Note: First familiarise yourself with this linguistic category by having a look at the respective level desriptors in the ICAO Language Proficiency Rating Scale.

This skill (i.e. grammatical competence) addresses the accurate and appropriate use of basic and complex syntactic structures and grammatical features of the language, such as tenses and modality. Grammar and syntax are fundamental to conveying meanings and intentions. The accuracy of their use is a strong indicator of proficiency. The learning processes involved in the development of grammatical competence are

a) discovery of syntactic and grammatical rules by presentations and explanations or by induction;

b) productive use of structures in isolation;

c) productive use within context.

ICAO's "Doc 9835, Manual on the Implementation of Language Proficiency Requirements” - 2nd edition - provides in part IV a glossary of basic and complex structures, which is based on research at the Eurocontrol Institute of Air Navigation Services, Luxembourg. In the following you will find this list combined with links enabling you to study and practice relevant areas of grammar, which should help you discover, learn and produce grammatically correct utterances/ sentences.


Basic structures

•  Articles

• Adverbs of frequency

• Comparison of adjectives

• Discourse markers

Discourse markers are words, phrases or utterances that are optional, used in spoken language to organise turn-taking within a conversation. They include somewhat meaningless particles such as oh, well, you know, etc. and the connectives or, because, and, but, etc. For Level 4 you should be familiar with the following discourese markers: actually, basically, anyway, (and) yeah (more and more frequent), listen, I mean, let's see/let me see, like, oh, now, okay, so, well, you know, you see, you know what I mean, it is true, of course, but, still, (and) by the way, besides, another thing is, on top of that, so, then, first(ly), second(ly), etc., first of all, in the first/second place, finally, in the end, in short etc.

• Modal verbs / MOVIE

• Numbers - cardinal and ordinal

• Passive voice (Simple Present + Simple Past)

• Position of direct and indirect objects

Example: Bob sent some flowers to his girlfriend. vs. Bob sent his girlfriend some flowers.

• Question words (for describing people and things and for requesting information)

• Relative pronouns

• Tenses

Simple Present (also: Present Simple)

Present Progressive (also: Present Continuous)

Simple Past (also: Past Simple)

Past Progressive (also: Past Continuous)

Present Perfect (also: Present Perfect Simple)

Present Perfect Progressive (also: Present Perfect Continuous)

will-Future (also: Simple Future Tense) / MOVIE (listen and repeat)

going to - Future

• “there to be”

Examples: There is a leak in the fuselage. There were people in the plane. There will be numbers on the runway.

irregular verbs

Exercises: Quiz 1- Quiz 2 - Quiz 3 - Quiz 4


Complex structures


Extended Level 5 speakers demonstrate greater control of complex grammatical structures than do Operational Level 4 speakers and may commit global errors (which interfere with meaning) from time to time when using complex structures. The critical difference between the Level 4 and Level 5 requirements concerns the use of basic grammatical structures and sentence patterns compared to the use of complex structures. At Level 5, the structure descriptors refer to consistent control of basic structure, with errors possibly occurring when complex structures and language are used. There is actually a big jump between Level 4 and Level 5. Level 5 speakers will have a more sophisticated use of English overall, but will exhibit some errors in their use of complex language structures, but not in their basic structure patterns.

Expert Level 6 speakers do not demonstrate consistent global structural or grammatical errors (that interfere with meaning) but may exhibit some local errors (that do not interfere with meaning).


• Adjectives

Gradable and ungradable adjectives, e.g. fairly angry (gradable); totally amazed (ungradable)

Comparison of adjectives

Prepositions after adjectives, e.g. angry about; afraid of; etc.

Adjectives + that clause or to + infinitive (Adjektive + that/ to + Infinitiv), e.g. enough, sufficiently, too + adjective; the sooner the better, etc.

• Adverbs and conjunctions


Comment adverbs, e.g. apparently, frankly, rightly

Viewpoint adverbs, e.g. biologically, ideologically, morally

Adverbs of time, e.g. before, until, after, as soon as, before, when, while, hardly, no sooner, scarcely

for giving reasons e.g. seeing that, since, in as much as, due to, owing to, with so many people ill


• Clauses

Relative clauses

Relative clauses with who/which

Contact clauses

Participle clauses

Participle clauses with adverbial meaning, e.g. Opening her eyes, the baby began to cry. Formed 25 years ago next month, the aviation club.

• Conditionals Real and unreal, all tenses

• Discourse markers (in addition to the list contained in basic structures you should be familiar with the following:)

mind you; on the whole; broadly speaking; by and large; certainly; stressed“Do”; on the one hand, on the other hand; while; whereas; however; even so; nonetheless; nevertheless; all the same; although; though; even though; if; in spite of; despite; incidentally; moreover; furthermore; in addition; additionally; (and) what is more; therefore; as a result; consequently; (quite) on the contrary; to begin with; to start with; for one thing, for another thing; in conclusion; briefly...

• Infinitives and gerunds / MOVIE on passive gerunds

• Modals

will and would to show willingness, likelihood and certainty

will and would to show habits.

Modals + past participle to express criticism or regret

• Nouns

Compound nouns

Uncountable nouns with zero article e.g. good advice, new information, bad damage, quick progress, unique strength, absolute confusion, little knowledge, etc.

• Passive voice (present perfect/ past perfect/ future/ continuous forms)

• Phrasal verbs, e.g. They wanted to get the meeting over with . The programme's lack of success could be put down to poor management. Boeing came in for a lot of criticism over their new plan.

• Quantifiers: one of + plural, e.g. one of the best things; each (of) and every + singular; verb except when follows the noun or pronoun it refers to.

• Questions

Reporting questions

Negative questions

Question tags

• Reflexive pronouns: herself, himself, themselves

• one and ones, e.g. There's my car — the green one.

• so, e.g. I think so. So I hear.

• do so, e.g. She won the competition in 1997 and seems likely to do so again.

• such, e.g. Such behaviour is unacceptable in most schools.

• Reported speech, e.g. They promised that they would help him the next day. He told me it wasn't going to be ready by Friday.


• Verb tenses

Past Perfect, e.g. I had done: MOVIE

Past perfect continuous, e.g. I had been doing.

Present continuous (for the future)

The difference of Present Continuous/ Progressive and Gerunds MOVIE

Future continuous, e.g. I will be doing. MOVIE

Future perfect, e.g. I will have been doing:

The future seen from the past (also/ auch: Future-in-the-Past/ Future-perfect-in-the-Past): was going to, etc. I thought he was going to fly the next day.


The future-in-the-past and future-perfect-in-the-past express the same time relationships within the past tense groupe as the will -future and future perfect do within the present tense group.

•  We had plenty of time.

•  Our friends wouldn't arrive until eight.

•  By then we would easily have got everything ready.

(1) Past tense: the time when an action or event took place (basic tense)

(2) Future-in-the-past: anticipation of a later time, a “future as seen from the past”

(3) Future-perfect-in-the-past: “time before” in relation to this anticipated “future”


More Grammar Tests