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Grammar for the First: Prepare for the basic English Grammar part of your exam

You are preparing for the First, and you have seen that there is Speaking, Listening, Writing, and Reading & Use of English, but not Grammar. And the Grammar? Needless? 

Well… as much as not needing it, no. On the one hand, you have the Use of English, a remix of everything that is not included on the other sites. On the other hand, without Grammar… you will hardly get a good grade in the different sections.

Apart from the Use of English exam, you are expected to speak fully intelligibly in Writing and Speaking. Understandably, you make mistakes, but you must be able to express complex ideas. This means checking Grammar. So let’s get to it.

Grammar Agenda that is Necessary to Study for the First

First, you are expected to know how to use the following resources:

Complete Verbal Morphology

And what is that? Well, all the verb tenses exist in English. Although it is understood that you will not use all of them fluently, you should be familiar with all of them. 

Some of the last ones learned are usually the future perfect/continuous and the present perfect continuous. If this sounds Chinese to you, check it out. The passive will also enter you, which is more than level B1.

Reported Speech

The first thing for indirect speech is already having enough flow with the verbal morphology. If you are not loose, this will be very hard for you. Also, keep in mind that you will be asked for several reporting verbs. 

For example, verbs that introduce an indirect style say. Of course, say it is very easy; by now, you have it trite. Another thing will be to 

Suggestofferrecommendwarnadvise, etc. It is no longer just knowing what these verbs mean but also what verb form follows them (is it “offer to do” or “offer to do”?).

Indirect questions (I don’t know what she’s doing) would also fall into this category. In this case, you must be especially careful with the word order change.

Modal Verbs

Ay ay ay! The modal verbs should be every teenager’s nightmare; no one uses them well. It is one of those boomerang grammar topics which always come back. 

I already know that with your level, you will already control the must for the rules. They should look for advice or the can for permissions. However, there are many more uses of modals.

The most important First is the deduction or assumption. The use of must for something we are sure of or might for information that we doubt usually falls on exams. Ex: “He is not at the office. I must be at home”.

You also have to know the perfect infinitive. This one serves, among other things, to make the past of manners. Ex: He must have arrived by now.


We should already have them all clear at this point in the film. In addition to the three classics, keep in mind these that can also enter:

  • Zero conditional:  Things that are always true (If I heat water to 100º, it boils). This can also be used in the past tense (If I was still hungry, my grandmother fried an egg). Be careful not to get involved between this and the second conditional.
  • Mixed conditionals: the first part on one side and the second on the other. This will help you, for example, if you want to talk about the effect of a hypothetical past action on the present: “If I hadn’t lived in England, my English would still be terrible”.
  • False conditional: lighter water. It is not conditional. This concept denotes an “if” statement in which no condition exists.

Apart from this, you should also know some links for non-if conditionals: unlessin casesupposing that, etc.

Gerunds vs. Infinitives

This is something that never ends in learning. Whenever you find a new verb, you must find out what structure it goes with. There are no tricks to know intuitively if it goes with an infinitive or a gerund. 

However, you should remember the following grammar rules:

  • The gerund always goes after a preposition.

Depending on its position, a verb is the subject of a sentence, and it can be a gerund or an infinitive. If it is at the beginning of the sentence, it will be a gerund; if it is at the end, it will be an infinitive. Ex: Studying whilst listening to music is not advisable; It is not advisable to study whilst listening to music.

  • Remember that several verbs allow both the gerund and the infinitive. Of these, it is convenient to remember two types, those that change their meaning and those that do not. Among the seconds are hate and love. Remember, forget, or regret are among the first.

Word Transformation

First, there is a specific exercise (Exercise 3 of Grammar in the link). You must add prefixes and suffixes from the word they give you to get one that fits the gap. 

To do this, you must be clear about the following grammar concepts:

  • An adjective modifies a noun. It must always go before one unless we have a linking verb.
  • If what you want to modify is an adjective or a verb, you need an adverb. These are usually achieved by adding -ly to the end of an adjective.
  • You must also know how to make nouns from an adjective. However, I better direct you to the vocabulary post for this aspect.

Countable vs Uncountable

This you are expected to know for the B1. I include it because you cannot be forgotten in B2. You must use it fluently and use the correct determiners at all times.


Who, which, whose, when, and so on. This is also B1 Grammar. However, you should be able to use it with ease.

Grammar errors that are typical in English exams

In addition to the grammar topics that I have written before, here is a list of the avoidable mistakes that I most often find:

  • A vs the vs –. The most common is to put them where nothing should be. Don’t use it unless you have mentioned it or there is only one. Nor are they used before abstract nouns such as freedom, generosity, art or nature.
  • The “s” of the third person singular of the present. We have been with this all our lives, but there are still a lot of errors. It’s simple: I sing, You sing, They sing.
  • Consecutive temporize: if a text’s verb tenses make sense. If you told me about your vacation last year, you can’t – or shouldn’t – start throwing in presents.
  • The order of the words. Mainly, put the subject after the verb. We already know that it is said “the monkey sings” and not “sings the monkey”. However, with other phrases, it seems that it doesn’t matter (“plays the Real Madrid with the Barça”), but it does. It is still wrong to put the verb before the subject. In the same way, the adjective always goes before the noun. 

Grammar Evaluation Criteria

All this is necessary for the exam, but how? Specifically, what is evaluated? 

There are three places where Grammar can affect your grade:

  • The first is the Use of English. It is, let’s say, the closest thing to a grammar exam. You don’t have to worry about the evaluation criteria in this part. The exercises are either multiple choice or corrected with a template. That is to say: either hit or miss. As simple as that.
  • The second is Writing. As I explain in this article, in terms of Grammar, two main aspects are taken into account in Writing: correctness and complexity. On the one hand, it is customary to assess that there are no errors. However, you must keep in mind that this is not enough. You should also try to use the B2 resources that I mentioned above. A correct and very simple text will not get you a good grade. Note that it is considered positive the First to try to use complex Grammar, even if they are not quite right. On the other hand, basic errors do more harm.
  • Finally, Grammar is also taken into account in Speaking. In a very similar way to Writing, the type of structures you use is considered. If you try to use advanced Grammar – that is, any of the things I mentioned before – it will be appreciated, even if you make a mistake. If everything you say is based on elementary Grammar, they will not value you so positively.

How to Study Grammar for the exam?

There are two different aspects that you should take into account when preparing for the exam:

  • The first is the Grammar you should know. You should study it well, do specific exercises for each topic and crush it until you notice that you control it.
  • The second is how to use Grammar in the exam. The first exam has several exercises with a particular format. Therefore, I recommend you practice doing all the exams from other years. You see where you fail. If you see that a grammar topic is choking you, look for more explanations or exercises only on that topic to try to clarify yourself.