Common grammar mistakes are problems that every IELTS candidate have to deal with when they sit the exam. It’s extremely important to use correct grammar because examiners will rate you using grammar criteria. Therefore, you need to know about common grammar mistakes and how to avoid them. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered in this article.

What is ‘grammar’?

What is ‘grammar’?
What is ‘grammar’? (Source: pixabay)
Before we go further with more grammar stuff, we need to know what it is. Depending on whom you ask you can find various definitions. The Oxford Dictionaries defines ‘grammar’ as “The whole structure of languages in general.” A linguist’s definition of grammar might be a little bit more, well, opinionated. Noam Chomsky views grammar as “universal” and “innate capacity”. At the same time, Samuel Praise sees it as “a set of rules to preserve the written word”. Nevertheless, everyone agrees that grammar is“not taught in isolation, but the communicative task.”
Grammar helps lay the essential groundwork for successful exchanging of information or news. Think of it as your internet connection. If the engineers configured a network improperly, you would have unreliable calls. Inappropriate or common grammar mistakes can, also, alter the intended meaning of information.
Common grammar mistakes come in many forms and happen to everyone, even native speaker. There are a great variety of common grammar mistakes such as sentence structures, verb tenses, so on and so on. Even something like a misplaced comma could completely change the message’s meaning. For a quick example, let’s compare “Let’s eat son” and “Let’s eat, son”.
Appropriate grammar makes your writing more comprehensible and in turn, more fascinating. You surely would interrupt readers’ reading flow if they have to guess your ideas again and again. Hence, avoid making common grammar mistakes as best as you can.

The most common grammar mistakes and how to avoid them

As scary as it might sound, making common grammar mistakes does depict the author’s laziness and a lack of respect for readers. It’s even more important for the IELTS Writing Task 2, especially if you’re aiming at a band 7 score or higher. So, please bear with me for a few minutes, and review these common grammar errors.

1. Subject-verb agreement

You have probably known about this one, but here’s a quick note. Subjects and verbs must AGREE with one another in number, whether they are singular or plural. If the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular. The same goes for the plural. (This is one of the most common grammar mistakes. Try your best to avoid it.)
There are several guidelines to this little one, as listed below. (Source: Purdue)
  • Use a plural verb when a sentence’s subject contains many nouns linked by the word ‘and’. The same applied to pronouns linked by the word ‘and’.

Incorrect: He and his classmates is at the movie.
Correct: He and his classmates are at the movie.
  • Use a singular verb when there are several nouns or pronouns joined together by the ‘or’ or ‘nor’.

Incorrect: The laptop or the phone are under the table.
Correct: The laptop or the phone is under the table.
  • When a sentence has two or more subjects connected, the verb should agree with the subject that is nearest to it. (Notice that this only applies in the case of ‘or’ or ‘not’)

Incorrect: The boy or his friends runs every morning.
Correct: The boy or his friends run every morning.
  • Doesn’t is the shortened form of ‘does not’, you should use it only in the case of a singular subject. Don’t is the shortened form ‘do not’ and you should only use in the case of a plural subject. In the case of pronouns ‘I’ and ‘you’, do not use these contractions.

Incorrect: He don’t like it.
Correct: He doesn’t like it.
  • A phrase that comes between the subject and the verb can mislead you. The verb always agrees with the subject of the sentence, not with the subject of the phrase.

Incorrect: One of the cans are open.
Correct: One of the cans is open.
  • There are some pronouns that are always singular, such as ‘each’, ‘each one’, ‘either’, ‘neither’. ‘Everyone’, ‘everybody’, ‘anybody’, ‘anyone’, ‘nobody’, ‘no one’, ‘somebody’, ‘someone’ are pronouns too. They need a singular verb.

Incorrect: Either are correct.
Correct: Either is correct.
  • ‘Civics’, ‘mathematics’, ‘dollars’, ‘measles’, and ‘news’ are nouns that need singular verbs. (The word dollars is an uncommon case. When discussing the amount of cash, it requires a singular verb. Yet when alluding to the dollars themselves, you need to use a plural verb.)

Incorrect: The finance news are at eight p.m.
Correct: The finance news is at eight p.m.
Incorrect: Fifty dollars are a lot here.
Correct: Fifty dollars is a lot here.
  • ‘Scissors’, ‘tweezers’, ‘trousers’, and ‘shears’ are nouns that must go with plural verbs. (Well, you know, this is correct regardings technical details. There are two parts in these things.)

Incorrect: These scissors is in the store.
Correct: These scissors are in the store.
  • The subject should always follow the verb in sentences starting with “there is” or “there are”. As “there” is an adverb used to state the existence of something, the verb agrees with what follows.

Incorrect: There is many questions
Correct: There are many questions
  • Collective nouns are nouns that imply a group of individuals, such as ‘group’, or ‘board’. They are singular and need a singular verb.
Incorrect: The group have decided on a new policy
Correct: The group has decided on a new policy
  • ‘With’, ‘together with’, are expressions that don’t change the number of the subject. ‘including’, ‘accompanied by’, or ‘as well’ are on it as well. If the subject is plural, the verb is too, and vice versa.

Incorrect: The President, together with his wife, are travelling to England.
Correct: The President, together with his wife, is travelling to England.

2. Missing comma after an introductory element

After an introductory word, phrase or clause should come a comma. What is introductory something, you may ask? Khan Academy defines introductory clauses as dependent clauses that provide background information.

When to use a comma?

Introductory clauses more often than not need a comma, but that’s not always the case. Therefore, have a look at the guidelines below:

  • After an introductory clause.

Incorrect: In case you haven’t noticed I didn’t pass the exam.
Correct: In case you haven’t noticed, I didn’t pass the exam.
  • After a lengthy introductory prepositional phrase or more than one introductory prepositional phrase.

Incorrect: Under the pile of books we found his wallet.
Correct: Under the pile of books, we found his wallet.
  • After introductory verbal phrases, some appositive phrases, or absolute phrases.

Incorrect: Trang an only child requires a lot of attention.
Correct: Trang, an only child, requires a lot of attention.
  • If there is a distinct pause.

Incorrect: You are a doctor aren’t you?
Correct: You are a doctor, aren’t you?
  • To avoid confusion.

Incorrect: Red black and blue are my favourite colour.
Correct: Red, black and blue are my favourite colour.

3. Sentence sprawl

Sentence sprawl happens when too many equal sentence elements make reading tiresome.


Incorrect: The summer show was planned for Monday, July 2, but not everyone could attend, so the showrunners rescheduled for the following Tuesday, and then everyone could be available. (This is correct regardings grammar, but quite hard to follow.)
Correct: The summer show, which had been planned for Monday, July 2, was rescheduled for the following Tuesday so that everyone would be able to attend.

4. Sentence fragments

Grammar in the IELTS exam
Grammar in the IELTS exam (Source: pixabay)
One of the most common grammar mistakes is sentence fragments. Sentence fragments are groups of words that seem to be sentences but aren’t. A sentence fragment fails to be a sentence because it can’t stand on it own as a sentence. To be a sentence, groups of words must have at least one independent clause. For example, “I like him” is an independent clause.
Sentence fragments don’t have an independent clause but dependent phrases and clauses. On a glance, fragments seem like sentences because they begin with a capital letter and end with a period. If you look close, it will be obvious that these ‘sentences’ do not form a clear thought. Below are some of the reasons why:
  • The sentence describes something but lacks a subject-verb relationship.
  • The set of words has most of what a right sentence should have but lack a part of verb string.
  • The statement has a subject-verb relationship, but another idea has made it lesser. For that reason, it cannot stand by itself.


No Verb
Fragments: A movie with a heartbreaking plot and deep thoughts.
Revision: He is watching a movie with a heartbreaking plot and deep thoughts.
No subjects:
Fragments: For showing up on a rival show Gordon Ramsay got fired.
Revision: Gordon Ramsay got fired for showing up on a rival show.

5. Run-on sentences

Run-on sentences happen when the writer connect two main clauses with no punctuation. A run-on sentence consists of two parts, either one of which can stand on it own (or independent clause). I have to note that the length of a sentence has nothing to do with the fact that it’s run-on or not. Click here to read a 239-word sentence that is fine (regardings its structure).
Fused sentences usually occur in the following cases:
  • When the second of two independent clauses consists of a pronoun that links it to the first one.
  • When an independent clause gives an instructive act based on the prior one.


Incorrect: He tried to sneak out of the house her parents saw him leaving.
Correct: He tried to sneak out of the house but her parents saw him leaving.

6. Lack of parallel structure

Parallel structure is the same pattern of words used to show the equality of things. Parallel structure is usually joined by using coordinating conjunctions such as “and”/”or”. This is one of the most common grammar mistakes that beginners make.
This grammar mistake is easy to correct. Here are some tips to try out.
  • Scan your papers for words like “and” or “or”. Check on each side to see if you have joined the parallel ones. If not, join them.
  • If you have several items on a list, put them on a column and check whether you like the sounds of them.


Incorrect: He wanted to study programming, engineering, biochemist, and research scientist.
Correct: He wanted to study programming, engineering, biochemistry and research science.

7. Verb Tenses

One important aspect of grammar that everyone likes to forget about is tenses. I know, I know, selecting the appropriate verb tense is tricky in English. But here are some guidelines to help you make that dreadful decision.
In English, there are three main tenses, the past, the present and the future. (Source: the Oxford Dictionaries.) They are different from each other:

7.1 The present tense

Also called the present simple, it’s usually used in the following cases:
  • To describe things that are always and always true or general statements of facts (The sun is hot)
  • To talk about habits. (I always watch a movie on Saturday)
  • To discuss a certain future and/or subordinate clauses. (The train arrives at 6 p.m.)

7.2 The past tense

Its main uses are as follows:
  • To refer to an event that happened once and is now finished. (I met him yesterday.)
  • To describe an action that began in the past and finished in the past. (She called me again and again.)

7.3 The future tense

Here are the main situations in which we use the future tense:
  • To give or ask information about the future. (I’ll have it done by Thursday.)
  • To make promise or threats, or to refer to conditional situations, which might happen. (or not). (I’ll give you a life if you call me.)
  • To talk about things that are likely to happen in the future, but are not absolutely certain. (I think she’ll retire soon.)

There are also two more types of tense: the continuous and the perfect.

7.4 Continuous

Also known as Progressive tense, we use these tenses to talk about actions that continue for a period. There are three important continuous tenses.
a. The present continuous
  • To describe an action at the moment of speaking. (I’m studying.)
  • To discuss something in progress. (Our company is making progress.)
  • To talk about a planned future. (I’m spending the Christmas and Thanksgiving with my parents.)
b. The past continuous
  • To talk about an action that was happening when another one occurred. (I was sleeping when she sang.)
  • To talk about an action that was in progress in the past. (I was studying.)
c. The future continuous
  • To talk about an action that will be in progress at a time in the future. (I will be working here tomorrow.)

7.6 Perfect 

We use perfect tenses to talk about completed actions at the present or at a specific point in the past/future.
a. The present perfect
  • To talk about an action that took place at an indefinite time in the past. (I have lost my phone.)
  • To talk about an action that started in the past and continues till now. (Engineers have studied the foundation since 1817.)
b. The past perfect
  • To talk about something completed before another activity/time in the past. (Harold had known about it for a while.)
c. The future perfect
  • To talk about an action that will be completed before another activity/time in the future. (I will have solved all problems by then.)

7.7 The perfect continuous

The perfect continuous tenses combine features of both the perfect and continuous tenses. Their uses are as follow:
a. Present perfect continuous
  • To talk about how long things have been going on. (I have been working here for 10 weeks.)
b. Past perfect continuous
  • To talk about something which continued up to a certain moment in the past but now is completed. (I have been working here for 3 weeks before I left.)
c. Future perfect continuous
  • To talk about something which will be completed by a certain point in the future. (I will have been working here for 4 months by December.)

Grammar in the IELTS exam

Not making common grammar mistakes in messages can certainly make it becomes easier to read and understand. While it’s important to express your ideas in your own ways, people should also be able to understand them. Writing pieces that are poorly worded is hard to read and impossible to grasp the meanings. If examiners have to re-read your pieces because they aren’t sure, it spoils their experience.
While there’s no Grammar module in the IELTS exam, it’s still pivotal to be able to avoid common grammar mistakes. Grammatical Range & Accuracy forms around one-fourth of your total writing score. (According to the official British Council website.) Did you know that if half of your sentences have grammar mistakes, you cannot achieve more than a 6? Therefore, no matter how good your English is, you won’t be able to secure correct answers if your grammar is not good.

How to improve grammar skills?

Different methods to improve your English grammar and avoid common grammar mistakes:
  • Read in English: The more you read, the more you know about grammar and vocabulary. Reading helps you see how English works and grammar works. As a result, that knowledge can transfer to writing. Plus, it can help with your Reading test also. Find some sources that you like – books, newspapers – it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s in correct English. You can use the eJOY app and extension to learn more words while you read.
eJOY extension shows the meaning of a word.
eJOY extension immediately shows me the meaning of a word when I click on it
  • Write more in English: Try keeping a diary or journal in English. Any practice can help you. Write more, and you will discover more common grammar mistakes you make.
  • Practice more: Do exercises in your textbooks, and try to understand the answers.
So, this is the end of this article. I hope you have grasped a basic understanding of grammar and common grammar mistakes in the IELTS Exam. To let us know what you think, submit a letter to our editors or hit us up in the comment section.