Grammar for IELTS: Avoiding Common Errors 

 May 15, 2024

By  Jonathan

As an IELTS test-taker, mastering English grammar is crucial for achieving a high score. Grammatical errors can significantly impact your performance across all sections of the exam – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. In this comprehensive article, we will explore some of the most common grammar pitfalls and provide you with strategies to overcome them, helping you to showcase your English proficiency with confidence.

Understanding Verb Tenses

One of the primary areas of focus in IELTS grammar is the accurate use of verb tenses. Differentiating between the present simple, present continuous, past simple, past continuous, present perfect, and future tenses can be a challenge, but it’s essential to get it right.

Remember, the present simple is used to describe habitual actions, general truths, and scheduled events. The present continuous, on the other hand, is employed to discuss ongoing actions or temporary situations. When narrating past events, the past simple is used for completed actions, while the past continuous is for actions in progress at a specific time in the past.

The present perfect is crucial for discussing experiences and actions that have a connection to the present, whereas the past simple is reserved for completed actions with no such link. Lastly, the future tense is used to express plans, predictions, and intentions.

Practise using these tenses in various contexts, and pay close attention to the time frames and meanings you are trying to convey. Consistency and accuracy in verb tense usage will significantly enhance your IELTS performance.

Mastering Articles and Determiners

The appropriate use of articles (a, an, the) and determiners can be tricky, but it’s an essential aspect of IELTS grammar. Articles indicate whether a noun is specific (the) or general (a/an), while determiners like this, that, these, and those help to specify the noun further.

Remember that articles are used based on whether the noun is singular or plural, and whether it starts with a vowel sound or a consonant sound. Determiners, on the other hand, are chosen depending on the proximity and number of the noun.

Familiarise yourself with the rules governing article and determiner usage, and practise applying them in various sentence structures. This will help you to communicate with clarity and precision, which is crucial for the IELTS exam.

Constructing Effective Questions and Negatives

The IELTS test will likely require you to formulate questions and negative statements, so it’s essential to understand the correct grammar structures. For questions, the verb or auxiliary verb should come before the subject, whereas for negatives, “not” or the negative contraction is placed after the verb or auxiliary verb.

Pay close attention to the placement of these elements, as improper construction can lead to grammatical errors and confusion. Practise forming different types of questions (yes/no, wh-questions, tag questions) and negatives to become more comfortable with these structures.

Distinguishing Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Knowing the difference between countable and uncountable nouns is crucial for IELTS grammar. Countable nouns can be counted (one book, two books), while uncountable nouns cannot (some water, a lot of sugar).

When working with uncountable nouns, be mindful of using the correct quantifiers, such as “some,” “a little,” “a lot of,” and “much.” For countable nouns, you’ll need to use determiners like “a,” “an,” “the,” “some,” and “a few” appropriately.

Familiarise yourself with common uncountable nouns, such as those related to liquids, abstract concepts, and collective terms, and practise using them correctly in your writing and speaking.

Mastering Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Adjectives are essential for describing and comparing things in the IELTS exam. Comparative adjectives (e.g., “bigger,” “more interesting”) are used to compare two things, while superlative adjectives (e.g., “biggest,” “most interesting”) are used to indicate the highest or lowest degree of a quality.

Remember to follow the correct grammatical rules when forming comparative and superlative adjectives. For short, one-syllable adjectives, you’ll typically add “-er” and “-est” to form the comparative and superlative, respectively. For longer adjectives, you’ll need to use “more” and “most” instead.

Familiarise yourself with these patterns and practise using comparative and superlative adjectives in various contexts to improve your IELTS grammar skills.

Navigating Modal Verbs

Modal verbs, such as “can,” “should,” “must,” “might,” and “would,” play a crucial role in IELTS grammar. These verbs express ideas like ability, obligation, probability, and permission, and their usage can vary depending on the specific modal verb and the meaning you want to convey.

Ensure that you understand the nuances of each modal verb and how to use them correctly in your written and spoken responses. Pay attention to the appropriate verb forms that follow modal verbs, as well as any changes in sentence structure.

Practise identifying the appropriate modal verb to express your intended meaning, and incorporate them into your IELTS preparation to demonstrate your mastery of this essential grammar concept.

Utilising Gerunds and Infinitives

The correct usage of gerunds (verb + -ing) and infinitives (to + verb) can be a common challenge for IELTS test-takers. Gerunds are used after certain verbs, while infinitives are used after other verbs. The choice between the two depends on the specific verb and the grammar structure.

Familiarise yourself with the common verbs that are followed by gerunds or infinitives, and practise using them in various sentence structures. This will help you to communicate your ideas more precisely and avoid grammatical errors.

Applying Relative Pronouns Effectively

Relative pronouns, such as “who,” “which,” “that,” and “whose,” are used to introduce relative clauses that provide additional information about a noun. Mastering the proper use of these pronouns is crucial for IELTS grammar, as they can significantly impact the clarity and coherence of your responses.

Remember to choose the appropriate relative pronoun based on whether the noun is a person, thing, or refers to the whole idea. Practise identifying the correct relative pronoun to use in various sentence structures, and pay attention to the placement of the relative clause within the sentence.


Excelling in IELTS grammar is a crucial step towards achieving your desired band score. By focusing on the common grammatical pitfalls discussed in this article and practising the strategies presented, you’ll be well on your way to demonstrating your English proficiency with confidence. Consistent practice, attention to detail, and a thorough understanding of these grammar concepts will be your keys to success in the IELTS exam.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.