First Certificate Composition Problems

Look at these corrected errors from compositions. You can see my comments about the words in blue by moving your mouse over the numbers in brackets [1]


First Certificate Gold:

Unit 1 (Informal letter about a holiday)

Unit 2 (Transactional letter applying for a job)

Unit 3 (Article about keeping pets)

We enjoyed ourselves [1] a lot.

….. after getting [2] back from my holiday

….. to tell [3] you about my holiday

It was the best that I’ve had[4]  in my life!

This summer [5] I planned to go to Prague this summer.

My friend and I [6] had booked hotels ……

The travel agency gave us back[7]  all the money.

From the moment[8]  we landed at JFK airport

You’d do better to go on foot[9] .

I went to San Francisco with my friends[10] .

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.[11] 

We enjoyed our holiday a lot[12] .

on [13] the beach ….

I hope we’ll see each other[14]  soon.



…my delay in replying [16] to you….

I had left [17] my address book in Barcelona!

I’ve been[18]  very busy recently.

He lives on [19] the island.

The beaches there [20] are amazing!

It was great fun[21] !

In the end I calmed down[22] .

I hope  [23] you had a good holiday.

….. to tell [24] you about my holiday

I decide to[25]  write this letter.

…a lot of lovely places like [26] Hyde Park, the British Museum,…..

We enjoyed our holiday a lot[27] .

I will not be able to[28]  start work until then.

I would like to know if the job would involve going out[29]  with the group at [30] night.

I am writing to [31] you ……

….how many hours a [32] day I would be working.

I could probably [33] resolve it.

 I can only [34] come to an interview in the evenings.

I would also [35] like to know …..

At present[36]  I am working in a bookshop.

Nowadays[37] , people watch television more than they read books.

Last year I worked [38] with a family for six months to improve my English.

The worst thing[39]  was the food, which always smelt and tasted the same.

It is a long time since ….. v. It has been[40]  a long time since …..

…a long time since I last wrote [41] to you.

I haven’t written[42]  to you for a long time.

.. they don’t want their pet any longer[43] .

It’s a little bit bigger and older[44] .

Seeing [45] the smile on your child’s face is very rewarding.

Having an [46] animal as a member of the family …..

Man’s [47] best friend is the dog.

Are people aware of [48] the responsibilities a pet brings?

You can never [49] leave them alone.

Dogs are especially important for the blind[50] .

The seasons when [51] pets are most often abandoned are …..

They wouldn’t do this ever again[52] .

For centuries[53]  people and dogs have lived together …

However[54] , living [55] with an animal brings responsibilities…

Are you ready to look after it throughout [56] its life?

At first a pet is a novelty[57] , but …..

The problems begin later[58] , when …..

…. look after it for such a long time[59] .

If you don’t like pets, don’t buy one[60] !

Don’t [61] you agree?

If [62] you have a small flat it might [63] be better to have a cat or a budgerigar.




 [1]enjoy’ must have a direct object.

 [2]You must use a gerund after a preposition

 [3]explain’ is when someone else cannot understand something. ‘tell’ is when they don’t have the information

 [4]present perfect when you are talking about the past up to now

 [5]Time phrases can go at the beginning or the end of the sentence

 [6]‘I’ is the subject of the verb so you can’t use ‘me’

 [7]give back’ means the same as ‘return’ and is what English people use here

 [8]‘Since’ refers to a period continuing up to now. If the period has already finished then use ‘From the moment’

 [9]go on foot’ or ‘walk’ but not ‘go walking’, which is a hobby rather than a way of travelling

 [10]to San Francisco’ mustn’t be separated from the verb ‘went to’

 [11]This is THE phrase to use

 [12]This is where ‘a lot’ goes. That is after the complement of the verb not between the verb and its complement

 [13]The preposition of place for ‘beach is ‘on’ not ‘in’

 [14]not reflexive, but mutual

 [15]hyphenation is not done when writing by hand

 [16]use a gerund after a preposition

 [17]Strictly speaking it is either ‘I left x in Barcelona’ or ‘I forgot to bring/take x’

 [18]Present perfect with recently

 [19]on’ is the correct proposition of place with ‘island’

 [20]in there’ is wrong here. When there refers to a specific place it doesn’t have a preposition

 [21]If you enjoyed it, it was ‘fun’, if you laughed as you do with a joke it was ‘funny’

 [22]Instead of using a reflexive verb, we often use a phrasal verb in English

 [23]hope’ means that you want it to be true. ‘expect’ means you think it is true, but you don’t say how you feel about it

 [24]explain’ is when the problem is to understand something. ‘tell’ is when they don’t have know

 [25]Decide is followed by the infinitive with ‘to’ like most verbs about plans and decisions

 [26]when you give examples informally ‘like’ is the perfect way to start the list

 [27]This is where ‘a lot’ goes - after the complement of the verb not between the verb and its complement

 [28]can’ only has two tenses, so you must use ‘able to’ if you want to use other tenses

 [29]verbs will always be in the gerund when they are the direct object of another verb

 [30]c.f. in the morning/afternoon/evening, during the day

 [31]In British English, at least, you write ‘to’ people and institutions

 [32]you can also use ‘per’ here, but it is much more formal and more suitable for a report, for example

 [33]this is the position for ‘probably’-  after the first part of a complex verb form

 [34]this is where ‘only’ goes in the sentence - after the first part of a complex verb form

 [35]this is where ‘also’ goes in the sentence - after the first part of a complex verb form

 [36]‘At present’ suggests that it is true at the time of speaking but is not a permanent situation

 [37]‘Nowadays’ is perfect for comparing the times we live in and other eras

 [38]we use the simple past to refer to ‘habits in the past’ in English

 [39]You must include a word like ‘thing’ here as ‘The worst’ needs a noun after it

 [40]50% of the examples I found used one form and 50% the other

 [41]the simple past refers to a single action in the past at a time mentioned

 [42]This is the normal way to say this. The present perfect refers to the time up to now

 [43]Remember we use ‘long’ when talking about time: “How long did it take?”

 [44]don’t use ‘more’ here. Also notice “She is more intelligent and prettier then..”

 [45]At the beginning of a sentence it is more likely to be the gerund, as it is the ‘noun’

 [46]Only use ‘one’ when you don’t mean ‘two’ or more

 [47]My brother’s girlfriend’s dog is an Alsatian.

 [48]to be aware of’ means to know about, particularly when there are problems

 [49]This is where (frequency) adverbs go – after the first part of complex verbs, but after simple tenses of the verb ‘to be’

 [50]Adjectives cannot be put in the plural to refer to the group. We use ‘the’ + adj

 [51]relative pronoun for time

 [52]ever’ just adds emphasis – it can’t be ‘never’ as the verb is negative

 [53]a good way to start a sentence like this

 [54]This shows a contrast with the previous sentence

 [55]the ‘noun’ form

 [56]= ‘during all’

 [57]something new and exciting is ‘ a novelty’

 [58]Not ‘after’, which is a preposition as in “After supper they…..”

 [59]we use ‘long’ and to talk about time, and ‘such’ is needed when there is a noun after the adjective. Otherwise it could be ‘for so long’

 [60]one’ is the pronoun for ‘a pet’, ‘it’ can only be used for a specific pet

 [61]agree’ is a verb not an adjective, so you use ‘do’ and ‘don’t’

 [62]‘In case’ can only be used to talk about precautions.

 [63]might’ is good for giving more general advice rather than suggesting something. “You could get a cat!”

©Chris Fry December, 1999 - November, 2002     Contact:    Last updated: 23 November, 2002 17:43 CET