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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

Proofreading, one of the six questions in Section C, is difficult for candidates who are weak
in grammar and usage. They find it difficult because of the following reasons:

(i) Unable to analyze the syntax of sentences;

(ii) Unable to locate and identify the errors;
(iii) Unable to apply their logic to help them understand the meaning of the sentence, and
(iv) Their inadequate knowledge of English grammar & usage.

The question items in proofreading can be categorized into the following 4 levels:

Four Levels of Questions

1. Elementary, e.g. on Saturday, in the morning; use of articles
2. Intermediate, e.g. passive voice, tenses, prepositions, phrasal verbs, part of speech,
subject verb agreement, etc.
3. Advanced, e.g. participles, verb forms, relative clauses, participle clauses, verb forms in
conditional sentences, subjunctive mood, causative, independent clause as the subject.
4. Other tricky questions

SUMMARY OF SKILLS — Proofreading

1. Read the whole sentence.

2. Analyze the syntactic structure of each sentence, e.g. subject, verb, verb-to-be,
complement, participle clause / phrase, object, etc.

3. Locate & identify the errors.

4. Do not correct those pseudo-errors, e.g. styles of writing: changing ‘a’ into ‘the’,
changing the singular noun into the plural form, changing another word which carries the
same meaning. These are not dead errors that can make the sentence ungrammatical.

5. Look for big & dead errors, e.g. verb form, tense, subject verb agreement, finite & non-
finite (gerund, infinitive & participle), complement, independent clause as the subject,
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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

Frequent Grammar Items in UE Proofreading

1. verb forms, e.g. pp form after ‘have / has / had’, ing form after verb-to-be, etc.
2. Transitive & Intransitive verbs
3. passive & active voice (main verb not in p.p. form, missing of auxiliary verb ‘be’,
missing of preposition ‘by’ – agent)
4. missing of verb-to-be before the subject complement
5. participles, participle clause
6. Subordinate clause without finite verbs (e.g. When entering the room, before entering…)
7. conditional sentence verb forms (e.g. use of modal verbs, verb forms)
8. Phrasal Verbs
9. preposition + verb (gerund), e.g. 97UE No. 79

1. Plural noun referring to something general
2. Number in a noun, e.g. one of the resource(s), either (singular noun) or (sing. Noun)
3. Noun functioning as an adjective (hotel safe: 1997UE No. 94)

Sentence Structures:
1. Sentence structures (subject, verb, clauses, direct object & indirect object) parallel
structure (consistency of verb forms / tense)
2. Phrases & Clauses (Prepositional Phrase, Noun Clause, Relative Clause, Subordinate
Clause, etc.)

Part of Speech:
1. Part of speech, e.g. noun  adjective; wrong word, e.g. destruct (correct one: destroy),
comparative & superlative adjectives

1. Preposition (either missing / wrong use)

1. Pronouns (relative pronoun, reflexive pronoun, possessive pronoun, etc.)

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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

Special Expressions
e.g. used to, be used to

Quick Revision of Grammar Items

Item 1 — Sentence Structures

Basic Sentence Structures Remarks

1. Subject + Verb (transitive) + Object [SVO] * SVO can be written in
passive voice
e.g. He has drunk a bottle of wine. (Active voice)
e.g. A bottle of wine has been drunk by him. (Passive voice) * Passive Voice verb form:
BE + verb (past participle)

2. Subject + Verb (intransitive) [SV] * SV cannot be written in

passive voice
e.g. He swam alone. (Subject + v.i. + adverb)
* The verb in SV is not a verb-
to-be, e.g. is, am, are, etc.
3. Subject + Verb-to-be + Complement [SVC] *Complement: Noun / Noun
group, Adjective, or
e.g. Agnes Chan is a tutor. (Noun) Prepositional Phrase
e.g. Agnes Chan is an English tutor. (Noun group)
e.g. Agnes Chan is diligent. (Adjective)
e.g. Agnes Chan is in her room. (Prepositional Phrase)

Sentence Types Conjunctions / Connectives?

1. Simple Sentence (Subject + 1 finite verb) NIL

e.g. Agnes Chan (Subj.) is (finite verb)an English tutor.

e.g. Agnes Chan (Subj.) studies (v.i.) at City University
of HK.
e.g. Agnes Chan (Subj.) majors (v.t.) English (object).

2. Compound Sentence (SV + SV) And, or, nor, for, but, so, yet 
joining individual words, phrases
e.g. Agnes Chan is an English tutor (1st clause) and
or clauses.
(conjunction) she studies English at City University of
HK. (2nd clause)

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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

3. Complex Sentence (Subordinate Clause + Main after, although, as, because, before,
Clause) how, if, once, since, than, that,
though, till, until, when, where,
e.g. Agnes Chan has been teaching students English (1st whether, and while  showing the
clause) since she was a Sixth Former. (2nd clause) relationship between sentences.

Item 2 — Phrases & Clauses

Phrases & Functions Examples

1. Noun Phrase F(1): A university student majors the subject s/he likes. (Subj.)

Function (1): Subject, (2) F(2): He hit a university student. (Obj.)

Object, (3) Direct Object, F(3): He gave a university student a campus map. (Direct Obj.)
(4) Subject Complement, F(4): She is a university student. (Subj. Comp.)
(5) Object Complement, F(5): I regard him a university student. (Obj. Comp.)
(6) Adverbial F(6): This semester will end next week. (Adverbial)

2. Prepositional Phrase F(1): I’ve read a book about cooking. (adj. After noun)
Function (1) adjective F(2): You will be happy with your new arrangement. (adv. After
after a noun, (2) adverb noun)
after an adjective, (3) F(3): The cockroach is hiding under the table. (adv. Of place)
adverb of place, (4) F(4): I will have a meeting with Rodney in the morning. (adv. Of
adverb of time, (5) time)
adverb of manner. F(5): In my opinion, we should hold more activities for students
this year. (adv. Of manner)

Clauses & Functions Examples

1. Non-finite Clause F(1): Thinking about how to teach students better is his usual
practice. (gerund as the subj. of the sentence)
F(1): subject of sentence
F(2): show another action F(2): He helped me send a letter to Mr. Smith. (another action)
F(3): direct object F(3): I like dancing. (direct object)
F(4): show time F(4): Punished by Mr. Lee, he felt very guilty. (role of subject)
F(5): show role of subj.

2. That-clause F(1): That he leaves Hong Kong is his final decision. (Subj.)
F(1): Subject F(2): I know that George wanted to copy Henry’s assignment to
F(2): Object his. (Obj.)
*The ‘that’ here can help

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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

make the independent

clause into a dependent
clause / noun clause.
3. Wh-Clause F(1): Subject of a sentence:
Clauses start with wh- Why she made this decision was understandable.
word, e.g. what, who, F(2): Object of a sentence:
when, whom, how, where A tourist asked me where Hong Kong Cultural Center was.

Clauses & Functions Examples

4. Relative Clause (who): The man who is sitting next to my friend is my uncle.

Modify the preceded (whom): The man whom you are talking to is very nice.
noun (形容名詞) (preposition + whom): The girl with whom you are discussing the
issue is kind. (Original: You are discussing the issue with the girl)
Relative pronouns: (which): The notes which Agnes typed to me are quite useful.
Who (subj.), whom (in which): The theatre in which you performed in is very big.
(obj.), that (subj / obj.), (Original: You performed in the theatre.)
Which, whose (whose): Mrs. Wu whose daughter has taken HKCEE is very poor.
(Original: Mrs. Wu’s daughter has taken HKCEE.)

5. Subordinate Clause (time): When you came back home, you had to finish all the tasks.
Function: provide more (place): Staying in New York, she didn’t feel secured.
information about the (condition): If you have got a cold, you can’t go to the party
time, place, condition, tonight.
purpose, manner that (purpose): To get good results in the test, he revised all the
things happen. chapters of the textbook last night.
(manner): Karen gave a blind eye to George, as if he had done
something wrong to her. (manner---showing attitude, how
something is like.)

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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

Item 3 — Parts of Speech

Parts of Speech Examples
1. Noun [名詞]
1.1 Concrete Noun Computer, printer, bottle, water, disks, teddy bear, cassette tapes,
[實質名詞] mouse, keyboards, etc.
1.2 Abstract Noun Feminism, Racism, pollution, dignity, humiliation, immigration,
exploitation, etc.
[抽象名詞] --- ideas
1.3 Count Noun Computer, printer, bottle, disks, teddy bear, cassette tapes, mouse,
keyboards, words, books, pens, etc.
[可數名詞] ---singular &
plural form [可單 可雙]
1.4 Uncountable Noun Water, sand, salt, sugar, light, air, information, research, etc.
[不可數名詞] ---
singular only!

Parts of Speech Examples

1. Noun [名詞] (continued)
1.5 Singular Noun Computer, mouse, monitor, a disk, a bottle, a pen, a ruler, person,
alumnus, phenomenon, etc.
1.6 Plural Noun Computers, mouse, monitors, disks, bottles, pen, ruler, people,
alumni, phenomena, etc.

2. Verb [動詞]
2.1 Finite Verb She does not want to go to school.

The first verb element in She wants to go shopping with her husband.
a verb group, showing She was having her lunch at 3:30 p.m.
the tense & no. of She had submitted the loan for her tuition fees.
2.2 Non-finite Verb (Gerund): Hiking is my favorite hobby.
(gerund, infinitive, (To-infinitive): She wants to go shopping with her husband.
participle) (bare infinitive): She suggested me write a letter to my teacher to
make the application of this scholarship.
(present participle): She was having her lunch at 3:30 p.m.
(past participle): My brother has broken the vase.
(perfect participle): Having been to the UK for more than 3
months, I have got used to the life there.

2.2.1 Gerund Being a successful English tutor is not easy. (subj.)

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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

verb + ing => Verbal I don’t like talking on the phone. (obj.)
Noun [動名詞]
2.2.2 Infinitive (to-infinitive) I want to be an excellent language teacher in Hong
i) To-infinitive
ii) Bare infinitive (bare infinitive) Please let me know your difficulties.
2.2.3 Participles i) I have been swimming in this pool for 2 hours. (Present
i) Present Participle
ii) Past Participle ii) I have swum in this pool for 2 hours. (Past Participle)
iii) Perfect Participle iii) Having swum for 3 hours, I felt very exhausted. (Perfect

2.3 Modals Can, could, may, might, shall, should, ought to, need, care, must,
have to, will, would, may, might, etc.
2.4 Auxiliary Verbs Do, does, did, done; be, is, am, are, was, were, being, been; have,
has, had

2.5 16 Verb Forms 1) Present Simple — write

2) Present Continuous — is / am / are writing
3) Present Perfect — has / have written
4) Present Perfect Continuous — has / have been writing
5) Past Simple — wrote
6) Past Continuous — was / were writing
7) Past Perfect — had written
8) Past Perfect Continuous — had been writing
9) Future Simple — will write
10) Future Continuous — will be writing
11) Future Perfect — will have written
12) Future Perfect Continuous — will have been writing
13) Past Future Simple — would write
14) Past Future Continuous — would be writing
15) Past Future Perfect — would have written
16) Past Future Perfect Continuous — would have been writing
3. Adjective [形容詞]
3.1 Positive Form Beautiful, convenient, clear, loud, soft, strong, weak, bad, good
3.2 Comparative Form More beautiful, more convenient, clearer, louder, softer, stronger,
weaker, worse, better
3.3 Superlative Form The most beautiful, the most convenient, the clearest, the loudest,
the softest, the strongest, the weakest, the worst, the best
4. Adverb [副詞]

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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

4.1 Adverb of Place In the building, at home, at school, in the jungle, in the office
4.2 Adverb of Time In the morning, at noon, at midnight, at 4:30
4.3 Adverb of Manner Beautifully, conveniently, clearly, loudly, fast, quickly, well
4.4 Adverb of Degree Very much, so, quite, rather, pretty, less, more
5. Preposition [介詞]
In, on, at, from, against, about, concerning, beside, behind, under, with, beneath, between,
into, onto, to, etc.
6. Article [冠詞]
A F(1): a computer, a cup, a printer, a table, a desk,
F(1): any one of a particular thing
F(2): before singular count noun F(2): I’ll be in the UK for a year.
F(3): words begin with consonant sounds Please wait for a minute. I’ll come back to your
question later.
F(3): a university /  / , a one-parent
family //
An F(1): an orphan / /, an Italian / …/
F(1): words starting with a vowel sound
F(2): same as the Function (1 ~ 2) of ‘a’
The F(1): Beijing is the capital city of China.
F(1): something unique F(2): Charlene Choi is the youngest female singer
F(2): before a superlative adjective holding her first concert in The Hong Kong
F(3): there is only one of a particular thing Coliseum.
F(4): a thing / person that is modified by a F(3): the sun, the North Pole, the world, the
relative clause (i.e. a particular thing) international market, etc.
F(5): with phrases beginning ‘of…’ / ‘The F(4): The teacher who teaches us English is very
of…’ nice.
F(6): a thing / person mentioned in the 2nd F(5): Do you know the meaning of these new
time words?
F(6): I put a coin into a cup, and the coin sinks.

Zero F(1): I always like hearing good news. (= good

news in general)
F(1): uncountable and plural nouns
Lazy students like finding excuses for their
laziness. (= excuses in general; lazy students in

7. Conjunction
7.1 Co-ordinating Joining words, phrases or independent clauses — And, or, so, but,
Conjunction nor, for, yet

7.2 Subordinating Indicating the nature of the relationship among the independent

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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

Conjunction clause(s) and the dependent clause(s) — after, although, as,

because, before, how, if, once, since, than, that, though, till, until,
when, where, whether, and while.

8. Pronoun [代名詞]
8.1 Personal Pronoun
8.1.1 As subjects I, you, we, they, he, she, it
8.1.2 As objects Me, you, us, them, him, her, it
8.1.2 As adjectives My, your, our, their, his, her, its
8.2 Possessive Pronoun Mine, yours, ours, theirs, his, hers, its
8.3 Indefinite Pronoun One, other (plural), the other (1 out of 2, singular), the others (the
left people / things), others (other people / things) another
(singular), someone (singular), everybody (singular), anybody
(singular), neither (singular / plural), all, many, etc.
8.4 Reflexive Pronoun Myself, yourself, yourselves, ourselves, themselves, himself,
herself, itself.

e.g. Although Sandy is an 8-year-old girl, she takes care of herself.

8.5 Demonstrative This — referring to a specific thing / person (singular)
That — referring a thing / person that is away from us. (singular)
These — referring to specific things / people (plural)
Those — referring to things / people away from us. (plural)
8.6 Interrogative Whom — Object of a sentence
Who — Subject
Which — a specific thing / person from a class
What — a specific thing / person
Whose — the agent who owns a thing / person
When — time
Where — place
How — manner
8.7 Relative Pronoun That — a person / thing, a subject / object; only used in defining

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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

Which — a particular thing
Whose — a agent who owns a thing / person
Whom — Object of the relative clause
Who — Subject of the relative clause

Item 4 — Conditional Sentences

Types Examples
1. Real situation If you listen (Present Simple) to this smooth jazz music, you will
be (will + verb) more relaxed.
If + verb (Present
Simple), will + verb If you press (Present Simple) this button, you will print (will +
verb) out the document.
2. Impossible thing If I were you, I would not react so violently.
If + verb (Past Simple), +
would + verb If you listened to him, you would not do such a silly thing.
3. Hypothesis / If I had finished typing the document, I would not have been
something in the past worried about it.
If + verb (Past Perfect), + If the teacher had been ill, I would not have attended his lecture.
would have + verb (p.p.)

Item 5 – Active Voice Vs. Passive Voice

Passive Voice – Verb Structure: be + verb (past participle)

e.g. is + written (past participle of ‘write’)

Verb Forms Active Voice Passive Voice

Present Simple Write Is / are written
Present Continuous Is writing Is / are being written
Present Perfect Has / have written Has / have been written
Present Perfect Continuous Has / have been writing Has / have been being written
Past Simple Wrote Was / were written
Past Continuous Was / were writing Was / were being written

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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

Past Perfect Had written Had been written

Past Perfect Continuous Had been writing Had been being written
Future Simple Will write Will be written
Future Continuous Will be writing Will be being written
Future Perfect Will have written Will have been written
Future Perfect Continuous Will have been writing Will have been being written
Past Future Simple Would write Would be written
Past Future Continuous Would be writing Would be being written
Past Future Perfect Would have written Would have been written
Past Future Perfect Would have been writing Would have been being written

Item 6 — Participle Clause

Types Examples
Present Participle F(1): Swimming in the pool, she discovered that she had forgotten
Clause to bring the shampoo and conditioner. (= When she was swimming
in the pool)
F(1): continuous action
F(2): immediate action F(2): Seeing some blood on her clothes, she fainted. (= After
followed by the main seeing some blood on her clothes)
clause F(3): Being interested in reading books, she is smart and
F(3): describe a person’s knowledgeable. (= Because she is interested in reading books)
feelings / characteristics
Past Participle Clause F(1): Cheated by her classmates this morning, Jenny was very
unhappy. (= Because Jenny was cheated by her classmates…)
F(1): passive voice

Perfect Participle F(1): Having had our dinner, we went to the Arts Gallery.
(= After we had had our dinner)
F(1): Action happened
before that in main clause F(2): Having been scolded by his mum for 2 hours, Jack felt
Perfect Participle very sorry. (= After Jack had been scolded by his mum for 2 hours)
Clause in PASSIVE
F(1): Same as the active Having been trained for 3 years, he became skilful in doing this
voice one job. (= After he had been trained for 3 years)

Participle Clause after a The man employed in 1993 has been fired by Francis last Friday.
Noun —to modify the
noun (= who was employed in 1993)
My niece, drawing a colorful picture to me, is very diligent.
(= who is drawing a colorful picture to me)

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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

*** WARNING: The subject in the Participle Clause and main clause MUST BE the same
person, and the subject in the main clause CANNOT be an inanimate subject. [死物]


Item 7 – Question Tags

Types Examples
‘+ve’ verb + Negative You like playing ICQ, don’t you? (‘like’ + negative tag: don’t you)
Tag — assuming other
people agree with you. She has applied for her first job, hasn’t she? (‘has applied’ +
(TONE: falling tone in negative tag: hasn’t she)
the question tag)
George is teaching well today, isn’t he? (‘is teaching’ + negative
tag: isn’t he)

‘-ve’ verb + Positive Tag You don’t like playing ICQ, do you? (don’t like + positive tag: do
— showing suspicion / you)
doubt / uncertainty
(TONE: rising tong in the She hasn’t applied for her first job, has she? (‘hasn’t applied’ +
question tag) positive tag: has she?)
George isn’t teaching well today, is he? (isn’t teaching + positive
tag: is he)

7 Common Grammar Errors

1. Run-on Sentence
Wrong: English grammar was the first thing that I encountered when I was in primary
school, I didn’t think that it did any harm to me, because I loved studying grammar,
living with grammar, reading English books to improve my grammar. 
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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

Right: English grammar was the first thing that I encountered when I was in primary
school. I didn’t think that it did any harm to me, because I loved studying grammar,
living with grammar, reading English books to improve my grammar. 

Explanations — The first sentence is wrong because the sentences “English grammar…
primary school” and “I didn’t think…my grammar” are not linked together by any
conjunctions or connectives. The first sentence contains 1 main clause plus two other
clauses: relative clause & subordinate clause. The second sentence contains 1 main clause
plus a subordinate clause telling the reason that I loved studying grammar. If these 2
sentences do not have any relationship in meaning (e.g. cause & effect, concession, etc.),
they should not be written in ONE sentence. If they are, they will be regarded as Run-on

2. Fragment Sentence
Wrong: Although I am hungry. 

Right: Although I am hungry, I don’t want to eat anything. 

Explanations — The first ‘sentence’ is wrong because it is NOT a complete sentence. It

is called Fragment sentence. This kind of sentences are usually dependent clauses, i.e.
Although + clause; Because + clause; Since + clause, etc. Here are more examples of
fragment sentences:

e.g. Because he is still young.

e.g. Since he lived in this flat.
e.g. Before he went out to have a walk.

To identify this kind of errors, you can ask yourself after you have written these clauses,
for example, “Because he is still young” (so?); “Since he lived in this flat” (what
happened then?); “Before he went out to have a walk” (what had he done?). If there is no
answer after these sentences, you can be sure that the clauses are fragment sentences.

3. Independent Clause as the Subject of a sentence

Wrong: He puts so much effort in answering our questions impresses most of us. 

Right: That he puts so much effort in answering our questions impresses most of us. 
Right: The fact that he puts so much effort….impresses most of us. 
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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

Right: He puts so much effort… questions. This impresses most of us. 

Explanations — The main clause of the first sentence should be [Subject + impresses
most of us]. The subject is [he puts so much effort in answering our questions]. However,
this sentence is ungrammatical because the subject here is NOT a noun / noun group. It’s
a clause instead. Therefore, to make this sentence grammatical, we have to change the
clause [He puts so much… questions] into a noun / noun group.

We can make the sentence in the above example in the following three ways:
1. Change clause [he puts…questions] into a noun group by adding That.
i.e. Change the independent clause into a nominal clause (noun clause)
2. Add The fact that to change the clause into a noun clause.
3. Split this long sentence into two. Use This to refer back to the WHOLE idea: [He
puts so much effort in answering our questions.]

4. Singular Countable Noun Without an Article

Wrong: Computer is widely used in the world. 

Right: Computers are widely used in the world. 

Right: A computer is widely used in the world. 

Explanations — The first sentence is ungrammatical because [computer] is referred to

something general. When the noun is a singular countable noun and when we want to use
that noun to say something general, we should either use the singular form with an
article or use the plural form. See the right examples.

5. Active & Passive Voice

Case 1:
Wrong: This picture is not liked by me. 

Right: I don’t like this picture. 

Right: This picture doesn’t please me. 

Explanations — There is no passive voice when you use verbs: like, hate, love, dislike,
realized, admired, forget, in your sentences. You have to change the verbs if you want to
keep the subject (see right sentence 2). You can change it by changing ‘by me’ into the
subject  ‘I’, and write the sentence in an active voice.

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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

Case 2:
Wrong: They were go to the Gallery yesterday. 

Right: They went to the Gallery yesterday. 

Explanations — [go] is a finite showing tense, number of agreement as well as showing

actions, i.e. what you did yesterday. Therefore, adding ‘were’ (auxiliary verb) is
unnecessary and redundant.

6. Existential Sentences
Wrong: There have (had) many cockroaches on my bed! 

Right: There are (were) many cockroaches on my bed! 

Explanations — The word [there] is in fact a dummy subject, i.e. it doesn’t have any
actual meaning. We use [there] because we want to show the existence of the later
‘subject’, e.g. ‘many cockroaches’ in this sentence. The use of verb [are] is dependent on
the ‘subject’ afterwards. Therefore, if the subject is ‘many cockroaches’, we have to use a
verb in plural form. If the subject is ‘a girl’, we have to use the singular verb, ‘is’,

7. Pseudo-tough movement
Wrong: I am difficult to learn English. 

Right: It is difficult for me to learn English. 

Right: To learn English is difficult for me. 

Explanations — The first sentence is ungrammatical because the complement [difficult]

is mistakenly used to modify the subject ‘I’. But in fact, we want to say, “learning
English is difficult for me”, but not “I am difficult…”.

To correct this sentence, you can ask yourself, “What is difficult for me?” This ‘what
question’ leads us to find out ‘to learn English’ is the actual difficulty for us. Therefore,
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UE – SECTION C – Proofreading instructor: agnes chan

you can write something like, “It is difficult for me to learn English.”

Or, you can relocate the [to-infinitive clause] “to learn English” to be the subject of the
sentence. We come to another correct example, “To learn English is difficult for me.”

Syntactic Analysis & Past Paper Review (199UE)

Syntactic Analysis in Proofreading + Past Paper Analysis (2 in ONE!)

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