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Cambridge First: The grammar you need

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

Here are some of the grammar topics that you really need to know about if you want to pass the Cambridge First exam.

1. The little words

These are words such as in, out, at, on, up, with and without. Sometimes they are classified as prepositions, sometimes they are particles but they are always important. Get these words wrong and you might fail the exam. Get them right and you might pass with flying colours.

Start paying attention to these little words, especially when they appear in phrases such as

  • interested in

  • the reasons for

  • caused by

2. The passive voice

Learn how to change your sentences from active to passive and vice versa. Adding a sentence in the passive to your writing might help you to score a better mark.

Here is an example

  • People say that (active)

  • It is said that … (passive)

3. Would have/ could have/ should have

There is often a question which requires knowledge of these forms. Here are a few examples to study

  • It must have been raining

  • I should have gone home earlier

  • You could have told me that you would be late

4. Reported speech

Remember to consider the backshift in reported speech. As a rule, the tense tends to go back in reported speech. Other changes are also necessary. Here is an example:

  • “I’m going to the shop” = direct speech

  • He told me that he was going to the shop = reported speech

5. Relative pronouns

I’m certain that you’ll need relative pronouns in the exam. They might not be the same as in your first language. Here are some important ones to learn.

  • The person who lives near me

  • The person whose brother lives near me

  • The thing which...

  • The time when...

  • The place where...

Note: Sometimes you can also use ‘that’ but I mostly prefer the ‘wh’ words.

6. Verb patterns

When two verbs are used together, there are special patterns you need to learn. Here are two of the most important patterns.

  1. Verb + infinitive = want, arrange, decide and lots of others

  2. Verb + ‘ing = enjoy, recommend, suggest, imagine, avoid, be worth and some others – make sure you learn these as lots of students make mistakes with these. Here are some sentences to help:

    • He recommended going to the cinema.

    • She suggested going to the cinema.

    • I enjoy going to the cinema.

    • I avoid going to the cinema.

    • I can’t imagine going to the cinema on my own.

    • Is it worth going to the cinema?

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Good luck with the exam!



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