1) Introduction


1 How to get the most out of this course

To really get the most out of this course, I would suggest a few things:

1.1 Practice recognising the different concepts you learn in your everyday reading.

As you do this the details of the language will start to reveal themselves to you, giving you a greater appreciation for the beauty, and complexity, of the inner workings of the language.

1.2 Be critical and ask questions.

Are you happy with that definition of a noun, sentence, or clause? What might be wrong with it? There are definitely many contentious areas in grammar, and part of the fun of learning anything is to engage with it and question whether what you are reading is correct. Find the holes! There are also some circumstances where I am not exactly sure what the right answer is. I will point out at these points, and give the best answer I can. Moreover, there are likely a number of instances where what I have said is arguable, without me even realising it. So be critical, and don’t just take my word for it.

1.3 Practice explaining the things you have learnt to yourself, or, even better, to others.

One of the best ways to demonstrate your understanding is to explain the concept to others. Therefore, I would suggest, where possible, to practice teaching the concept to others once you feel you have some understanding. If you can explain it well, you probably have a decent grasp of it. I really believe that teaching something to others is a great way of learning something more deeply yourself. It’s good to put yourself out there, because, if you are anything like me, you will find yourself returning to the concept and going over it, for fear of appearing wrong in public. Sometimes we need a little push when learning, and what better pusher than the ego? Don’t worry If you don’t have someone you can teach though; you can always practice explaining the concept as though there is someone there, even if there isn’t. This is still effective because you have to think about how you are going to get the message across, and it is sometimes the case that you will be your own biggest critic. I will write a bunch of questions that you can try explaining to people at the end of each section, but you can always just come up with your own ones too.

1.4 Don’t worry if this stuff is confusing; it is totally normal to feel this way with grammar.

Understanding grammar is difficult. One of the big problems is that to truly understand what, for example, a noun, is, you need to know a lot of other concepts that you might not have studied yet. Furthermore, as I alluded to earlier, these grammar rules, and concepts, are far from being perfect, and complete, and there are many arguable areas. This means that you really should be scratching your head at some points because the system of traditional grammar we are looking at has some flaws, and holes in it. The combination of these two problems can lead to some very difficult, and confusing, moments when studying grammar. One of your main jobs is to not give up in these moments. I think the key is to understand that the system is not perfect, nor complete, and, instead of just following rules, to try and question everything. Even better, if you can take joy in the questioning, and be interested in the grey areas, then you will surely be more successful. Easier said than done sometimes though!

So what should your goal be, considering these problems? I would say that if you come out of reading this course with a way to classify word classes/parts of speech, and a bit of a deeper feeling for how the English language works, that is a great success. Even better, if, after playing with words in this way, you can see a little more beauty in the intricacies – and simplicities – of the language, then a victory lap is definitely in order.

2 Why learn grammar?

Many people feel that there isn’t any point in learning about grammar. Here are some reasons why learning grammar is a great idea:

2.1 It will help you be a better writer

While I believe it is possible to get to a reasonable level of writing without understanding grammar, there are a number of ways learning grammar will help to improve your writing.

a) In many cases, having the tools to analyse the language will allow you to understand why something you have written doesn’t sound quite right. This will stop you from making grammatical mistakes, which will make your writing clearer.

b) Spending time analysing words in a detailed way will make you pay closer attention to how the language works. This attention to detail is sure to improve both your own writing, and your comprehension of other’s writing.

c) Understanding the intricacies, and simplicities, of the language should increase your appreciation for it, and this should lead to you taking extra care to use it in the clearest way possible.

d) It will help you understand the punctuation recommendations. To understand many of the recommendations around punctuation, it is important to know a number of grammatical concepts. Punctuation is really important for writing clear, flowing writing, and learning grammar will give you an extra level of understanding of it.

2.2 It will help you learn another language

Trying to learn grammar in a second language when you don’t understand it in your first language is always going to be very difficult. Understanding English grammar will make it much easier to branch out into other languages.

Next we will take a brief overview of some concepts before getting into the different word classes.

NEXT: 2) Overview before getting into the word classes

Posted in English Grammar