Get Ready for B1: Grammar & Vocab Revision
Many of our students have asked us if we could include some basic grammar and vocab revision, so we’ve decided to introduce a new section: Get Ready for B1. This will cover lower-level language points that aren’t in the B1, B2 & C1 Grammar Reference. We will also look at vocabulary areas that students usually study pre-B1.
This section will be especially useful for brushing up on – revising – language that you’ll need for Part One of the Aptis Speaking Test, which is all about giving personal information. The same is true for students doing the oral test of Cambridge B1 PET, among other exams. It will also help with Parts One and Two of the Aptis Writing Test.
What’s more, as we explain in the reference section, it’s important to remember that the CEFR levels are progressive. This means that whatever level you hope to achieve in the Aptis test, you also need to know the language for the previous level. So at B1 you already need to know A1 and A2 language points and at B2 you need to know those for A1, A2 and B1. At C1 you need to know A1, A2, B1 and B2 language points, and of course at C2 you need to know them all.
So you’ll find A1 and A2 language points in both the grammar and vocabulary sections of our site under the heading ‘Get Ready for B1‘. You’ll also find the complete list in the Guide to the Posts.
We’re sure that many students will welcome the chance to get back to basics with some good old grammar and vocab revision!
So let’s start with grammar, and how to pronounce the past forms of the most basic verb of all: to be. You know the grammatical forms, but revising the pronunciation is always a good idea.
Pronunciation of the past simple of ‘to be’: was and were
PRESENT: I am / I’m, he is / he’s, she is / she’s, it is / it’s
PAST: I, he, she, it was
PRESENT: you are / you’re, we are / we’re, they are / they’re
PAST: you, we, they were
As you know, there are two forms of the past simple of the verb ‘to be’. But did you know that there are two ways to pronounce ‘was’ and two ways to pronounce ‘were’? We refer to these pronunciation forms as ‘weak’ and ‘strong’.
If you want to learn how to recognise and use phonemic transcription to help improve your pronunciation, we recommend the excellent phoneme picture chart from OUP.
WEAK FORMS: was /wəz/, were /wə/
This is the most common pronunciation of ‘was’ and ‘were’:
When were /wə/ you born?
I was /wəz/ born in 1960.
Where were /wə/ you born?
I was /wəz/ born in London.
I was /wəz/ born in Spain.
Was /wəz/ your grandfather from Taiwan?
Were /wə/ your parents born there?
STRONG FORMS: was /wɒz/, were /wɜ:/
We can use these forms to emphasise what we’re saying. For example: ‘I promise you, I was there!’
But we usually only use these strong pronunciation forms in short-form answers and in negatives:
Yes, I was /wɒz/.
No, I wasn’t /’wɒznt/.
I wasn’t /’wɒznt/ born in Spain.
Yes, they were /wɜ:/.
No, they weren’t /wɜ:nt/.
They weren’t /wɜ:nt/ born in Taiwan.
Most students tend to overuse the strong pronunciation forms. So we’re going to practise the more common weak forms here. Listen and repeat.
- When were you born?
- Where were you born?
- You weren’t born in Spain.
- Where were your grandparents from?
- Were they English?
- They were Spanish, weren’t they?
- When was your mother born?
- She wasn’t born in England.
- Was your father born in London?
- No, he wasn’t.
Look again at the past forms in sentences 1-10. Are they weak or strong? For example, were in No.1 is weak. (Answers at the bottom of the page.)
Now let’s look at some related vocabulary – and we say ‘related’ because … we’re going to revise the lexis for talking about your family. This is a topic that comes up in many exams, including Aptis.
We’ll study the basics here, and follow it up with a separate post and a mini-test.
We’re going to look at how to describe members of the family in three ways: female, male, and plural. In many latin-based languages the plural form copies the male form. For example, in Spanish brother is hermano, sister is hermana, and brothers and sisters are hermanos. This doesn’t happen in English. So if you say you have three brothers, that means they’re all male.
brothers and sisters*
uncles and aunts
great-uncles & great-aunts
nephews & nieces /’ni:sɪz/
great-nephews & great-nieces
sons and daughters-in law
brothers and sisters-in-law
*We can also say ‘siblings’, but this isn’t very common in spoken British English. We usually just refer to brothers and sisters.
a partner = a husband or wife /waɪf/ (not necessarily married). We can also say ‘spouse’ to refer to either husband or wife, but this isn’t very common in spoken English.
husband or partner + wife or partner = a couple
a widow = a woman whose partner has died
a widower = a man whose partner has died
twins = two babies born at the same time
identical twins = two identical babies born at the same time
I’m married /d/
I’m divorced /t/
I’m separated /ɪd/
Notice the three different ways to pronounce ‘ed’. To practise this, go to Pronunciation of ‘ed’ Endings.
Next steps: Get ready for B1
We hope this was useful! Lots more to come. Remember, just look for the heading ‘Get ready for B1’ for more basic grammar and vocab revision.
And in the vocabulary section we’ve started with Talking about Family.
If you want even more grammar or vocabulary practice, we recommend the excellent ‘English in Use’ series published by Cambridge. There are Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced versions.
- weak, strong