Understanding English Grammar

What Is English Grammar? Why Do We Need It?

The term ‘English Grammar’, often uttered with an involuntary shudder, is a considerably misunderstood term. Free to the Oxford Dictionary, grammar can be defined as “the studies or rules of languages’ inflections and/or other means or ways of demonstrating relations between words, including its phonetic system.”

Thus, ‘English Grammar’ is the body of rules that dictates the correct way of using the English language in our attempts to convey meaning. If, for example, you want to play a video game with your friends, understanding the meaning of what’s being said in the instructions and hints, is essential to attain s good score, right?

Not understanding English Grammar properly may, for many adult learners, result in feeling insecure. Many adult learners experience a phenomenon called the “Impostor Syndrome,” meaning they doubt their chances to succeed. They have the feeling that everyone else around them knows a lot more than they know.

For the uninitiated, understanding English Grammar may seem to be an impossible task. Perhaps it is a bit like somebody trying to be a physicist with only a rudimentary grasp of basic arithmetic. Instinctively we understand the way physics works in the world around us, yet we don’t necessarily spend our days performing calculations with esoteric formulae.

English Grammar Rules are a little bit like these formulae. Even native speakers of English do not necessarily understand them. It is highly likely that a significant portion of the English-speaking world would fail to gain a passing grade if they were required to take a series of formal English Grammar tests. Yet, we do intuitively understand the rules of English: we are able to communicate with each other reasonably effectively on a daily basis.

So why do we need to understand English Grammar? Quite simply, while a ‘reasonable level’ of effectiveness in communication may be sufficient for our everyday, informal communication, it is unlikely to suffice for more formal communication purposes.

Communicating with written English has become increasingly important.  Interestingly, the increased significance of the written word has corresponded with a general decline regarding competence. Many schools no longer directly teach English Grammar. The study of the effective use of the rules of our language has been relegated to more general disciplines of literacy development.

It is assumed in this holistic approach that English Grammar exercises are unnecessary because all students will magically absorb English Grammar rules through osmosis in their general reading and written expression classes. Unfortunately, this is clearly not the case for many students and the standard of written English continues to decline in our schools and the wider community.

Understanding English Grammar is absolutely necessary for effective and efficient written communication.  Success in conveying meaning for students, business persons and those who are pursuing publication is highly dependent on correctly following English Grammar rules.

The Elements Of English

What are the elements of the English language? What are the parts of speech in the English language?

There are eight types of words that comprise the English language. These are the ‘pieces’ of language that we put together to make meaning in our sentences. The eight elements of the English language are:

Nouns are ‘naming’ words. They are the words we use to name people, places and things.
Pronouns are words that are used in place of nouns to describe people, places or things. Examples: ‘him’, ‘her’, ’somewhere’.
Verbs are action words or ‘doing’ words. They are words that identify actions.
Adjectives are words that are used to describe nouns.
Adverbs are words that describe verbs.
Conjunctions are ‘joining’ words. They join words or groups of words. For example, ‘and’, ‘but’ and ‘because’.
Prepositions are words that introduce nouns or pronouns. For example, ‘to’, ‘from’ or ‘about’.
Interjections are exclamations that express emotion. For example, ‘wow!’ and ‘hooray!’