CPE :: Lesson 14



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Use of English

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Common errors



Verb Errors - Part 4/4

This section of our course will review those errors most commonly presented in the CPE and teach you what to look for. We will not review here the basic rules of grammar, such as the formation and use of the different tenses and the passive voice, the subjective and objective cases of pronouns, the position of adjectives and adverbs, and the like. We assume that a candidate for the CPE is familiar with basic grammar, and we will concentrate on error recognition based on that knowledge.

9. Errors in verbs requiring HOW in the complement

The verbs know, teach, learn, and show require the word HOW before an infinitive in the complement.


She knows to drive.


She knows how to drive.


I will teach you to sew.


I will teach you how to sew.

10. Errors in tag endings or question tags

Check for four things in tag endings:

a. Does the ending use the same person as the sentence verb?
b. Does the ending use the same tense as the sentence verb?
c. If the sentence verb is positive, is the ending negative?
d. If the sentence verb is negative, is the ending positive?

It's nice here, isn't it?
It isn't nice here, is it?

She speaks French, doesn't she?
She doesn't speak French, does she?

They'll be here tomorrow, won't they?
They won't be here tomorrow, will they?

I'm right, aren't I?
We ought to go, shouldn't we?
Let's see, shall we?

NOTE: If there is a contraction in the sentence verb, make sure you know what the contraction stands for:


She's been there before, isn't she?


She's been there before, hasn't she?


You'd rather go yourself, hadn't you?


You'd rather go yourself, wouldn't you?

11. Errors in idiomatic verb expressions

Following are a few commonly used idiomatic verb expressions. Notice whether they are followed by a verb word, a participle, an infinitive, or a gerund. Memorize a sample of each to check yourself when choosing an answer:

a) must have (done) >> meaning "it is a logical conclusion"


They're late. They must have missed the bus.


There's no answer. They must have gone out.

b) had better (do) >> meaning "it is advisable"


It's getting cold. You had better take your coat.


He still has fever. He had better not go out yet.

c) used to (do) >> meaning "was in the habit of doing in the past"


I used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, but I stopped.


When I worked on a farm, I used to get up at 4:30 in the morning.

d) to be used to >> meaning "to be accustomed to".
to get used to / to become used to >> meaning "to become accustomed to".


The noise doesn't bother me; I'm used to studying with the radio on.


In America you'll get used to hearing only English all day long.

e) make someone do >> meaning "force someone to do"
have someone do >>meaning "cause someone to do"
let someone do >> meaning "allow someone to do"


My mother made me take my little sister with me to the movies.


The teacher had us write an essay instead of taking an exam.


The usher didn't let us come in until the intermission.

f) would rather >> meaning "would prefer"


I would rather speak to her myself


I would rather not speak to her myself.

But if the preference is for someone other than the subject to do the action, you have to use the PAST:


I would rather you spoke to her.


I would rather you didn't speak to her.

This revision will be continued in Lesson 18.


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