Grammar & punctuation
Spelling, punctuation, and grammar – often called SPaG in schools – are crucial building blocks for children learning to speak, write, and listen. Having a good knowledge of grammar allows your child to communicate their ideas and feelings, and helps them choose the right language for any situation.
By the end of primary school, your child will be expected to understand and be able to use all the grammar and punctuation set out in the National Curriculum. Some grammar words, like fronted adverbial and blending, can seem a bit daunting, but children will learn to use these types of words automatically from their reading and speaking – the tricky part is being able to recognise them.
Your child will be informally tested on spelling, grammar, and punctuation by their teacher throughout their time at school. There is also an optional national test in Year 2, and a compulsory national test in May of Year 6.
There are a variety of simple things you can do at home to support your child’s developing grammar and punctuation skills.
How to help at home
There are plenty of simple and effective ways you can help your child with punctuation and grammar. Here are a few of our top ideas.
1. Read to your child
While children do learn about language from speaking and listening, the type of language we use in writing is often different from that in speech. Reading regularly to your child, especially books that they cannot yet read independently, is a great way of developing their vocabulary and their understanding of how language works.
2. Encourage your child to read
Making time to hear your child read isn’t just good for their reading. Through frequently seeing words in print, they will have the opportunity to see how the punctuation and grammar are used to share meaning.
When you read, occasionally look at the punctuation and talk about what it is telling the reader to do. For example, you could show your child how a question mark tells you to raise your voice at the end of the sentence to indicate a question being asked.
Explore how you can show the ‘feeling’ behind an exclamation mark. Are the characters shouting? Has something unexpected happened? Has something gone wrong?
3. Play games
Playing games can help children to learn about grammar and punctuation in an enjoyable way. Watch grammar expert Charlotte Raby’s video ‘How can I help my child with grammar, punctuation and spelling?’ to see some quick and easy games in action and explore top tips.
Video playlist: How can I help my child with SPaG?
Charlotte Raby offers her expert advice for helping your child develop their grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills at home.
What your child will learn
Follow the links to find out what your child will learn in each year at primary school.
Grammar & punctuation in Year 1 (age 5–6)
In Year 1, your child will learn to:
- Leave spaces between words
- Put words together to make sentences
- Join words and clauses using and
- Use capital letters, full stops, question marks, and exclamation marks
- Use capital letters for names and use I properly
- Turn words into plurals using -s or -es
- Adding suffixes to verbs without changing the root word, for example helping, helped, helper
- Using the prefix un- to change the meaning of verbs and adjectives, for example unkind and unclear
- Putting sentences together to write short stories or anecdotes
Grammar books for age 5-6:
Grammar & punctuation in Year 2 (age 6–7)
In Year 2, your child will learn to:
- Use capital letters for the start of a sentence and for proper nouns (names of people and places)
- Choose the right punctuation mark at the end of a sentence: a full stop, a question mark or an exclamation mark (to show emphasis, humour or strong emotion)
- Use conjunctions such as and, but and because, to join clauses. For example, ‘Stav cannot play because he has hurt his knee.’
- Spot the four types of sentences: statements, questions, exclamations and commands
- Use the present tense and past tense in the correct way
- Use the progressive (or continuous) form of a verb such as ‘he was singing’, or ‘the class were singing’
- Use the suffixes –ness or –er to turn adjectives into nouns, for example ‘kindness’ and ‘teacher’
- Write noun phrases (phrases that work like a noun), for example ‘that parcel’, ‘three cows’ or something longer such as ‘the porridge that I cooked earlier’
- Use the suffixes –ful or –less to turn nouns into adjectives, for example ‘hopeful’ or ‘helpless’
- Use the suffixes -er or -est or -ly, for example, ‘louder’, ‘hardest’ or ‘quickly’
- Use commas when writing a list, for example, ‘He bought bread, butter, jam and milk.’
- Use apostrophes to show when letters are missing, for example, I’m, don’t, she’ll
- Use apostrophes to show possession, for example ‘The girl’s voice’, ‘Ravi’s bag’.
Grammar books for age 6-7:
Grammar & punctuation in Year 3 (age 7–8)
In Year 3, your child will learn to:
- Use a and an correctly, for example ‘a rock’, ‘an ice-cream’
- Use conjunctions to talk about time, place and cause, for example, ‘I went to play football after I finished dinner’ (time), ‘I asked him to move so I could see the sign’ (cause) or ‘I went back to the chair where I left my coat’ (place)
- Use adverbs to talk about time, place and cause, for example, ‘I’ll tidy my bedroom tomorrow’ (time), ‘The man waited outside’ (place), ‘The bus broke down therefore I was late’ (cause)
- Use prepositions to talk about time, place and cause, for example, ‘We met at 2pm’ (time), ‘The school was next to the shops’ (place) or ‘We ran home because of the rain’ (cause)
- Put sentences together into paragraphs
- Use heading and subheadings in non-fiction texts
- Use the present perfect form of verbs, for example, ‘Bella has lost her keys’ or ‘I have lived in London for fifteen years’ to talk about events that started in the past and are still happening
Use inverted commas for speech, for example:
“It’s pizza for dinner,” said Dad.
“We’re going to win!” said Bill.
Grammar books for age 7-8:
Grammar & punctuation in Year 4 (age 8–9)
In Year 4, your child will learn to:
- Know the difference between the -s used to show a plural (the cows) and the –’s used to show possession (the cow’s field)
- Use an apostrophe to show possession with plural nouns, for example, ‘the girls’ voices’ (for more than one girl) rather than ‘the girl’s voices’ (for just one girl)
- Use Standard English verbs, for example, ‘I wasn’t doing anything’
- Write longer noun phrases that include adjectives (for example, green, fast), nouns (frog, train), and prepositional phrases (on the lily-pad, after this one), for example ‘the green frog on the lily-pad’ or ‘the fast train after this one’
- Use fronted adverbials to start a sentence by describing the verb, for example, ‘Suddenly, the door opened.’ Or ‘Before we set off, fasten your seatbelt.’
- Use paragraphs to organise their ideas
- Choose when to use a noun (the girl, our group, the idea) or a pronoun (she, we, it) to make their writing easy to read
- Use inverted commas to when writing speech.
Grammar books for age 8-9:
Grammar & punctuation in Year 5 (age 9–10)
In Year 5, your child will learn to:
- Create verbs by adding the suffixes -ate, –ise, -ify, for example, considerate, activate, specialise, advertise, horrify, purify
- Use relative clauses (clauses that begin who, which, where, when, whose or that) to add more information about a noun to a sentence, for example:
‘The film that I watched was terrible.’
‘Sam won the prize, which upset Tash.’
- Use modal verbs, for example, would, should, could, will, may, might, shall or must to show how likely something is to happen
- Use adverbs, for example, definitely, certainly, clearly, obviously, possibly or maybe to show how likely something is to happen
- Use different ways to make the information in a paragraph flow
- Use brackets, dashes or commas to separate out extra information in a sentence, for example:
Mount Everest (the highest mountain in the world) is in the Himalayas.
Mount Everest – the highest mountain in the world – is in the Himalayas.
Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, is in the Himalayas.
- Use commas to make sentences clearer, for example:
‘We had chocolate, cookies and jellies at the party.’
‘We had chocolate cookies and jellies at the party.’
Grammar books for age 9-10:
Grammar & punctuation in Year 6 (age 10–11)
In Year 6, your child will learn to:
- Understand and use the passive voice to change the focus of a sentence or in formal writing. In a passive sentence, the person or thing that is doing the verb is not as important as the person or thing that is having the verb done to it or them. For example:
Active voice: The dog chewed the slipper.
Passive voice: The slipper was chewed by the dog. or The slipper was chewed.
Active voice: We added sodium to the beaker.
Passive voice: Sodium was added to the beaker.
- Understand the difference between informal language, the type of language we use in everyday speech, and formal language that we might use in presentations or in some forms of writing. Your child will learn to think about the purpose and audience of their writing and choose the right level of formality. As part of their work on formal and informal language, your child will learn about:
Using the subjunctive form in formal writing, for example: ‘Were you to look at the numbers, you would see the problem.’ or ‘If you were to practise more, you would get better.’
Using question tags in informal speech, for example: ‘That’s the right answer, isn’t it?’
Using formal vocabulary, for example: inquire, recommend, assist.
- Use different techniques to link ideas across paragraphs to give their writing cohesion. To help their writing flow, your child will be taught to use cohesive devices such as:
Determiners (such as the, a/an, this, those, my, your, some, every) to explain exactly which thing is being talked about. For example: ‘some spiders are venomous’ or ‘that spider is venomous’.
Pronouns (such as he, she, it, them) to avoid repetition. For example: ‘Liz was hungry so she made a sandwich.’
Conjunctions (such as but, and, because) to link ideas together. For example: ‘I went to play football after I’d finished dinner.’ or ‘I asked him to move so I could see the sign.’
Adverbials (for example ‘later that day,’ ‘when we’ve finished’) are phrases that work like adverbs to provide more information about a verb. Fronted adverbials are particularly useful for creating links between paragraphs, for example: ‘A few days later, he decided to try again.’ or ‘On the other hand, homework helps children to progress.’
Ellipsis (missing out a word or phrase when the assumed meaning is obvious) can help text to flow. For example: ‘I wanted the red jumper, not the blue.’ rather than ‘I wanted the red jumper instead of the blue one.’
A semi-colon is used to join two sentences that are to closely linked to be separate sentences. For example: ‘I’ll be there tomorrow; that’s a promise.’
A colon can be used to join two sentences where the second idea is caused by the first. For example: ‘All the practice was worth it: the boy got full marks.’
A dash can be used to replace a colon or a full-stop – particularly in informal writing. For example: ‘I’ll be there tomorrow – that’s a promise.’ or ‘All the practice was worth it – the boy got full marks.’
- Use colons, semi-colons and commas when writing lists.
Your child will practise using a colon to introduce a list and commas to separate items, for example:
‘Choose any of the following: sandwich, crisps, juice, water, apple, grapes and cake.’
Your child will learn to use semi-colons to make longer lists easier to understand, for example:
‘The following Monday sports matches are taking place: the under-11s, under-12s and under-13s in rugby; the under-11s and under-13s in football; and the under-14s, under 15s and under-16s in hockey.’
- Use hyphens to make their meaning clear.
Hyphens can be used to make compound words, for example ‘man-eating tiger’ (rather than man eating tiger).
Hyphens can be used with prefixes, for example to show the difference between ‘re-cover’ (cover again) and ‘recover’ (get better).
- Use different ways of presenting non-fiction, for example by using headings, subheadings, captions, columns, bullet points, tables and so on.
- Practice finding antonyms (opposites) and synonyms (words with similar meanings for words) for example, shouted, called, whispered, mumbled.
Grammar books for age 10-11:
- Grammar and Punctuation Workbook: 10–11 years
- Oxford Primary Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Dictionary
- English 10 Minute Tests: 10–11+ years