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.


 

B1 learners are described as ‘independent users’ by the CEFR and this suggests a widening structural repertoire, which is borne out by our data in this profile. For example, the future continuous is used in slightly more contexts, and in both the affirmative and negative forms (learners are using won’t but not shan’t).

B1 50x33   However, I shall be attending class the day after tomorrow and I shall cover the work I miss by copying it from John. (Preliminary English Test; Tamil)

B1 50x33   I won’t be coming because my family and I are going on a tour of London. (Preliminary English Test; Malay)

All the uses already described at A2 are exemplified in the B1 learner data, and it is apparent that learners now have a wider vocabulary range that they can use around the core structural forms. For example, B1 learners often use the present simple with as soon as when referring to the future.

B1 50x33   I'm planning to move as soon as I finish college because job opportunities in my area aren't good. (Preliminary English Test; Portuguese)

B1 50x33   I will let you know as soon as I get the exact date. (Preliminary English Test; Spanish)

B1 learners use be going to in new ways, notably when referring to the future in the past. As the examples below show, this is coupled with the production of longer and more complex sentences than is the case at A2.

B1 50x33   When we realized it was going to be an extremely hot day, we took water. (Preliminary English Test; Spanish)

B1 50x33   We were going to get married two months ago but we broke up and I really didn't know why. (Preliminary English Test; Spanish)

B1 learners can also use be going to in reported speech, as in this example.

B1 50x33   I was very worried but he called me and told me he and his family were fine and that he was going to arrive tomorrow. (Preliminary English Test; Spanish)

Another interesting B1 development is the use of would to talk about the future from a point in the past.

B1 50x33   I've just bought a new dress, and a beautiful black T-shirt. When I saw them, I thought they would be great for tonight's party. (Preliminary English Test; Spanish)

Returning to the developing use of the future continuous across CEFR levels, the EGP researchers have noticed extensive use of the interrogative form at B2, both in yes/no questions and wh- questions.

B2 50x33   Will they be holding any activities at night? (First Certificate in English; Portuguese)

B2 50x33   What will you be doing in a few years if now you don't even try to do anything? (First Certificate in English; Polish)

B2 learners can also use the future perfect simple and continuous, in both the affirmative and negative forms. The future perfect simple is used to talk about something which is expected to be completed (or not completed) by a certain point in the future.

B2 50x33   There is no problem if you want to leave at 4.30 pm as the match will have finished by that time. (First Certificate in English; Greek)

Similarly, the future perfect continuous is used to look back to the past from a certain point in the future, often emphasizing the duration of an activity or an event.

B2 50x33   I think I could have a holiday just in July because I will have been working for my company for one year by the end of the June. (First Certificate in English; Turkish)

The above examples of the future perfect simple and continuous reflect the way in which these tenses are typically introduced in B2 level course books, and yet corpus evidence shows that these are less frequent uses for first language users of English, who tend to use the future perfect as a politeness strategy in formal contexts or when assuming that something is the case, for example You’ll have seen the handout for today’s lecture.

The B2 level is also characterized by competent use of expressions that refer to the future, such as be on the point of.

B2 50x33   In addition, when I was on the point of leaving the office, another phone rang. (First Certificate in English; Greek)

B2 50x33   In fact he simulated his death to escape from the police, who were on the point of catching him for a penicillin racket. (First Certificate in English; Lao)

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