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.


There are no examples of learners using linguistic techniques to draw the listener’s or reader’s attention to something at the A1 level. However, once the A2 level is achieved, learners use prepositional phrases in the front position for focus.

A2 50x33   In the morning, I go to the beach. (Cambridge English: Key for Schools; Spanish - Latin American)

A2 50x33   In my country, the most popular food is Paella, which is a kind of rice with seafood, really tasty. (Skills for Life: Entry 2; Portuguese)

A2 50x33   From your house, take the first turning on your left after the roundabout. (Cambridge English: Key; French)

Once the B1 level is achieved, learners use adverbs in the front position for focus.

B1 50x33   That’s my diary, the dearest thing I had. Here, I wrote how I felt, what I did, who I met and all my problems. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Italian)

B1 50x33   Quickly I opened the envelope, took out a white piece of paper and started to read. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; German)

B1 50x33   Suddenly, the door opened. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Portuguese)

B1 50x33   Outside, it wasn’t a sunny day any longer. It was raining a lot. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Portuguese)

B1 level learners are also able to use the pattern it + be + adjective + that-clause for focus.

B1 50x33   It’s great that you have got a new job! (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Spanish - European)

B1 50x33   It’s important that you are happy. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; German)

B1 50x33   It is really sad that you have to move to a different area. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Czech)

By B2 level, learners can use the thing / fact / point / problem / reason + is (that) for focus.

B2 50x33   The thing is, Alison is an eleven-year-old girl who has been, together with her father, left behind by her mother when she was just three. (Cambridge English: First; Portuguese)

B2 50x33   The fact is that not all animals are able to deal with this. (Cambridge English: First; Danish)

B2 50x33   The problem is I know myself. I am always late when I have to leave my house so I need a car to go faster. (Cambridge English: First; Arabic - Gulf)

B2 level learners can also use the more complex pattern the reason (that) / the place (which) + clause as subject + be for focus.

B2 50x33   The reason that I never continued taking lessons is that my schoolwork became too heavy and the costs of lessons were too expensive for me as a student. (Cambridge English: First; Swedish)

B2 50x33   The reason I like children is I have experience of looking after disabled people and I like to do things like volunteering. (Cambridge English: First; Japanese)

B2 50x33   The place which has impressed me most of all in my life is Abastumani. (Cambridge English: First; Russian)

B2 50x33   The place you need is called “Academiuta”. (Cambridge English: First; Italian)

So, between the A2 and B2 levels, learners move from using prepositional phrases and adverbs to using complex patterns in an effort to provide focus to their writing. Learners continue to develop their use of key patterns to provide focus as they move on to the C1 and C2 levels.

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