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Grammar & punctuation in Year 5 (age 9–10)


In Year 5, your child will use many key features of grammar and punctuation in their writing, as well as being able to use all the grammar and punctuation they learnt in earlier in school.

Read on to discover the National Curriculum expectations for grammar and punctuation in Year 5, and to find out how you can support your child at home.


What your child will learn

Take a look at the National Curriculum expectations for grammar and punctuation in Year 5 (age 9–10):

Converting nouns or adjectives into verbs using suffixes like -ate, -ise, -ify

Nouns are often called ‘naming words’. We often talk about nouns being the words that are used to name people, places and things. For example, ‘cat’, ‘Scotland’, and ‘hope’ are all nouns.

Adjectives are often called ‘describing words’. At their simplest level, adjectives are the words that are used to that are used to describe a noun, giving more information or further details. For example, ‘yellow’ and ‘happy’ are adjectives.

Verbs are the words that let things happen. They might convey an action, an occurrence or a state of being. They’re often referred to as ‘doing words’, but words such as ‘be’, ‘was’, and ‘is’ are verbs too, as they describe states of being.

Suffixes are groups of letters that can be added to the end of a word to alter the meaning. Here, the suffixes are used to change a noun or an adjective into a noun. For example, ‘calculation’ might change to ‘calculate’, ‘advert’ might change to ‘advertise’ or ‘simple’ might change to ‘simplify’. Each of the words is now a noun.

Using relative clauses starting with who, which, where, when, whose, that

A relative clause is a type of clause that changes or adds more information about a noun or another clause. It often does this by using a relative pronoun such as who, which, where, when, whose, or that:

‘That’s the girl who lives near the park.’


‘The film that I watched was terrible.’


‘Sam won the prize, which upset Katie.’

These relative clauses add additional information or tell you more about the noun or first clause.

Often children will write sentences containing relative clauses without thinking about what they are doing. As a parent, the most important thing to do is to encourage your child to think about what they are writing, whether it makes sense, and whether it conveys their meaning. In Year 5, your child will learn the terminology ‘relative clause’ at school.

Showing degrees of possibility using adverbs or modal verbs

Your child will be taught to indicate degrees of possibility by using adverbs or modal verbs. While this sounds complicated, thankfully the grammar knowledge needed isn’t too tricky, and many children will do this automatically. The main difficulty as a parent lies in knowing what the different terms mean.

‘Degrees of possibility’ just means how likely something is to happen. Different words can be used to explain the likelihood of something occurring.

Adverbs are words that describe or give more detail about a verb (for example, ‘happily’ or ‘slowly’). An adverb might express time (for example, ‘I’ll tidy by bedroom tomorrow’), place (for example, ‘the man waited outside’) or cause (for example, ‘Josh crept silently across the floor’).

Modal verbs are used to change the meaning of other verbs. They can express meanings such as certainty or whether something has to be done or not. The main modal verbs are will, would, can, could, may, might, shall, should, must, and ought.

Your child will be taught to pay attention to the adverbs and modal verbs they use to make sure they communicate clearly. For example, a parent saying ‘you must clean your room’ is different to parent saying ‘you could clean your room’. In these two sentences a different modal verb is used, changing the meaning of the sentence. The same is true of changing the adverb: for example, ‘the match was really exciting’ compared with ‘the match was quite exciting’.

Using words and phrases to build cohesion within a paragraph

Your child will use words and phrases to build cohesion within a paragraph. Thankfully, the grammar knowledge required isn’t too tricky and many children will do this naturally when they write. The main difficulty as a parent lies in knowing what the different terms mean.

A text has cohesion if it is clear how the meanings of its parts fit together. A cohesive text will make sense and is easy for the reader to follow. To help their writing flow, your child will be taught to use cohesive devices. Cohesive devices are words used to show how the different parts of a text fit together. In other words, they create cohesion. Some examples of cohesive devices are:

    • Determiners indicate if a noun is known or unknown, and they help us show which particular thing we are talking about. Some examples of determiners are: the, a/an, this, those, my, your, some, and every. Choosing the right determiner helps us to show exactly what we mean: ‘some spiders are venomous’ is very different to ‘that spider is venomous’, especially if the spider happens to be in your bathroom.
    • Pronouns are used in place of a noun that has already been mentioned. They avoid unnecessary repetition. For example, ‘Liz was hungry so she made a sandwich’.
    • Conjunctions are words that link two words or phrases together, such as but, and, or because. A conjunction might be used to express time (for example, ‘I went to play football after I’d finished dinner’) or cause (‘I asked him to move so I could see the sign’).
    • Adverbs are words that describe or give more detail about a verb (for example, ‘kindly’). An adverb might express time (for example, ‘I’ll do my homework later’), place (‘the car pulled up outside’), or cause (‘Lucy walked quickly to her seat’).
    • Adverbials are words or phrases used, like adverbs, to describe or add more information to a verb or clause. Adverbs are often used as adverbials, (for example, ‘he walked slowly’) but many other types of words and phrases can be used this way, including preposition phrases (‘the day after tomorrow’) and subordinate clauses (‘when we’ve finished’).
    • Ellipsis is where a word or phrase can be left out because is expected and predictable. We might write ‘I wanted the red jumper, not the blue one’ rather than ‘I wanted the red jumper, because I did not want the blue one’. Some of the words are left out without changing the meaning of sentence.

Your child will think about all of these things in their writing with the aim of making their work as clear as possible. As a parent, the most important thing to do is to encourage your child to think about what they are writing, whether it makes sense, and whether it conveys their meaning. Your child will learn the terminology listed above at school.

Linking ideas across paragraphs using adverbials of time, place, and number, or tense choices

An adverbial is a word or phrase that is used, like an adverb, to describe or add more information to a verb or clause:

    • An adverbial of time shows when something happened (for example, ‘later that day’ or ‘suddenly’).
    • An adverbial of place shows where something happened (for example, ‘at the farm’ or ‘across the city’).
    • An adverbial of number gives the order in which things happened (for example, ‘firstly’ or ‘next’).

Tense refers to whether the action is happening in the past, present or future.

Your child will learn to use these features to link the paragraphs they write together, making their writing easy for the reader to follow. In a story, they might start a new paragraph with ‘later that day,’ to show that time has moved on in the story, or ‘across the city’ to show that the action has moved to another scene.

When writing instructions, words like ‘firstly’ and ‘finally’ can be used to help the reader follow them in the right order. Your child might also want to make use of changing the tense in different paragraphs (for example, telling a story in the present tense, but having a flashback that is told in the past tense).

Using brackets, dashes, or commas to indicate parenthesis

A parenthesis is a new idea or thought inserted into a sentence that would make sense without it.

This might be done using brackets:

Mount Everest (the highest mountain in the world) is part of the Himalayas.

A pair of dashes:

Mount Everest – the highest mountain in the world – is part of the Himalayas.

Or commas:

Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, is part of the Himalayas.

Your child will use these different ways of inserting a new idea into their writing.

Using commas to clarify meaning

You child will learn to use commas to mark different parts of sentences and separate some clauses within a sentence. The focus will be on making their writing easy to understand and avoiding ambiguity, where there might be more than one meaning in what they have written.

For example, ‘I’m going to start cooking, Mummy’ is a child telling his mother he is about to cook. ‘I’m going to start cooking Mummy’ tells a different story about the ingredients the child has chosen.

How to help at home

There are lots of ways you can help your Year 4 child with grammar and punctuation. Here are our top ideas.


1. Read to your child

Although your child will probably be able to read independently now, reading aloud to your child is still very important for their education, especially with books they can’t yet read on their own.

Listening to a story develops reading skills, builds vocabulary and broadens general knowledge. It also helps to support your child’s writing skills and understanding of grammar and punctuation. While children will learn about how language works from speaking and listening, the type of language we use in writing is often different from that in speech, so listening to text can model different patterns of language.

When you are reading together, look at how authors use different sentence types for effect:

    • Simple sentences containing one clause (for example, ‘Sam picked up the spoon.’).
    • Short commands (for example, ‘Give me the spoon, Sam!’).
    • Compound sentences (for example, ‘Sam picked up the spoon and she ran away excitedly.’).
    • Sentences with a subordinate clause (for example, ‘With great excitement, Sam picked up the spoon.’).

Talk about different types of punctuation as well, such as question marks, exclamation marks, commas, and so on. Can your child identify ellipses? See how these are used to ramp up tension or to get the reader thinking.

You can find lots of free reads for your child on the Oxford Owl eBook library.


2. Encourage reading

Making time to hear your child read, even when they can read independently, can be really valuable. By 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. Give your child opportunities to write

Writing at home can be a great way of practising writing, including using grammar and punctuation to create particular effects. Here are some ideas to encourage regular writing:

    • Create a story about a space adventurer with strange planetary systems to explore. Every week or month, your child could write about a new chapter about a different planet. Before long, the chapters will have built into a book they can be really proud of.
    • Write an A-to-Z. It could be based on anything your child is interested in  animals, space, dinosaurs, fairies, even their favourite TV programme. A page for each letter of the alphabet gives you 26 short pieces of writing spread over the year that build into one big project.
    • Produce a version of a book for a younger child. For example, they could write The Rhino Who Came to Tea or The Very Hungry Angler Fish. Books with a distinctive format such as The Day the Crayons Quit or The Last Polar Bears are perfect for this.
    • Write the book of a film or TV programme. If children have watched something they’ve really enjoyed, they could try and tell the same story in writing. Watching the story on screen can give them a useful frame to hang their own writing on.
    • While writing using a pen and pencil is useful practice, writing on the computer counts too. You might want to turn the spelling and grammar check off to help children to learn to confidently use their own knowledge. The grammar check can be wrong, too, so this can be confusing for children.


4. Help your child learn key grammatical ideas

Activity sheets and books can help your child get to grips with particular points of grammar and punctuation. Take a look at our grammar activity books for some practical ideas.


5. Play games

Playing games can help children to learn about grammar and punctuation in an enjoyable way. Watch grammar expert Charlotte Raby’s ‘How can I help my child with grammar, punctuation and spelling?’ video playlist to see some quick and easy games in action:

Charlotte Raby offers her expert advice for helping your child develop their grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills at home.