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Watch out! 5 grammar pitfalls to avoid for PSLE 2024

Watch out! 5 grammar pitfalls to avoid for PSLE 2024

If your child is taking PSLE in 2024, it’s time to get them into exam preparation mode.

With the big exam just a few months away, there’s no better time to brush up on their grammar, get cosy with the rules, and figure out what exactly is the difference between who, whose, and whom.

And yes, trying to make sense of grammar rules can often feel like trudging through an unchartered jungle. Every mushroom seems edible, and that third comma looks like it’s right where it belongs.

So, to help you get started, we’ve gathered five of the most common grammar pitfalls your child should look out for when navigating their way to an AL1.

#1 Wrong preposition



'Behind you! Run!'

In situations such as this, one wrong preposition and we're as good as bear dinner.

While you may not lose an arm or a leg with a misplaced comma, it can certainly cost your child precious marks and bring their scores down a grade or two.

So, what exactly do Prepositions do?

Prepositions inform us where or when something is in relation to something else. In this instance, where an uninvited guest crashes our afternoon picnic, it’s great to know where it’s coming from. Is it behind or in front of us? Is it arriving in the next five seconds? Do we have time to grab that half-eaten lasagna on the table?

When it comes to prepositions, even the most experienced writers fumble once in a while. So encourage your child to not beat themselves up. With practice and dedication, using the right prepositions will soon become second nature!

Types of Prepositions

Direction: Look to the right and you’ll see the majestic African elephant.

Time: I’ve not slept since last night.

Location: They caught a movie at the cinema.

Space: The cat hid under the couch.

#2 Subject-verb disagreement

Subject-verb agreement is the grammatical rule that states that in a sentence, the verb(s) must match the number, person, and gender of the subject. A subject-verb disagreement occurs when there’s a mismatch between the two.

Examples of Subject-verb agreement

  • Singular subject + singular verb (eg. 'Michelle has four children.')
  • Plural subject +  plural verb (eg. 'The workers work ten hours a day.')
  • Collective noun as a singular subject + a singular verb (eg. 'The team treats its captain like a god.')

Examples of Subject-verb disagreement

  • When a singular noun + a plural verb (e.g. 'the dog bark')
  • When a plural noun + a singular verb (e.g. 'the horses gallops')
  • When two subjects joined by 'and' do not agree in number with their respective verbs (e.g. 'John and Joe was at the store').
  • When an indefinite pronoun such as everyone, everyone, somebody, or someone does not agree with its verb (e.g. 'everyone has').

*Quick tip: If a subject is singular, always use the singular form of the verb. The only exception to the rule is the verb be. Also, as the English language doesn’t use grammatical gender (except for pronouns),  subject-verb agreement is primarily about matching the number.

You can learn more about subject-verb agreement in our article: Write with confidence: 35 Subject-verb rules you need to know.

#3 Fragmented sentences

Writing in fragmented sentences is like trying to put together a puzzle with half of the pieces missing. Without the missing half, you get an incomplete picture. Without a complete picture, you risk confusing (and frustrating) the reader.

eg. Since John loves hotdogs and rootbeer.

As 'Since' is a subordinating conjunction, it needs a main clause to form a complete thought. To correct this, simply add a future clause that’s in agreement with his love for hotdogs and rootbeer:

'Since John loves hotdogs and rootbeer, he always orders them at the baseball game.'

Alternatively, you can choose to remove the word 'since' so that ‘John loves hotdogs and rootbeer' becomes a complete sentence. One way or another, be sure to read through your writing carefully to avoid this common pitfall.

#4 Incorrect punctuation

Incorrect punctuation can turn even the most well-crafted sentences into undecipherable riddles. Without commas, periods or other types of punctuation in their proper place, the clauses will run into each other, making it difficult to distinguish between one thought and the next.

eg. 'Let’s eat, grandpa!' vs 'Let’s eat grandpa!'

A missing comma completely alters the meaning of the sentence. Instead of having a meal with grandpa, you’re now making a meal out of grandpa. Yikes!

Most importantly, proper punctuation also demonstrates to the examiners that your child has a good command of the English Language. This can help to bring life to their sentences and make them stand out, which could lead to a better grade overall.

#5 Dangling modifier

A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that modifies or changes the meaning of another word, phrase, or clause in a sentence. They are used to describe characters, objects, actions, and emotions, providing more detail and enhancing the clarity of a sentence. Modifiers can be adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, participles, infinitive phrases, or gerund phrases. 

Examples of Modifiers

Adverb: 'John quickly ran to the store.'

Adjective: 'The old chair was creaky.'

Preposition: 'He wrote a note on the desk.'

Infinitive Phrase: 'My father always likes to go fishing on weekends.'

Gerund Phrase: 'Taking medicine every day helped her recover quickly.'

Participle: 'Running in the park made him exhausted.'

A dangling modifier, however, is a type of error in grammar where the modifier is not clearly referring to a specific word or phrase in the sentence.

eg. To be excused from class, a medical certificate is required.

This is an example of a dangling modifier because the subject of the sentence ('a medical certificate') does not match the subject of the phrase it modifies ('to be excused from class'). This creates confusion as to who or what needs to present a medical certificate in order to be excused from class.

To correct this, simply add a clear subject to the sentence and ensure that it matches the modifier.

eg. To be excused from class, students are required to present a medical certificate.

Exam Preparation
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