My children will know that I often talk to them about grammatical traps and the common errors that are made in the grammar MCQ section. Below is a list of these questions that children often make mistakes in. This list is helpful in highlighting the errors and how to attempt such questions but to do well, reading this list alone is not going to help. Practice makes perfect so do be diligent and practise if you really want to secure these marks.
Common Grammatical Traps
1. who vs whom
Who is used for doer while whom is used for the receiver of the action.
Look at the word after the blank:
This is the boy ___________ (who) broke the plate.
This is the boy ___________(whom) I saw just now.
broke --> verb --> who
I --> not a verb --> whom
For trickier questions like those below, use he/him or they/them to help you.
"He/they" are subject pronouns and indicate the doer of an action, hence we will use "who".
"Him/them" are object pronouns and indicate the receivers of an action, hence we will use "whom".
1. Neither of _____________ wants to leave.
Neither of they/them wants to leave.
them > receiver > whom
2. If it is a question, answer the question.
_________ can I speak to about the matter?
You can speak to he/him.
him > receiver > whom
_________ ate the last cupcake?
He/him ate the last cupcake.
he > doer > who
2. if conditionals
Look for tense words (verbs like has, is, kicked) and follow through the tense pattern.
If I find the ring, I will return it.
If I found the ring, I would return it.
If I had found the ring, I would have returned it.
*Special Case 1 - unlikely situations
Take note of impossible/unlikely situations. The verb "were" is to be used regardless of singular or plural subject:
If I were a bird, I would fly.
If she were the principal, I would cancel all lessons.
Special Case 2 - Negative Adverbs
Take note of adverbs like never, rarely, seldom, hardly and scarcely. These adverbs have a negative sense and even when used with a positive statement, they change it to become negative. Hence, the question tag will be positive.
You (do) seldom visit the library, do you?
She (does) hardly speaks about her father, does she?
3. subject-verb agreement: 'of' (e.g. Three bags of sugar)
The question you need to ask yourself is, "What am I counting? The bags or the sugar?"
Whenever you encounter a question with "of",
1. box up "of"
2. look at the word before it.
Three bags of sugar are carried to the car.
A few bottles of milk were broken yesterday.
None of the children is injured.
4. subject verb agreement: neither/ either of
Following the rule for questions with of:
1. Box up 'of'
2. Look at 'neither' (which means none) and 'either' (which means one)
3. Hence the answer will always be singular
Neither of the horses is ill.
Neither of the twins wants the cake.
Either of the boys has the keys.
5. subject verb agreement: neither...nor/ either... or
I often ask my children whether they see the word "of" used with neither and either. If they do not, then we will look at the noun/pronoun before the blank to determine the answer.
Neither the boys nor Jane is at the fair.
Neither Jane nor the boys are at the fair.
Either you or your parents were driving yesterday.
Either Wendy or I am helping out tomorrow.
6. Clauses giving extra information (e.g. Ben, as well as his brothers, is happy.)
Do not be confused by these extra information! simply cancel away the extra bits and your answer will be clear as crystal.
Ben, as well as his brothers, goes to school every day.
Mr and Mrs Tan, together with their son, were cooking for the party.
My brother, along with his classmates, is at the park now.
Simple tips that will make a big difference (: all the best!