Grammar is a system of rules that tell you where words should go in a sentence. A sentence cannot be just a group of words together, it has to have some structure so that we can make other sentences that make sense. In order to do this we need to understand the job of each word in the sentence and where each word goes in relation to the other ones. Once we understand the job of each word we can use it accurately. To understand the job of each word we need to know the ‘parts of speech’. There are 9 different parts of speech and once a learner is able to use each one with confidence, s/he is well on their way to mastering the rules of grammar.
Parts of Speech
Many words in English can have more than one job, that is, be more than one part of speech. For example, "work" can be a verb and a noun; "but" can be a conjunction and a preposition; "well" can be an adjective, an adverb and an interjection. In addition, many nouns can act as adjectives. For example:
To understand the part of speech and the grammar, ask yourself: "What job is this word doing in this sentence?” The table below gives you some examples of words having more than one job. There are more, but this is enough for now!
So armed with this knowledge, how can you learn English grammar? I am going to show you 5 easy strategies you can use to improve your English grammar:
Very often learners of English know when they are uncertain about expressing themselves, which indicates either a lack of vocabulary or not being able to find the correct grammatical structure to express themselves. Note down when this happens and do some reading to find out what you need to learn. For example, if you are hesitating about how to formulate what you want to say it is very likely that you are unsure of the grammar.
Another excellent way to detect your grammar mistakes is through writing. If you are unsure about the conditional for example, ask your teacher to give you a writing exercise which requires you to write conditionals, for example, “What would you do if you won the lottery?”. Always check your work and use a grammar book (English Grammar in Use in an excellent reference book). You can also work through the exercises in the grammar book.
Many good grammar books have a clearly written explanation and exercises to complete, to check if you have understood. Destination B1 and B2 are both really easy to follow and you can check your answers at the end.
Although spoken English is very different from written English, you can learn so much from listening to native speakers and other students. You will hear accurate grammar from native speakers and speaking to other students will give you the opportunity to practice correct grammar constructions.
Reading will also help you to learn grammar. If articles on the internet or newspapers are too difficult, use a website for English language learners such as BBC Learn English (https://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/) has something for all levels.
Another very good way of improving your grammar, reading and writing at the same time is to choose a text at the appropriate level, read it a few times and then rewrite it in your own words. Again, get your teacher to check your work and highlight the grammar mistakes.
Try reading a graded reader at the appropriate level. There are literally hundreds to choose from on a huge variety of topics and themes, fiction and non-fiction. Have a look at the titles for pre-intermediate level with Macmillan publishing: http://www.macmillanreaders.com/reader_level/pre-int
The beauty of graded readers is that they are designed so you are able to read without too much effort but also provide new vocabulary and grammatical constructions which you can easily learn, not too easy and not too difficult.
There are questions to check your comprehension and you can also listen to the texts or stories as they often come with a CD. Once you are reading pre-intermediate titles effortlessly you can then move to the next level so you know you are making progress. Whilst you are reading note down the new grammar and vocabulary and make an effort to use it, either in spoken English or written English. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you will learn constructions and vocabulary that you use regularly.
A Graded Reader: Romeo and Juliet
William Shakespeare, retold by Rachel Bladon
Shakespeare's tragedy of star-crossed lovers
Take every possible opportunity to speak English, shopping, socialising, sport, anything that gets you communicating in English. Watch movies and series in English, with subtitles in your own language if that’s easier. Listen to podcasts designed for English language learners or native speakers. Listen to English radio, even if you just listen to the music, the advertisements will be in English and every little helps. It doesn’t really matter what you listen to, who you speak to, what you read and write, as long as you are doing something to keep your English going. Learning a language is a lifelong process and you can always get better, so keep going and keep talking.
Learning a foreign language is complex and difficult because you need to understand and say new words, learn new grammar rules and produce them when required accurately and fluently. It’s a lot to do, especially if you are in a situation where you are required to respond to other people, which brings its own particular pressure. One way to ensure you know how to pronounce the new words is to read out loud. You can read from a book, a newspaper or an English language lesson, any kind of reading out loud is effective because you learn to produce the new sounds in the word and ultimately each word in a sentence.
We use a number of muscles to produce sounds in our mother tongue and we learn how to do this at a very young age. However, when we encounter new words with different sounds that requires us to use muscles we have never used before so it can be difficult and tiring. Speaking starts in the brain which sends a message to our stomach and lungs to send air through the vocal chords and out of the mouth. We use our lips, teeth and the roof of our mouth to produce specific sounds. These speech sounds are also affected by where they are made in the mouth and the manner in which they are made.
So, to practice using the muscles you need to pronounce words in a new language, read out loud. Every time you read out loud you are articulating sounds you will need later on in the word you are saying and also for other words that employ the same sound. The more you read out loud, the more comfortable you will become with the sounds of the language which will give you confidence when speaking naturally with others.
A good resource for reading out loud is graded readers. You can read out loud and listen to the CD at the same time…. or listen to the CD and read afterwards, whichever you find most beneficial for you.
So there you have it, some tips for you to learn English grammar to benefit all 4 language skills. Speaking and writing, the productive skills, require you to produce accurate grammar whilst the receptive skills, listening and reading, provide you with the grammar you need. So, make sure you practice all 4 skills and your English will improve far more quickly that you think possible.