Key Grammar Structures for Every Proficiency Level

Step by Step: Typical Grammar Structures for Each Level

Step by Step: Typical Grammar Structures for Each Level


10  minutes
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“When is the right time to present certain grammar?” is one of the most popular questions among English teachers. It must be as functional as possible, not too complicated, sometimes we even have to tell half the truth. Indeed, how should we explain fixed-future arrangements to A2 students during the Present Continuous presentation? The question is whether there is any guidance that can help teachers to decide how and what to present in grammar classes. 

Well, let’s talk about one of them.  

CEFR as a primary requirement provider

The conversation about the levels is impossible without mentioning CEFR classification, a set of requirements that a learner of a “foreign” language must meet to prove their ability to use the language within a certain level’s frame. Introducing such a system can’t be underestimated as it has been successfully used to

promote new approachesdevelop teaching skills, design new programs, and ease the evaluation of competence. 

The CEFR classifies linguistic competence into six levels. All of them can be further classified into three broad categories: Basic User (A1, A2), Independent User (B1, B2), and Proficient User (C1, C2), depending on the demands of the local context. “Can-do” descriptors are used to define the levels. 

Of course, these levels did not just arise in 2001 (a year CERF classification was presented) out of the air. They have been developed gradually through time and finally collected into one system which is commonly used to evaluate students’ knowledge and in short describe how complex their abilities are. 

So, talking about the specific grammar structures which you should teach at each level, we are going to refer to CERF requirements

Grammar Structures for A1


CERF Requirements

Personal PronounsThese are easy words that are a great tool for building the first phrases
Possessive Adjectives & Possessives This grammar is essential to proceed with learning to talk about ourselves and our friends (family, work, hobby, etc.)
Have got

A nice alternative before students get to know Present Simple questions.

However, you should be ready to briefly explain the difference between “Do you have?” and “Have you got?” as the first structure may be heard by the students before, therefore they might have questions.

This/That vs These/ThoseUseful to describe places and objects.
Cardinal & Ordinal NumbersEssential to name the quantity or the order.
Prepositions of time and placeIt is quite necessary to begin working with prepositions straight from the beginning. Moreover, it is something that seems to be both super common and confusing or lacking in any logic for students, so some clarity will be needed.
to be (for the present)The first grammar structure that gives an opportunity to compose the first simple sentences and questions on different topics.
Present Simple (I, you, we, they, he, she, it): affirmative sentences, questions, and negative sentences.The first tense students may use to talk about routine and habits as well as the first topic which students usually find difficult because of the difference between to be and other verbs’ sentences.
Verb + ing: like/hate/loveStudents often have to express their likes and dislikes, so CERF advises familiarizing students with these gerund phrases although students don’t know what gerund is. 
There is/There areAlthough the students often require additional explanations at this point as those who are used to literal translation to L1, it is a rather important step to take toward describing places and things. 


Nouns, Quantifiers

Students should be taught to see the difference between countable and uncountable nouns as well as choose between a/an/some/any/much/many/few/a few/little/a little
ImperativesOne of the most useful topics for basic users as it provides them with the ability to ask for something or give commands. 
I’d like/ Would you like?A useful phrase to teach students and in this way give them the ability to express their wishes.
Modal verbs (can/can’t for permission and ability)A structure that enables students to express their abilities and ask or give permission
Comparatives and SuperlativesEven at this point we often need to compare and contrast things, so explaining the rules of building comparative and superlative forms is a must.
to be (for past)The first step to unlocking the skill of talking about the past
Past SimpleGive a complex image of how to talk about past experiences correctly. 
Present ContinuousStudents get the tool of expressing what they are doing right now or around now.
Future SimpleStudents get the idea of how to talk about general future or on-the-spot decisions.
To be going toThis structure is the easiest way to give students a tool to talk about the future as soon as they learn “to be” rules. 
Present PerfectStudents learn how to talk about results/lack of results, experience, etc.
Present Perfect vs Past SimpleStudents learn to see the difference between tenses.

Grammar Structures for A2

CERF RequirementsPresent Simple vs Present Continuous Revision
Past SimpleRevision
Present Perfect vs Past SimpleRevision
Modals (have to/should, must, can)Although it is often hard for students to grasp all the peculiarities of the modal verbs’ meaning, it is another essential grammar topic that covers such needs of beginners as talking about skills, giving recommendations, describing responsibilities, etc.). 
will, may, mightStudents practice using different degrees of uncertainty.
Conditional Type 1A2 level is a good time for the first meeting with conditional sentences. 
Conditional Type 1 vs Conditional Type 2It is also recommended to compare the usage of Conditional Type 2 and Type 1.
Past Continuous (+ Past Simple Revision)At this point students are supposed to know Past Simple, so after presenting Past Continuous, you can focus on noticing the continuous aspect.
used toStudents learn to talk about their past habits.
GerundsStudents are exposed to a bigger variety of common words and phrases after which we use gerunds.
Future: to be going to vs Present Continuous for futureIt is also time for students to work on spotting the difference between general plans and intentions and fixed-future arrangements.
Passive (Present Simple and Past Simple)In addition, it is high time to make the first steps in discovering Passive voice for basic tenses.

What is guided discovery in ELT?

Find out

Grammar Structures for B1


CERF Requirements

Narrative tenses (Past Simple and Past Continuous revision, Past Perfect presentation)Students revise Past Simple and Past Continuous as well as compare their usage with Past Perfect which is new for them at this point.
Future forms (Present Continuous, to be going to, Future Simple revision)Students are ready to combine all their knowledge of future structures and try choosing between them (fixed-future arrangement, general plan, intention, on-the-spot decision, etc)
Will and going to, for predictionIt is also advised to broaden the basic meaning of will and to be going to and explain how both structures can be used for predictions.
Modals – must/can’t deductionIt is also a good idea to explain to your students that some modal verbs have different functions and can be used in more complicated contexts than those that you discussed before.
Modals – might, may, will, probablyIt is also high time for the students to learn how to express the degrees of certainty and uncertainty.
Modals – should have/might have/etcCRF also advises taking the first glimpse into past modals and learning how to use and rebuild the familiar modal structures and express past ideas using them.
Present Perfect vs Present Perfect ContinuousPresent Perfect Continuous can be presented at this point.  Students are also supposed to be able to compare it with Present Perfect which is already known to them.
Complex questions tagsStudents are also ready to broaden their knowledge of questions and learn how to use other pretty common types of questions. 
Passive voice (Present Simple and Past Simple revision + other tenses)B1 is good for starting the discussion about passive too as at this point students gradually question how to make a passive sentence. Students may not be ready to talk about all tenses, however, it is important to present the concept at least.
Gerund/Infinitive/Bare InfinitiveStudents deepen their knowledge of common English structures. 
I wish/If only/ I regretWishes and regrets are also among the topics presented for the students with especially high levels.
Conditionals Types 0–2Also, you may continue discovering conditionals and give your students a tool to describe their hypothetical situations for the present, past, and future. 
Conditionals Type 3Students are ready to discover Type 3 as soon as you make sure that they know Type 0–2.
Reported speech (range of tenses)The background knowledge of some tenses also allows us to talk about different types of speech at this point.

Why Should We Contextualize Grammar

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Grammar Structures for B2


CERF Requirements

Present TensesRevision
Relative clausesThis topic is another step in building compound sentences. Although the students are for sure partly familiar with this topic, it is important to present all the peculiarities of the topic and especially the punctuation part.
Intensifiers for adjectivesStudents learn how to express different levels of their emotions using intensifiers.

Future Tenses

(Future Perfect, Future Continuous)

It is advised to present new Future tenses at this level.
Past Tenses (Past Simple, Past Continuous and Past Perfect revision + Past Perfect Continuous presentation)Students revise Past Simple, Past Continuous, and Past Perfect as well as add the last past tense to the list.
Modal verbs & Modal structures (can’t have, needn’t have; of deduction and speculation) At this point, students are ready to deep into even more difficult usage of modals, especially past modals. 

Used to / get used to /


Students learn the difference between the usage and the meaning of the structures.
Past ModalsStudents are supposed to start working with past modals and be able to see the difference between various present and past structures. 
Conditionals: Type 0–3 Revision
Mixed conditionalsThis topic is a logical step after finishing Conditionals and moving to the Upper-Intermediate level.
Reported speechIt is also possible to continue the discussion about the reported speech as at this point students are ready to rebuild the sentences using more complex knowledge of English tenses.
PassivesThey are also ready to discuss all passive structures and practice building passive sentences of various levels of difficulty. 
Causative passiveDiscussing this topic is a natural step to take after learning the passive.

Grammar Structures for C1

CERF RequirementsInversion with negative adverbialsAt this point, your students should be ready to discuss one of the weirdest topics ever (according to the students themselves)
Modals & Past Modals (revision)It’s also time to sum up everything that your students know about modals and past modals.
Conditionals (all types + mixed)Revision
Passive VoiceRevision
Cleft Sentences and Emphasis WordsAt this point, students are ready to work with such complex structures and discover tools for emphasizing the main information 
Phrasal verbs, splittingIt is also a good idea to finally talk about phrasal verbs, especially some difficult cases.
Impersonal Reporting StructuresStudents learn how to convey what individuals say to be true or demonstrate what people commonly think. 
Reported speech & Reporting VerbsRevision

Grammar Structures for C2

According to CERF classification, students are not supposed to study new grammar as at this point students can easily comprehend almost everything they hear or read, can summarize data from several oral and written sources, reassemble arguments, and narratives into a presentation.


To sum up, as we can see, there is pretty clear guidance on how to structure your grammar course. However, it doesn’t mean that nothing can be changed. As a teacher, you are free to adapt the order of the topics in your program, and even decide to come back to some topics if you see that it is necessary. 

Everything has its time, so it’s important to follow the student’s progress carefully and fill in all the gaps which you spot according to the level requirements. 

Say goodbye to boring lessons and hello to engaged students


CERF requirements have changed a lot in teaching English.

How many levels are there?

Are these requirements compulsory?

Article authors & editors
  • Arina Kravchenko

    Arina Kravchenko


    Teacher of General English & IELTS



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