When it comes to English, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and its correct usage is essential for your child to do well in the subject. However, despite many years of learning the language and going through numerous practice assessments, some students may still find themselves making errors that could have been avoided – saving them a few extra points.
Ms Suritha Shah, an English Trainer for the MindChamps PSLE Success programme, highlights the top mistakes that students commonly make in the English paper and shares the correct usage for each.
1. Everyday vs Every Day
‘Everyday’ is an adjective. When used as an adverbial phrase of time, it should be written as ‘every day’.
Incorrect: She jogs in the park everyday.
Correct: She jogs in the park every day.
Here’s how to use ‘everyday’ correctly:
Jogging in the park is her everyday activity.
2. Issues with Apostrophes
When used to depict possession
Apostrophes are commonly used to reflect possession, such as:
However, do take note of the correct placement of apostrophes in the following instances:
* If two people possess the same item, put the apostrophe + s after the second name.
Jack and Helen’s house is magnificent.
* If there is no joint possession and each person owns a separate item, add apostrophe + s to both names.
Jack’s and Helen’s houses are both magnificent.
When it comes to personal pronouns
When using personal pronouns, do not add apostrophe + s.
Incorrect: It’s leg is injured.
Correct: Its leg is injured.
Incorrect: She turned to face Helen, who’s face was pale.
Correct: She turned to face Helen, whose face was pale.
Omission of apostrophes in contractions
Apostrophes can be used to show an omission of letters and is commonly used as part of a contraction.
it is = it’s
does not = doesn’t
has not = hasn’t
Changing a regular noun to the plural form
Do remember not to use apostrophe + s to change a regular noun into plural.
Holiday should be changed to holidays and not holiday’s
Apostrophe should be changed to apostrophes and not apostrophe’s
3. Were vs Where vs We’re
Here’s what you need to know when using these three words to construct sentences:
‘Were’ is the past tense of the verb ‘to be’.
If I were a king, I would live in a grand palace.
They were in school today.
‘Where’ is an adverb to indicate ‘in’ or ‘at what place’.
Where is the train station?
Where are we going tomorrow?
‘We’re’ is the contraction of ‘we are’.
We’re going to Sentosa tomorrow.
We’re having a discussion.
4. Lie vs Lay
First of all, do familiarise yourself with the definition of these two words:
Lie – recline or assume a resting position
Lay – to put or place something in a horizontal position
Take into consideration how the past and past participle tenses would differ, when both lie and lay are taken as present tense.
Present Tense: Lie
Past Tense: Lay
Past Participle Tense: Lain
Present Tense: Lay
Past Tense: Laid
Past Participle Tense: Laid
5. Then vs Than
‘Then’ is most commonly used as an adverb. It is used in relation to time and the order in which events occur.
He ended the call, then packed his bags.
Walk straight, then turn right when you see the huge painting.
On the other hand, ‘Than’ is used to express a comparison between two or more items.
Tom is stronger than Aaron.
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Written by Justina Goh