TOEFL Preparation: Essential Rules of Grammar


Do you dream of gaining admission to American universities or higher education institutions? Achieving a high score on the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) can make your dream a reality. TOEFL is a requirement for top universities in English-speaking countries, including the United States. Exceptional skills in English reading, listening, speaking, and writing are essential for success in this test, paving the way for enrollment in prestigious American universities.

TOEFL Grammar Rules

Mastering English grammar is essential for learning the language. Improving your understanding of grammar is crucial, especially for achieving a high score in the TOEFL. It's important to recognize that mastering grammar is a gradual process and cannot be achieved overnight. Devoting time and effort to learning grammar thoroughly is essential. We have listed some fundamental yet important grammar rules that can help you prepare for the TOEFL.

Use of Definite Article:

The use of the definite article "the" can be confusing, especially for non-native English speakers. Misusing such a basic word can be embarrassing in writing or speaking. It can be even more awkward if you find yourself unsure about when to use "the" while speaking.

Typically, you should use "the" before a word that you have already mentioned in a sentence and will mention again. For example, "I saw a beggar asking for money. It was surprising for me to see people shouting at the beggar who was looking shabby and dirty." Here, "the" is used before "beggar" when it is repeated in the sentence.

"The" is also used before nouns that are already known to the speaker and the listener. For example, "The man we saw in the market yesterday is my neighbor." Here, it is clear that the person is already known, so "the" is used before "man."

Use of Reflexive Pronouns:

Make sure to use reflexive pronouns such as myself, yourself, themselves, herself, himself, and itself correctly, especially during test preparation.

Reflexive pronouns are primarily used to emphasize the subject or to indicate that the action of a verb reflects on the subject. For example, "I went to New York to meet him." Here, 'myself' emphasizes the fact that 'I' acted.

Another example is, "You should not underestimate yourself." Here, 'yourself' is the object of the subject 'You,' indicating that the action of underestimation is directed back at the subject.

Correct use of the Verb Forms:

One of the most common mistakes made during the TOEFL test is the incorrect use of verbs in a sentence. Verbs are crucial as they indicate the action being performed. Mistakes in verb usage can lower your score, preventing you from achieving the desired high marks. Ensure you are proficient in using the correct verb forms in both speaking and writing.

For instance, consider the sentence "I have had tea." Here, 'Had' is a verb in the third form, with 'have' being the helping verb indicating the use of the Present Perfect Tense.

In contrast, "I took tea" uses 'took,' the second form of the verb 'take,' indicating an action completed in the past. Replacing 'took' with 'take' changes the meaning entirely. "I take tea" suggests a regular occurrence, while "I am taking tea" indicates a current action in progress.

Incorrect verb forms can lead to numerous mistakes, negatively impacting your score. Ensure you use the correct verb forms to avoid such errors.

Right Use of Adverbs:

An adverb provides additional information about a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Just as you use verbs correctly when speaking and writing, you should also use adverbs appropriately. For example, in the sentence "He is a very intelligent boy," 'very' modifies the adjective 'intelligent' and functions as an adverb.

Similarly, in the sentence "He read the chapter quickly," 'quickly' provides information about the verb 'read,' indicating how he read the chapter. Using adverbs correctly can improve your score in the TOEFL, as the test focuses on proper grammar usage. Practice as many questions as possible to enhance your grammar skills.

Use of Adjectives:

Adjectives are crucial elements of a sentence, and their correct usage can significantly impact your score on standardized tests like the TOEFL. Confusion in using adjectives can lead to numerous mistakes. It's important to understand how to use adjectives in the positive, comparative, and superlative degrees within a sentence.

For instance, in the sentence "I am a smart man," the word 'smart' is an adjective in the positive degree.

In the sentence "I am smarter than you," 'smarter' is the adjective in the comparative degree, and 'than' is used for comparison between two persons, places, or things.

In the sentence "I am the smartest of all people present in the meeting," 'smartest' is an adjective in the superlative degree.

Rather than memorizing rules, focus on understanding how to construct sentences correctly.

Consistency in the Sentences:

When speaking or writing, it's crucial to maintain consistency in your use of tenses. A strong grasp of sentence structures is essential for leaving a positive impression on your listeners or readers. Consistency in using different tenses within a long sentence can help convey your message effectively.

For example, consider the sentence: "I never knew that I will not be able to achieve this target." This sentence lacks consistency because "I never knew" is in the past tense, while "I will not be able to achieve this target" is in the present tense. According to grammar rules, this sentence is incorrect due to the inconsistency in tenses.

A corrected version of the sentence would be: "I never knew that I would not be able to achieve this target," where the use of "would" maintains consistency in the past tense throughout the sentence.

Avoid 'Will' or 'Shall' in Time and Conditional Clauses:

Avoid using the future tense in time or conditional clauses. The correct way to construct conditional clauses beginning with 'if,' 'when,' 'before,' 'after,' 'as soon as,' 'as long as,' and 'while' is to use the simple present tense.

For example:

'If you will not invite me, I will not come to the party.' - Incorrect

'If you do not invite me, I will not come to the party.' - Correct

'As long as I will be with you, you needn't worry.' - Incorrect

'As long as I am with you, you needn't worry.' - Correct

Use of Present Perfect Continuous Tense if Past has Connection with the Present:

People often confuse the Present Perfect Continuous Tense with the Present Continuous Tense, leading to clear mistakes in their sentences. It's important to understand when and where to use the Present Perfect Continuous Tense, which indicates an action that started in the past and is still ongoing or has just finished, and its effects are still relevant in the present. For example, "I have been preparing for the test since 2016."

Here are some other examples where the past seems to be affecting the present:

  • "The boys have been dancing since morning."

  • "Lata has been staying with me for 10 years."

  • "I have been walking for 6 hours."

Compare these with sentences that use the Present Continuous Tense, where the action is happening, but there is no indication of how long it has been going on:

  • "The boys are dancing."

  • "Lata is staying with me."

  • "I am walking."

Pause After Verbal Phrases:

You should also know when and where to pause while reading and speaking during the test. Pausing at the wrong point in a sentence can lead to uttering a meaningless or improper sentence. For example, if you say, "After eating the dogs all appeared satisfied," without pausing after "eating," it can change the meaning. You should pause after "eating" and then continue with "the dogs all appeared satisfied."

Consider these sentences:

"To make more money, you must work harder."

"Seeing the child playing all alone, I went ahead to play with him."

Be especially attentive to where you need to pause. Listening to English news and watching Hollywood movies can help you understand better when to pause while speaking a sentence.

Right Use of Prepositions:

The correct use of prepositions is essential in English. Incorrect usage not only affects the quality of writing but also impacts your TOEFL score. Prepositions such as 'to', 'for', 'into', 'down', 'off', 'on', 'towards', 'across', 'along', 'at', 'with', 'out', 'forward', 'after', and 'before' are common.

You must use these prepositions correctly. Without a good grasp of grammar, using the right prepositions in sentences can be challenging, which may hinder your success in tests like TOEFL.

Take a look at some common errors in prepositions:

'I live in Chandigarh, India.' - Correct.

'I will meet you on Monday at 7 PM.' - Correct.

Always use the correct prepositions in the writing and speaking sections of the TOEFL. Otherwise, your goal of being accepted into one of the best American universities may not be realized.

Use of Contractions While Writing:

Contractions such as 'don't', 'didn't', 'isn't', 'it's', 'you're', 'you've', 'can't', 'should've', 'would've', 'hasn't', 'haven't', etc., are common in English. However, you must be attentive to their use. Misusing these contractions can change the meaning of a sentence.

For example, writing 'Its' instead of 'It's' can alter the sentence's meaning and lead to a mistake. Similarly, using 'Your' instead of 'You're,' 'There' instead of 'Their,' or 'They're' can also result in errors. These mistakes can impact your score and reduce your chances of success in the TOEFL.

Avoid Run-On Sentences:

As per TOEFL grammar rules, avoid creating run-on sentences in your writing. Run-on sentences create a poor impression on the examiner. The writing section of the TOEFL requires you to write at length on given topics, such as essays. Making mistakes like creating run-on sentences can negatively impact your TOEFL score.

To write a correct sentence according to grammar, use a comma and conjunctions such as 'and,' 'or,' 'but,' 'since,' and 'because,' etc. Let's look at an example of a run-on sentence that has been corrected:

Run-on Sentence: "I enjoyed dancing at the party my brother cheered while I danced."

Corrected Form: "I enjoyed dancing at the party, and my brother cheered while I danced."

Another example:

Incorrect: "It took many days for me to recover from illness my mother nursed me during my sickness."

Correct: "It took many days for me to recover from illness. My mother nursed me during my sickness."

By comparing the run-on sentences with the corrected sentences, you can easily identify the mistakes.

Correct Use of Apostrophe:

When writing a sentence, it's important to use an apostrophe correctly followed by 's'. Incorrect use of an apostrophe is one of the most common mistakes in the writing sections of the TOEFL. Pay close attention to how to use an apostrophe in a sentence.

For example:

  • 'The boy's dream was to become an engineer.'

  • 'The boys' dream was to be rich in the future.'

Both of the above sentences are correct. The first one indicates the singular possessive 'boy's' dream, while the second sentence indicates the plural possessive 'boys'' dream, referring to the dream of all the boys.

Noun-Pronoun Agreement:

Pay close attention to the use of nouns and pronouns in a sentence while speaking and writing. A singular subject takes a singular noun, and a plural subject takes a plural noun with a pronoun that matches the noun or pronoun used earlier in the sentence. Incorrect usage of nouns and pronouns can result in significant mistakes in the test, which will lower your overall score.

Let us cite a few instances of the noun-pronoun agreement:

'John and Jack didn't know where they had lost their belongings.'

'Do you know where your mother kept her luggage?'

'None of the girls was ready to accept her mistake.'

Correct Use of Conjunctions:

The use of conjunctions should be appropriate in both speaking and writing. Understanding how to use conjunctions in English is crucial to avoid mistakes. Conjunctions are words that connect sentences, turning simple ones into complex ones.

For example, "I know him" is a simple sentence, but "I know him because he lives in my neighborhood" is a complex sentence made by connecting two simple sentences with the conjunction "because."

There are many conjunctions in English, such as "after," "before," "and," "since," "though," "whether," "whereas," "whenever," "whoever," etc.

Your proficiency with conjunctions will enhance your ability to speak and write English effectively and impressively.

These grammar rules are essential for improving your TOEFL exam score, one of the most challenging English tests. Your admission to top United States-based educational institutions hinges on your grammar proficiency.

With an impressive writing and speaking style and excellent English skills, you can excel in the TOEFL and gain admission to your dream university or institution.

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