The IELTS exam does not test candidate grammar separately in a multiple choice type test. However, it tests grammar in every module of the test. In reading and listening it gets tested in gap fill or sentence completion type questions where the answer must fit grammatically into the gap.
It gets tested more directly in speaking and writing where the examiner is looking specifically at the kinds of sentence structure the candidate is using and scores the candidate on their ability to use grammar well.
One of the most frequent errors produced by even band 7 candidates is the incorrect use of verbs in a sentence. As you all know a simple sentence in English MUST contain a subject and a verb (well … ok … imperative sentences (instructions: e.g. Close the door!) don’t require a subject because it is understood who the subject is in these sentences, but you won’t get the opportunity to use this type of sentence in the IELTS exam).
To repeat, each simple sentence requires 1 subject and 1 verb. The place where many candidates go wrong is to have more than 1 verb in the sentence. This might sound like a silly mistake but it isn’t because sentences can get quite complicated very easily. It is sometimes quite difficult to know when a word is a verb or acting as a noun (or adjective or even adverb).
So here is an example sentence and 3 questions to answer:
“Over the same period, the percentage of commuters traveled by bus was approximately 18% at the beginning and then it rose considerably reached its peak at 26 % in 1980 before falling back to the former level in 2000.”
Look carefully at this sentence and see if you can answer these three questions:
- How many verbs are there in this sentence?
- How many verbs are required?
- What can you do about the extra verbs to make the sentence correct?
Scroll down lower for the answer.
The verbs are:
Note that “falling” could have been an error as it is the present participle form of the verb “to fall” but the grammar is entirely correct in this part of the sentence and we therefore do not consider it to be a verb in its use here. However, the 4 verbs listed above are all verb forms in areas of the sentence which are grammatically incorrect so we need to look carefully to see what is wrong.
This sentence is a COMPOUND sentence – there is an “AND” in the middle of it. Compound sentences link simple sentences and so we expect there are two simple sentences joined int his long sentence. Each simple sentence needs its own verb so we expect to find 2 MAIN VERBS in the whole sentence.
So what do we do with the 2 extra verbs?
1. not all commuters traveled by bus so this is an indicator that we can describe this better; for example, we could write ” … commuters who traveled by bus ….”, using a defining relative clause, in this case we keep traveled as a verb but put it inside the relative clause and since relative clauses MUST HAVE their own verbs it is now a necessary part of the sentence. I could have also changed “traveled” to the participle “traveling” and this would have also removed this extra verb from the original sentence.
2. ” … and then it rose considerably … ” is fine the problem is with ‘reached’; we have to remove it as a verb and we have a few choices. We could use the ‘to infinitive’ “to reach” and this would solve the problem or we could use the -ing form which will also kill the verb – ” … reaching its peak …”.
We could even leave it as a verb and use another “and” to allow for another simple sentence to be added to the two we already have. In this case the sentence would read:
“… at the beginning and then it rose considerably and reached its peak at 26 % in 1980 before falling back to its former level in 2000.”
So there are three ways we could have removed the problem, in two we changed the verb into a noun form and in this last case we left it as the main verb in a new simple sentence attached to the original compound sentence with “and”.
The critical part for the writer is to realize when they have too many verbs in the sentence because this will make the entire sentence wrong and lead to a lower mark for grammar accuracy.
This is a complex issue and if anyone is confused please post a question.