Building grammar foundations: Start young, start now.

Word of the day: Integral

“Grammar? PSLE is still far away! My ah boy (girl) is only nine years old!”

Indeed, PSLE may be a small event in the horizons for now but by the time your child has to sit for it, it may be an extremely stressful affair to brush up his literacy skills within a few months. As Louis Pasteur, a renowned scientist, once said, “Chance favours the prepared mind”. Preparation is therefore key to success.  

Like any skill, foundations are essential. For English, this means that students should have a strong command of essential grammar rules before they advance to more sophisticated literacy skills. 

What are some essential areas of grammar that will play even bigger roles in English at the upper levels? 

Primary English | Building Grammar Foundations

1. Know your subject-verb agreement

What are subjects? A subject is the person or thing that performs the action of a verb, or is joined to a description by a verb. For example:

Know your subject-verb agreement

What are verbs? A verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence. A complete sentence cannot be without a verb as it forms the main part of a sentence. 

Verbs may be grouped into three main categories:

What are verbs? Table

In a sentence, the subject and the verb need to agree in terms of number. This is known as subject-verb agreement. At the Primary Three and Four levels, some important subject-verb agreement rules that students should be aware of include, amongst others:

  • Both / and

  • Collective nouns (E.g. a flock of birds)

  • Some, most, all

  • One of / none of

  • Indefinite pronouns e.g. someone, everyone, anyone, no one

Students will thus need to be aware of when a subject is singular or plural and change their verbs to the right form accordingly.

Not only that, students should also be aware that verbs are the only words in English that have tenses. That brings us to the second point below.

2. Know your tenses

Tenses are integral to English because they indicate the time of a given action. With tenses, the temporal logic of events can be clearly illustrated. As such, students should be prepared to be tested on the wide variety of tenses used in English. At the Primary Three and Four levels, students should show a clear understanding of the following tenses:

  • Simple present and past tenses

  • Present and past continuous tenses 

  • Past perfect tense

When learning tenses, students should learn their form, meaning and usage. This would allow them to know how to craft the tense when they write and use it in the right situation. For example:

Grammar | Past Continuous Tense Table

3. Know your nouns and pronouns

Nouns are names for people, places, things, buildings, and animals, or to name a particular one of these things. Pronouns are words that replace nouns in order to avoid cumbersome repetitions in sentences. 

In English, there are many types of pronouns that play essential roles. At the Primary Three and Four levels, students should have a good grasp of:

  • reflexive pronouns (e.g. ourselves, themselves, yourself)

  • possessive pronouns and determiners (e.g. ours / our ; mine / my) 

  • relative pronouns (e.g. who, whose, whom)

These different groups of pronouns play varied roles in English and it is essential that students are fluent with them at the lower levels. 

Great things take time. Like how a tree can grow tall and straight because of roots that grow deep into the earth, learning English requires a strong foundation on which more sophisticated literacy skills can be built. Such foundations take time and effort to build, so let’s start now!


Take the grammar quiz below and see how ready you are for P3/p4 grammar!

Primary School Grammar | P3/P4 Quiz

Dying to know the answers? Leave us a comment below with your answers and see our reply to know which ones you have got right!


Grammar Grandma Light Bites (Primary 3 and Primary 4)

Worried about your child’s English foundations but don’t know where to start helping him or her? Consider signing up for our NEW P3/P4 Grammar Grandma Light Bites! Targeted at mid-primary students, the videos and accompanying worksheets aim to help students with many important grammar question types and how to tackle them!


Primary English Teacher | Ms Quek

Ms. Quek is an English Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. She is dedicated to helping her students do well in the language through a focus on the learning process. As an educator, she believes in creating a nurturing and stimulating environment for students to learn.