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November 03, 2018


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Some languages do not use a verb in certain sentences: for instance, Russian rarely uses the verb 'to be' in the present tense. Chinese languages seem to have adjectives that act as verbs. It pays to be aware of how your own language differs from English.

There are other areas like this. Many languages do not use articles, and some languages do not normally use personal pronouns as the subject of the verb.

thanks, #Oleg your recommended blog may really be helpful.

I was reading a news on BBC and I found something like " A team armed with a tranquilizer gun and a fireman was stationed in a vehicle on a road..."
Why "was" I suppose It would be "were".


In your example the verb has been influenced by the singular "a fireman": it is, I suppose, "native speaker error", although if the BBC can do it, I am not sure what an examiner would think.

The other issue is whether "team" takes a singular or plural verb. As the graph shows, both are possible, with the singular being more common, particularly in the US.


Hello Simon,

ı will take the GT Ielts and I need to achieve band 7 in writing. Unfortunately, my highest writing score was 6. I am studying from your website now sometimes I have had a hard time to analyse the question. I generally go off-topic and I realize it after reading your or examiners' sample essay on the same rubric.

How can I solve this problem ? how can improve
this ability ?


I guessed that here " a team" is the subject which includes a fireman and a tranquilizer. so the verb must be singular form.


In speaking test, can I give an answer as 'yes and No and then explaining both sides'?

Dear Simon

That any sentence must have a verb, and the verb must agree with the subject, is the easiest part. When it comes to Subject-Compliment Agreement, however, it can sometimes become quite confusing as it is in the following sentence; if young people start earning money after school, they will be able to afford their own house or start a family.

Obviousely, they don’t wish to buy one big house, so they all can live together and start a large family! The meaning is clear but not the grammar.

I have search the Internet, but it seems that there is no clear rule or explaination for this ‘problem’. As a result, the only choice I have is to create a list and put any exceptions I find in it.

I know that if IELTS takers make such a grammar mistake, they still have the chance to receive 7. The problem, though, is that I need 8. So, it is important for me to try minimize the errors I make.

I would appreciate your help in finding a way better than creating a list.


-> If a young person starts earning money after school, they will be able to afford their own house or start a family.

The 2017 edition of The AP Stylebook states:

“They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and/or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy.”
For example, to avoid the specificity of an individual’s gender, this use of their is acceptable: “The employee believed their position was in jeopardy.”

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