IELTS to the point

8 English Grammar concepts to increase IELTS scores

8 English Grammar concepts to increase IELTS scores

Table of Contents

Grammar works as simple formulae to construct sentences. Lousy grammar may not help you convey what you want to say. So the problem is many students are nervous about their English grammar even though they use English well. As an IELTS student, if you want to improve your English grammar, read along.

Before we get further, let’s discuss what IELTS expects from students as far as grammar is concerned.

Expectations of IELTS examiners about grammar

IELTS examiner, in reality, does not care if you could distinguish the main clause from the subordinate clause or not. They even don’t want to know whether you can recognise the active or passive voice. All they care about is can you understand the information offered to you in the IELTS Listening and Reading section. Also, they want to know if you can express your thoughts well in IELTS Writing and Speaking module. If you are committing grammatical errors that change a sentence’s meaning, you must improve your grammar. So the question is

Which English grammar concepts one must know to score well on IELTS?

After observing more than 4000 students over the period of six years, I can say that there are many things that one can do to enhance their grammar. However, we have observed that students commit errors on eight grammatical groups of concepts. Therefore, if you wish to score well on IELTS, you must master them. Let’s explore them one by one.

  1. Tenses
  2. Subject, verbs and pronouns
  3. Modal verbs and passive voice
  4. Noun and Adjective clauses
  5. Gerunds and Infintives
  6. Coordinating conjunctions
  7. Adverb clauses
  8. Causes and effects, contrasts, and conditionals

Let’s explore them one by one.

Tenses on IELTS

Tenses are essential to express what you are thinking. If you commit an error in tenses, sometimes the meaning may change; sometimes it may not. 

Another problem is I often hear students say that which tense should I use in Speaking or Writing? Well, there is no particular answer. The tense that you use in IELTS Speaking or writing section depends on the situation and intention.

Why are tenses important on IELTS?

To avoid the problems we stated above, one must study tenses. 

To illustrate how tenses can help express your message precisely, consider a salesperson, Mark. He is always talking to customers and travelling to their offices. If he is telling his customer about travel plan and promising to visit them, which tense can he use?

Well, there is no answer perfect answer. It all depends on Mark’s intention. However, the following table can help to explain my point.

What does Mark say?



I may visit your office tomorrow.

Modal verb

Not very keen to visit

I will call your office tomorrow.

Simple Future Tense

Keen to visit

I am going to call your office tomorrow.

Modal verb

Made a plan and quite eager to visit

I am visiting your office tomorrow. 

Present Continuous Tense

Made a plan and for sure will visit 

As can be seen, Mark can express the same thing in four ways, but the intention matters. 

How to improve your tenses?

If you wish to learn more about tenses, download the IELTS Grammar tenses pdf notes. You will learn the theory of tenses and solve many exercises here.

Subjects, Verbs and Pronouns

Most of the students have issues with subject-verb agreement and even using correct pronouns. For example, one of the common mistakes I see in the IELTS Writing section is as follows.

“One of my friend is very smart.”

I bet most of the IELTS students won’t think that this sentence is wrong. However, it is incorrect. The subject you read here is ‘one of my friend’, but it means ‘one of my many friends’. So, when you pick one friend out of many, the correct sentence is 

“One of my friends is very smart.”

Similarly, I read sentences similar to the following many times in the IELTS Writing section.

“He brought a vegetable home in a bag and put it on the table. He then cut it well.”

What did he cut precisely? The vegetable, the bag or the table? Such sentences with unclear pronouns may confuse the reader about the intended meaning.

How to improve subjects, verbs and pronouns for IELTS?

To improve your understanding of subjects, verbs and pronouns, you may download the pdf notes. The concepts and exercise will help you enhance your IELTS scores.

Modal verbs and Passive Voice

Modal verbs

Modal verbs are used to indicate modalities such as possibility, capacity or willingness. They are instrumental when it comes to expressing what you are thinking about precisely. 

Do you know that a few people could be offended if you ask them, “Can you turn that light off?” Why? The modal verb ‘can’ shows capacity. So, asking a question with ‘can’ is offensive for old fashioned English speakers.

Passive voice

On the other hand, passive voice is used when the doer or the actor is unimportant or too obvious. Instead, the writer thinks that the action is more important. For example,

Active: The government has implemented many welfare programs in our country.

Passive: Many welfare programs are implemented in our country.

If you read both these statements, the second one reads better since it is evident that the government implements all welfare programs.

Why are modals and passive voice are important on IELTS?

Modal verbs are instrumentals in precisely conveying your intentions, especially in IELTS Writing and Speaking section. Similarly, they help the IELTS students understand the speaker’s or author’s point of view in the Listening and Reading sections. 

How to improve modal verbs and passive voice?

If you wish to improve your modals and passive voice for IELTS, kindly download the pdf notes here. In addition, the theory and exercises will enhance your English grammar.

Noun and Adjective clauses

Noun clauses

Any dependent clause that acts as a noun in a sentence is known as a noun clause. For example,

I don’t know who lives there.

What she said surprised me.

Here the bold part of the sentence is the noun clause. In crude terms, they are sentences with their own nouns and verbs, but independently they don’t mean much. So, they are called dependent clauses. Also, since they function as a noun, they are called as noun clauses.

In the first example, the noun clause acts as an object, whereas it acts as a subject in the second one. 

Adjective clauses

As the logic would dictate, these clauses act as an adjective in the sentence. For example,

I like the people who live near me.

The building where he lives is old.

The bold portions are adjective clauses, as in the first sentence, they describe the people, and in the second one, they represent the building.

Why are noun and adjective clauses are important on IELTS?

They are used everywhere on IELTS. For example, students come across many long sentences with similar structures in IELTS Listening and Reading section. Since they don’t know how to simplify these sentences, they simply are clueless. With a better understanding of noun and adjective clauses, they need not listen to audio or read a passage again and again.

Similarly, by mastering noun and adjective clauses, students can form complex sentences on Writing and Speaking to ensure precision.

How to improve noun and adjective clauses?

You can download the pdf notes of these clauses with theory and practice material here.

Gerunds and infinitives


Gerunds are -ing forms of the verbs that function as nouns in a sentence. They are required to communicate almost every message on the IELTS test. 

For example, 

  • Running is good for fun.
  • I love swimming.
  • We talked about going to Canada for vacation.
  • I am used to sleeping with our windows open.


An infinitive is formed using verbs, but it doesn’t work as a verb. Instead, it is created using to + verb and used as a noun, adjective or adverb. Similar to gerunds, infinitives are used everywhere in the English language.

For example,

  • He came here to study English.
  • I went to a shop to buy monthly grocery.

How to improve your gerunds and infinitives for IELTS?

You can download notes and exercises on gerunds and infinitives to improve your IELTS scores.

Coordinating conjunctions

A coordinating conjunction joins two elements of equal grammatical order and syntactic importance. They usually connect two verbs, two nouns, two adjectives, two phrases, or two independent clauses. 

Usually, people recognise the seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. However, this is not the exhausting list of coordinating conjunctions. 

For example,

  • The children ran and jumped on the new mattress their father bought.
  • The footwear made him look poorly groomed, but he was a well-mannered gentleman.
  • Not only my mother cared for her mother-in-law, but also she drove her everywhere.

Why study coordinating conjunctions for IELTS?

You must study coordinating conjunctions as they offer a variety in sentence structures. Such a variety is useful on IELTS Listening and Reading as the IELTS student can understand the message easily. Also, it is desirable in IELTS Writing and Speaking section.

How to improve coordinating conjunctions for IELTS?

Download the pdf here to study the coordinating conjunctions. These notes will help you enhance English grammar to increase your score on IELTS.

Adverbial clauses

Adverbial clauses are dependent or subordinate clauses that help define verb in a better way. In typical terms, they modify the verbs by offering more information about them.

For example,

  • When we were in New York, we saw several plays and live performances.
  • As he was sleepy, he went to bed.
  • Since Monday is a holiday in the week, we don’t have to work today.

Here clauses starting with when, as, and since define the main verb in the main clause. Hence they are adverbial clauses.

Why study adverbial clauses on IELTS?

Adverbial clauses are specifically crucial in IELTS Reading and Writing. 

In the Reading section, students often fail to understand the meaning of long sentences with adverbial clauses. They don’t realise that these clauses mainly define the verb or, in other words, actions or state of the subject. 

Similarly, in the Writing section, adverbial clauses are instrumental in adding various sentence structures with precision.

How to study adverbial clauses for IELTS?

Download the pdf notes to study adverbial clauses. The theory and exercise on English grammar shall help you to improve your IELTS scores.

Cause and effect, contrasts and conditionals

These are the remaining vital components of IELTS grammar that students may find challenging.

Cause and effect

These are commonly used sentence structures that offer a reason and its immediate effect or result. These sentences usually use conjunctions such as because, as, since etc.

For example,

  • Since it was raining heavily in Mumbai, I had to cancel my train reservations.
  • You must follow the leader, as she will help us to reach our full potential.

In both these sentences, the clause after since or as offer a reason or cause, whereas the remaining of the sentence is the effect of the reason.


Contrasting sentence structures are used to either deny something or show that both opposing things or fact could coexist. Usually, words like but, however etc. can be used to deny something, whereas still, yet, and many others are useful to present contrasting ideas.

For example,

  • It was cold in my town; still, I went swimming anyway. 
  • I went swimming despite the cold weather in my town.


Conditional sentence structures help ensure that students can show what has happened, what may happen in the future or what could have happened hypothetically.

For example,

  • If you study hard, you will crack IELTS.
  • If you had studied hard, you would have cracked IELTS.
  • If you would have studied hard, you could have cracked IELTS.

The first sentence talks about a possibility in the present, whereas the second and third sentences describe an untrue possibility. 

Why study cause and effects, contrasts and conditionals for IELTS?

These sentences help you express complex ideas in IELTS writing or speaking. Also, they are helpful in IELTS Listening and Readin since these sections have many long sentences in a similar format. 

How to study cause and effects, contrasts and conditionals?

Download the pdf notes here to study cause and effects, contrasts and conditionals. Enhance your IELTS scores by improving your English grammar.

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