Written Nov. 5, 2008

How To Speak in Part 2 (Page 9)

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Grammar in Part 2

There are six main grammar points that are especially important in Part 2: 

  1. Verb tense or verb form
  1. The first, complex sentence
  1. Being consistent when using, "he", "him", "his", "she" and, "her".
  1. Reported Speech  (间接引语)
  1. Perfect Modals (情态动词完成式)
  1. Looking for opportunities to show conditional sentences (条件句)


  1. Verb tense or verb form

The most common verb tenses that are written in the four points on the task card are, a) the past tense, b) the present tense (e.g., talking about your habits), c) the future tense and d) the 'would' form of verb (which is not called a tense). You should be very strict with yourself and address the points on the card using the same verb tense (or verb form) as is written on the card.

The Past Tense

Here are two important points to remember about using the past tense: 

a) Whenever you use the past tense, the listener or the reader must know when the action took place. (The first time you use the past tense in a story can also be the time when you say when it happened.) You should not use the past tense if the listener or reader does not already know or is not also told 'when' as you use the past tense. This 'when' does not always need to be very specific. For example, you can just say, "One day, I met a man who had no shoes"; "Many years ago, I went on a trip to Shanghai"; or, "When I was much younger, I wanted to be a famous movie star" etc. 

The task card does not always tell you to say 'when'. If the card doesn't tell you to say when, you must include this yourself, without being told.

b) Many candidates correctly use the past tense to answer the 4 points written on the card but when they talk about other points that are not written on the card, they forget to use the past tense. Remember this: Almost every verb you use when answering a past tense Part 2 will be in the past tense or past perfect tense (过去完成式). Of course, this is not 100% true but it's a good hint to remember. For example, you might want to say something that is a general truth, which requires you to use the Present Simple Tense, such as, "... and I like maths teachers who always write clear examples on the blackboard." 

The Present Tense

Avoid saying "will" when answering a present tense question. It is sometimes used but usually with the word, "if" or when the meaning of "if" is implied in what you are saying. The best idea is to just avoid using "will" when answering a present tense question or when speaking in general, unless you do use "if" in the same sentence. 

For example, "If I've finished my homework, I'll usually play a computer game before I go to bed." is an acceptable sentence, which can also be spoken as, "If I've finished my homework, I usually play a computer game before I go to bed." However, simply saying, "I'll play a play a computer game before I go to bed" sounds unnatural to many examiners. 

On the other hand, if you include the word, "sometimes" it implies there there is some condition (条件 = some or one, "if" situation), which makes this sentence also acceptable, "Sometimes I'll play a computer game before I go to bed.

The 'Would' form of Verb

This is usually used when talking about something that is hypothetical (假设的话). People who are less than Band 6.0 often make mistakes with this verb form because they don't really understand it. The examiner might give you a task card with this verb form included in some (or all) of the points because the he or she thinks that maybe you are be a Band 6.0 or above and how correctly you answer this Part 2 will give the examiner a more accurate idea of your real level.

I have already written about how to use 'would' in several different places on this website. (One day I will write some exercises and a full explanation of this word.) You can read about 'would' on this page, this page, at several places on this page, and on this page. The topics that include (or included in the past) the word 'would' are: 5, 96, 102, 112, 115, 120, 154 and 172. Read any notes that go with those topics.

The main mistakes that people make are:

  1. Saying "will" instead of "would"
  2. Saying "want to" when "would like" is more suitable 
  3. Saying "can" and "must" when speaking hypothetically instead of correctly saying "could" (= would be able to) or "would have to". For example: "If I had a lot of money, I would buy a house near the beach. Then I can go swimming every day." That should be, "Then I could go swimming every day."
  1. The first, complex sentence

        See here.   

In addition to this first sentence, you should, of course, try to show several other examples of  complex sentences in Part 2.      

  1. Being consistent when using, "he", "him", "his", "she" and, "her"

Some people at around the Band 5.0 level, when speaking about a female in Part 2 sometimes use, "him", "he" or "his". This is quite a serious mistake because the listener (the examiner) can become very confused about what you are saying, that is, communication is broken

  1. Reported Speech  (Side by Side Book 4, Chapter 8)

If possible, try to find opportunities in your Part 2 story to show the examiner that you know how to do the grammar of 'reported speech'. This will score a few points for you. And remember, this grammar is not just used to report what someone said but is also used to report (=express) what someone or you thought or felt. For example, "I wrote to him because I thought he would be pleased to hear that I had found such a good job." (At the time you wrote to him, you said to yourself, "I think he will be pleased to hear that I have found such a good job.")

  1. Perfect Modals  (Side by Side Book 4, Chapter 2)

The 'perfect modals' are "should have", "might have" = "may have", "could have" and "must have". If you can find ways to display your knowledge of this more advanced grammar, you will get more points for grammar. For example, "It was quite dangerous being lost in that snowstorm. In fact, I could have frozen to death."

  1. Looking for opportunities to show conditional sentences  (Side by Side Book 4 Chapters 5-7)

This grammar is especially useful when finishing your Part 2 story (see here) but you might also be able to find other places to use it in your story.

Some of the suggestions on this page are really only applicable to candidates who are at or near the Band 6.5 level, (or above that level.) The point is, Part 2 allows you to show the best grammar you know because you have a lot of freedom to choose what to say in this part of the test. If you really know the more difficult grammar and can make these sentences quickly with just a few or no errors, Part 2 is a good opportunity to get extra points for your grammar sub-score.


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