How To Learn English Grammar

source: Oxford Online English       2015年5月4日
See the full lesson with exercises:
What do you think of when you hear the word 'grammar'? Does it make you think of complicated textbooks, difficult exercises and boring lessons? For many English learners, the answer is 'yes'. Some English learners even tell me "I don't need grammar," or "I don't want to study grammar." In this lesson, you're going to see first of all what grammar really is and why you need it. Then, I'll share some advice to make it easier for you to learn and use English grammar.

1. What is grammar, and why do you need it?
Grammar is how you organise words into a sentence. Every time you put two or more words together, you are using grammar. Every time you listen to someone speak, your brain uses grammar to understand the meaning. From these examples, I hope you can see that grammar is not something abstract or complicated. We all use grammar, all day, every day, every time we speak to someone. There's no way to learn a language without thinking about grammar.

2. Learning grammar: form vs. function
To use a grammar point (for example, the present simple verb tense), what do you need to know? In general, to use any grammar correctly, you need to know two things:
• The form: how to use the words in a sentence
• The function: what meaning(s) the grammar expresses

For example, to form the present simple, you need to know several things:
• How to make positive sentences for different persons (I, you, he, we, etc.)
• When to add 's' or 'es' to the verb
• How to make negative sentences
• How to make questions

However, forming the grammar doesn't tell you how to use it. You also need to think about the function of a grammar point: what meanings can it express? The present simple can be used to express many different meanings, including regular actions, facts, or future events on a timetable.

3. Learning grammar: theory vs. practice
When studying grammar, you also need a balance between theory and practice. You need to understand the rules, but you also need to spend time practising them and using them.
For example, studying rules, reading about grammar, or doing simple exercises are theoretical.

Making your own sentences using a grammar point, doing more complicated exercises, or using a grammar point in a conversation or written English are practical.

4. Learning grammar: the full picture
Now we can see the full picture: you need to understand the form and the function of a grammar point in theory, and you also need to practise both, by doing exercises, making your own sentences, speaking and so on.
This might seem simple, but the reason why many English learners find grammar difficult is that they focus too much on one area, and not enough on others.

5. Practical advice
Finally, let's look at some simple, practical suggestions you can use when studying grammar:
• Always try to find real-life examples of what you are studying. Don't just read notes in a grammar book—the practical side of grammar is very important.
• Remember: understanding a grammar point and being able to use it are separate things. Just because you understand some grammar rules and can do some simple exercises, this doesn't mean you 'know' the grammar point.
• Try to make your grammar study as practical as possible. Writing your own sentence is better than reading a sentence which someone else wrote. Using grammar in conversation is better than doing an exercise in a textbook, and so on.
• If you have difficulties with a grammar point, think about your mistakes. Are you making mistakes with the form, with the function, or with both? This can help you to study more effectively and correct your mistakes.
• When you study grammar, don't stop thinking about it when you close the textbook or leave the classroom. You don't learn grammar so that you can do exercises in a book, do you? I hope not—you should learn grammar so that you can use it in real life. That means you also need to think about it in real life, when you're speaking or writing in English.