Grammar is often students' least favourite part of learning English but it's important. Without knowing any grammar, you can't communicate as effectively. Read on to get some advice on how you can improve your grammar skills.
1. Conscious vs unconscious learning
Some people argue that you can learn grammar naturally by reading, watching films and so on, with no need to learn boring grammar rules. Other people say that it’s important to study grammar rules and do practice exercises. I say you can do both! Maybe a combination of the two approaches would be the fastest way to learn. When I learn another language, I want to know the rules and find it helps me but everybody is different.
2. Sometimes rules are broken
Do we say something because that’s the rule or is it the other way round? Which comes first: the language or the rules? The answer is that the language comes first and the rules are really more patterns that describe what we usually say. As a native speaker, I think about what sounds right first and then try to find a rule to explain it. Learners usually do the opposite and think about the rules first. This is fine but just remember that language isn’t always logical and we sometimes break the rules.
3. Buy a grammar book
One of the most well-known and useful books is “English Grammar in Use”. This is good for most levels but there is also “Essential Grammar in Use” for beginners and elementary students, and “Advanced Grammar in Use”. Make sure you buy a book with the answers in the back!
4. Websites and apps
If you prefer using technology to books, there are many good websites, including perfect-english-grammar.com and learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/. The British Council also has a grammar app.
If there is a particular grammar topic you need help with, just search for it on YouTube. Alternatively, look for “6-minute Grammar” or “Grammar Gameshow” on the BBC Learning English YouTube channel.
6. Basic building blocks
There are different kinds of words, such as noun, verb, adjective and adverb. When you learn a new word, it can be very helpful to try to understand what kind of word it is and then you can use it correctly in a sentence. Also, remember that most English sentences follow the same pattern: subject - verb - object. This might be different from your language.
After learning the basic blocks, probably the next most important thing to study is the tenses. English has a lot of different verb tenses such as present perfect and past continuous. It’s important to learn these in order to sound natural and to be understood easily.
8. Find the gaps in your knowledge
When you speak and write, you will sometimes find that you don’t know the correct way to say something. You can ask somebody or you can look it up in a grammar book or online. Then practise what you have just learnt. Also notice the mistakes that you make often so you can try to stop making them.
I know I’m repeating myself but you should read! If you read a lot, it helps you to get a natural feel for grammar without you even realising it! You’ll get to know what sounds right. Reading also strengthens your understanding of what you have studied in grammar lessons, especially if you try to consciously notice how sentences are made as well as reading for information.
It’s no good just studying grammar rules. You have to practise using it. Speak and write as much as you can and your accuracy will improve. If you feel that there is too much grammar to think about all at the same time, then just focus on one thing, such as using the right tenses or remembering to put “s” on the end of verbs in the third person singular (he/she/it).
Click the button below for a free PDF e-book full of useful tips for learning English.
About the blog
Follow the blog for mini lessons and tips on how to improve your English.