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Most Common IELTS Grammar Mistakes and How to Avoid them

grammar mistakes

While talking about committing mistakes in The IELTS tests, it might sound strange that even the Native- English speakers commit silly and common grammar mistakes. The reason behind committing mistakes by Non-Native English speakers can be justified, but what about the mistakes of Native- English speakers? There are two distinct reasons found in the survey, 1) The Native and Non-native English speakers have not been taught properly in their schools, about the common grammatical mistakes and 2) The Native English speakers are ‘habituated’ in speaking and writing in extremely casual or informal English language, that does not abide by the grammatical rules. The IELTS tests do not accept  ‘Informal or Casual’ English. For getting a good band score in the IELTS, your English has to be correct and formal with no room for casual/informal language.

In the case of the high standard language test like the IELTS, it is mandatory that a candidate has to speak and write flawless formal and grammatically correct English. Let’s first discuss some common mistakes, which candidates are prone to do.

  • Confusion in using Yours: If you write: This is your book/This book is yours. (Not your’s)-You are right. But students often get confused here, and going by the pronunciation, they write Your’s, instead of yours, which is wrong. If you write- Why you’re not going to play today?. You’re is the contraction of ‘you are’ – and is correct. Likewise- you play, your book, you’re going to market -All these are correct.
  • Mistakes in placing of ‘Apostrophe’:You have to have the right knowledge of using the apostrophes correctly. Here two distinctly different uses of ‘Apostrophes’ are being cited:1) This one is Jim’s football- means the owner of the football is Jim. 2) When used for the plural: This is the boys’ football (Not the boys’s). Watch the shifting of the sign ( ) -It is correct.
  • Confusing use of It’s and Its: No reason to get confused. Please remember that both It’s and its’ are used as contractions and both are right. Its’- in British English and It’s – in American English. If you write – It’s raining out there. Here ‘It’s’ is a contraction of ‘it is’.- Correct use. Again if you write- Its weight is 10 kg. – The word ‘Its’ is used in the possessive form and is right. But if you write- Its weight is 10 kg.- Wrong, as ‘Its’ is a contraction of it is.
  • Some more similar sounding words lead to committing mistakes: They’re – is a contraction of ‘They are’. Like- They’re on the way and will reach here soon – Right use. If you write-These are theirs /theirs’ books- both are right and both mean possession. Again, If you write- These books are there- It means the position or location of the books – Correct use. So- There/They’re /They are / Their and Theirs’ – All these are similar sounding set phrases and are correct. But- It is their’s pen – incorrect. It’s their/theirs pen- correct.
  • Confusion between Less and Fewer: She eats less rice. or She eats less rice than her sister-Less and less than- are correct. But you cannot write ‘She ate fewer -Wrong, because rice is not countable. Again, if you write- There are fewer books in the library- Correct as books are countable. This year fewer (not less) books have been sold at the Book Fair- Correct. Take an exception: The sale of books this year are less than the previous year.- Right, because you are comparing the ‘sale of books’, which is not directly countable (You haven’t mentioned the number of books. Another Exception: Fewer (not less) cold drinks are sold today, because of rain- right use. Cold drinks are sold in bottles or in packets – which are countable. If you write- The sale of cold drinks are less than yesterday-Right as you haven’t written the numbers.
  • In the case of using the words – ‘Amount’ or ‘Number’: ‘A greater number of (not greater amount of) students got poor marks in mathematics this year- Right use, as the number of students is countable. Again if you write- A huge amount of garbage (not huge number of) was dumped outside the railway station- Right use as garbage is not countable.
  • Some more similar sounding words are used in wrong way: – Like Too/To / Two: Consuming too much of alcohol will damage your /To buy wine you will have to walk for 5 miles from here./Your friend drinks two bottles of wine a day, that’s terrible. Rules are pretty simple: To do, to walk, to sing- Here the word ‘To’ is used with a verb.-Correct use. Here ‘Too’ is used to mean in excess/ also/ as well: I will go to the movie and my friend will go too (instead of also or as well). And two is used to indicate the number. So what are wrong? If you write: I am to tired to talk- Wrong. It would be- I am too tired to talk. It means- I am so tired that I can’t talk. Thus, I am too weak to walk/ The iron rod is too hot to handle/ My friend will go too. – All these are correct uses and means excessive or also.
  • Wrong use of ‘Then’ and ‘Than’: Jun is heavier than Smith (not then) – Than is used for comparing two similar things. Like Mike runs faster than Jim. Then is used for indicating something happening later- You go first, then (Not than) we will start.
  • An often seen mistake in using I/me/myself: Examples.- Smith and I were going to Zoo- (Correct- not myself and Smith or Not I and Smith). You have to put the name of the Third person (Here Smith) in the beginning of the sentence, in such statements. If you say- Smith and I are (not am) going to watch a movie – that’s correct. Often native speaker’s say like – Myself and Smith. – Grammatically it is wrong. See these- Are you talking to me? You want me to go there? – Both are correct. You can’t write- Are you talking to I? OR You want I to go there?- Both are incorrect. Again in this example- Please give the book to Smith and I.- Not I and Smith. Similarly: You don’t know me, (not I) once I get angry I can do anything. In spoken English, you will notice so many wrong uses. Often English speakers ignore the mistakes in But you don’t have the liberty to follow the colloquial or informal English while taking the IELTS.
  • Confusion in using whom and who: As a basic rule of grammar ‘Who’ is used to refer the subject of the sentence, like:- Who told you this cock-and-bull story?  While ‘Whom’ is used to refer the object of a sentence like -‘Who (Not Whom) has given the book and whom are you giving back!’ (Not Who).Likewise- Who are you talking to? With whom you were playing? – Right uses.
  • Affect and Effect: Affect and effect are the words often used incorrectly by a great number of people, regardless of their mother tongue. Just for your information ‘Affect’ is a verb and ‘effect’ is a noun. Examples of uses: Very low rainfall in western Africa has affected crops heavily, while farmers in eastern Africa are enjoying the effect of adequate rainfall. Another example: This particular medicine surely has a good effect (Not affect) for your disease, but prolonged consumption of this might affect (Not effect) your kidney.


How to avoid the mistakes: If you are a serious student and preparing for the IELTS, then get it embossed in your brain that 25% of your total marks would come for your accuracy in grammar. Therefore while preparing for the IELTS Test, apart from studying the basic study materials regularly, you must also study one or two ‘High Standard’ grammar book written for the competitive exams. The reason for that is apart from having a solid grammatical knowledge, you must be aware beforehand about the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ and the ‘Rights and Wrongs’ of the English grammar. Though we have already discussed some of the most common mistakes, the list is very long. While preparing for the test, take help of free to download study materials from the Internet to know about ‘Common Grammatical Mistakes’ which candidates are prone to commit. If you study in a well-reputed coaching center, they would take a series of mock tests and are supposed to discuss your problems with you. If they don’t do that,  you should make  move and discuss your weak areas, faults etc. Check the results of these tests to rectify your mistakes.


Moreover, learn the right application of the articles – ‘A, An and The’ from the grammar book you study. Students often misplace the articles, be careful about that. Learn the exact uses of ‘Countable’ and ‘Uncountable’ nouns. Learn the ‘Agreement of Noun and Verb’, learn the words, whose spelling changes with the application – like ‘Advice and Advise’, ‘Run, Running’. There are so many of them and you will get all in the books. It is also worthy to be mentioned that often some ‘Native speakers’ make some strange and silly mistakes. One of those mistakes is: Using double negatives – Like: I didn’t go nowhere/I didn’t do nothing. Instead of saying, ‘I didn’t go anywhere’. Or ‘I didn’t do anything’. A double negative makes a positive, get rid of this habit if you use this sort of language. So whether you are a native English speaker or not study the rules of grammar to avoid committing common mistakes and losing marks.


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