studying a foreign language broadens the mind. (Studying a foreign language = singular subject 'it')
everyone/nobody = singular
each/every = singular

use NOUN PHRASES / -ING FORMS after prepositions
How about going for a coffee? - How about the cinema?
I succeeded in working out the answer!
This is a useful tool for creating wikis. - This is a useful tool for students.

because / because of / due to
because + CLAUSE - We stayed at home because it was raining heavily.
because of + NOUN PHRASE - We stayed at home because of the heavy rain.
due to + NOUN PHRASE - We stayed at home due to the heavy rain.

although / but
Use one of these, NOT both!
Although I have a healthy diet, I don't get much exercise.
I have a healthy diet, but I don't get much exercise.

modal + 1st form of the main verb
I can speaking.. .. > I can speak several languages.
Students may benefit from studying abroad. (benefit = verb)

word order - modals + also
Students also can work part-time.
Students can also work part-time.

S/PL - other / another
other + plural noun - other people, other countries, other options
another + singular noun - another advantage, another idea

S/PL - use plural countable nouns after these words and expressions
many, several, some, different, various
a lot of, a number of, a variety of, a whole range of
one of the best /first/last
one of the most + adj

articles - talking in general

S/PL - generally speaking
We usually use a plural countable noun or an uncountable noun without the article (the) when speaking/writing about something in general.
The Information is power. (uncountable)
The International students may feel homesick at first. (countable)

Read the extract below from Michael Swan's excellent Practical English Usage (Oxford, 2005)


What's a noun phrase?

  • a phrase where the head word (main thing) is a noun
  • everything else in the phrase simply tells you more about the head word

cats (NOUN)
a cat (ARTICLE + NOUN)
a beautiful, black cat (ARTICLE + ADJ(s) + NOUN)
the black cat that is sitting on the mat (ARTICLE + ADJ + NOUN + DEFINING RELATIVE CLAUSE)
a cat among the pigeons (ARTICLE + NOUN + PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE)
a posse of black cats (NOUN + PREP + NOUN)
several cats (QUANTIFIER + NOUN)
looking after your friend's pet cat (-ING FORM + OBJECT)

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