Grammar Spotlight

GrammarThe English Grammar Profile (EGP) is a sister resource to the English Vocabulary Profile, and has been put together by Anne O'Keeffe (Limerick University) and Geraldine Mark, the co-authors, along with Ron Carter and Mike McCarthy, of English Grammar Today (Cambridge University Press). Mark and O'Keeffe investigated the extensive data in the Cambridge Learner Corpus to establish when learners begin to get to grips with different linguistic structures. 

A series of insights from their research will be posted on this page, each one putting the spotlight on an interesting aspect of learner grammar development. Please note that all of the learner examples come from the Cambridge Learner Corpus, a 55-million word electronic collection of written learner data. The examination and the candidate’s first language are given in brackets after each learner example.

See the latest Grammar Spotlight entry below. Scroll right down to the bottom of this page to browse through previous entries.


Once the B2 level is achieved, learners can use a range of discourse makers to open and close texts and point to conclusions, often in formal contexts.

B2 50x33   To begin with, I want to ensure that you are going to have a great time with us. (Cambridge English: First; Greek)

B2 50x33   For a start, we have lived with books for thousands of years while television is only half a century old. (Cambridge English: First; Portuguese)

B2 50x33   In conclusion, if people in zoos look after the animals, it isn’t cruel to keep an animal in a zoo. (Cambridge English: First; Catalan)

B2 50x33   To sum up, I think that whether you use a car or a bicycle depends on several aspects: where you live, when you work, the weather, and also the kind of job you do. (Cambridge English: First; Italian)

B2 50x33   In summary, I would like to say that the majority of students are willing to help with cleaning, collecting the rubbish or even giving up their cars. (Skills for Life: Level 1; Polish)

Learners at this level can competently use a range of phrases as discourse markers to summarise in formal contexts.

B2 50x33   Thus, I would be very grateful if you would send me clear explanations of the following points: firstly, I would like you to specify what “the normal price” is, and therefore what would be the cost of two nights. (Cambridge English: First; Spanish - European)

B2 50x33   Consequently, visiting zoos can help people learn about nature. (Cambridge English: First; Spanish - European)

B2 50x33   Hence, there is a great need to improve the situation of those animals so that their life does not become life imprisonment. (Cambridge English: First; Polish)

B2 50x33   Therefore, we are likely to enter the market as a pioneer, which will have a lot of benefits. (Cambridge English: Business Vantage; Chinese)

B2 level learners are also able to use a range of phrases as discourse markers to introduce a comparison.

B2 50x33   [talking about celebrating New Year] But some countries celebrate on other dates too, like they have Chinese New Year according to their calendar. Likewise, in Nepal, New Year is celebrated on the first of Baishak, which is the start of a new year according to the Nepalese calendar. (Skills for Life: Level 1; Breton)

B2 50x33   This group is expected to decrease considerably in the next fifty years. Similarly, the population of children is likely to drop to 11.5% in 2050. (IELTS; Kannada)

B2 50x33   When you read a letter from someone, you can imagine and almost feel the emotions of that someone. In the same way, when you read a book, you can feel the author’s sensations, travel to distant places or participate in adventures only possible in your imagination. (Cambridge English: First; Portuguese)

C1 level learners can use a range of phrases as discourse markers to point to other parts of a text. As mentioned above/below is found at the B2 level but mostly by German speakers. Once the C1 level is achieved, these expressions are used by a wider range of learners.

C1 50x33   As mentioned above, it might be possible to negotiate better contracts for your company. (Cambridge English: Legal; Swiss German)

C1 50x33   So as shown above, I recommend TELECARS to be our car services supplier because it offers all we need. (Cambridge English: Business Vantage; Chinese)

C1 50x33   I hope this brief note has convinced you to start this club. As mentioned earlier, I have already asked for information. (CELSH; Dutch)

So, learners are able to open and close texts, summarise points, introduce comparisons and reference specific points within a text before the C2 level is achieved. Although no significant improvements with learners’ use of discourse markers is seen at the C2 level, learners at the B2 and C1 are able to demonstrate great progress in how they use discourse markers in formal contexts, which key to learner advancement as they reach the level of mastery.

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