PSLE Grammar Question 1 Analysis

This is the first episode in a series where I analyze the English Grammar Questions from past PSLE English papers and help you learn the subtopics of English Grammar. This question will be from 2016 English Language PSLE Exam. 

The first question is:

The boys continued with the game ______________ being tired.

(1) until
(2) despite
(3) although
(4) because

This question assesses the student’s understanding on the Preposition ‘Despite’ and the Conjunctions Until, Although and ‘Because‘.

1. Conjunctions

Conjunctions are words that are used to connect (a) words, (b) phrases, and (c) clauses. (Definition by Grammar Monster)

For example,

(a) Friends and family.
(b) My school friends or my closest relatives.
(c) My school friends cried but my closest relatives applauded.

Subordinating Conjunctions ‘Until’ and ‘Because’

The conjunctions ‘until‘, ‘because‘ and ‘although‘ are known as ‘subordinating conjunctions.

  • Until‘ is used to express time,
  • because‘ is used to express cause or reason, and
  • although‘ is used to express contrast.

A subordinating conjunction is a conjunction that connects a main (independent) clause with a subordinate (dependent) clause. (Click here to learn more about clauses)

The clause that begins with the subordinating conjunction is always the subordinating clause, which depends on the main clause and cannot exist without it. (Credits to SpeakSpeak.Com for Explanation of Subordinating Conjunction and Subordinating Clause)

For example,

1) Siti will stay in school until five in the afternoon.
This means Siti will stay from the time the sentence was said until five in the afternoon that day. 

2) Siti will be staying in school this afternoon because she has not finished her homework.
This tells us the reason as to why Siti is staying in school that afternoon.

3) Siti will be staying in school this afternoon although she had finished her homework.
This sentence tells us that it doesn’t make sense that Siti has to stay in school even though 


2. Why Until, Although, and Because Cannot Be Answers

The last two words ‘being tired‘ is a Verb Phrase. It is not a clause. (Click here to understand the difference between a phrase and a clause.)

Since only clauses that come after ‘until‘, ‘although‘, and because‘, none of them can be the answer.

Note: Some students may have chosen ‘although‘. Even though ‘although‘ may be the right conjunction since there is a contrast, the words that follow ‘although‘ should be ‘they are tired‘. In this case the sentence would be,

The boys continued with the game although they were tired

Notice that the last three words (they were tired) is a clause that follows ‘although‘.

3. Prepositions

Prepositions are words that show and explain the relationship between words that are nearby. They come after a noun or pronoun, and are followed by another noun or pronoun.

Simple examples include:

  • The book is on the table.
  • The bicycle is against the gate.
  • The cheese is between the slices of bread.

Despite is a Prepositional Expression

Despite‘ and ‘In spite of‘ have a similar meaning to ‘even though‘ and ‘although‘: they show the contrast between two things. The difference between ‘despite‘ and ‘in spite of‘ is that ‘despite‘ is more formal. (Adapted from the explanation from Dictionary at

There are two situations where we can use ‘despite‘ and ‘in spite of‘: (1) with a noun and (2) with -ing.

For example,

(1) Siti has to stay in school despite the completion of her homework.
The noun (phrase) here is ‘the completion’. 

(2) Siti has to stay in school despite completing her homework.
The -ing word here is ‘completing’. 

BONUS: This can actually be made into a Synthesis and Transformation question that involves the change of the form of a word. The questions could be:

(1) Siti has to stay in school. Her homework was completed. 
_______________________________________ despite the ___________________________________.
Answer: Siti has to stay in school despite the completion of her homework.

(2) Siti has to stay in school. Her homework was completed. 
_______________________________________ despite ___________________________________.
Answer: Siti has to stay in school despite completing her homework. 

Hope this post has helped you understand the question better! 

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Stay tuned for the next one!