English Grammar Lessons: Review English Usage

English Grammar Lessons

Do you need to take English grammar lessons to learn English? No. Children learn a language with no formal lessons at all-- just by listening and then beginning to speak. If you are just beginning to study English, don’t start with grammar terms.  

First listen to some basic conversations and learn some simple phrases. Listen and practice as much as you can. You will begin to understand the basics of English structure even without formal study.

Too much emphasis on grammar in the beginning may even make it harder to speak fluently. Thinking too much about what’s correct makes it more difficult to express your thoughts.

Instead, try to think in English. The best way to gain fluency and understanding is to listen a lot, read a lot, and speak freely. Don’t worry about perfect grammar.

If you have never taken a class in English, you might start studying online by listening to some of the basic conversations in Randall's ESL Listening Lab or a website teaching English in your first language. (For Spanish-speakers, Pumarosa is also very good.)

So Why Study Grammar?

Images:  questioning lady & detective. Text: Knowing basic English grammar will help you understand & be understood in English. 'Find answers to your questions: Who, what, when, where, how, &... why?'Questions? Grammar answers them.

As your English improves, you do need to understand how English works. Then English grammar lessons or review can help you understand more and express yourself more clearly.

You'll learn how sentences are organized.  You'll find the grammatical clues to answer your questions:

  • Sentence order, nouns & verbs tell you WHAT happened & WHO did it. 
  • Tense tells you WHEN. 
  • As for HOW, WHERE, & WHY, you’ll have to read on to find out… 

Grammar Basics:
Who, What, When, Where, How, & Why

Grammar is the structure of a language, the way words work together. In the English grammar lessons in this section, we will look at English Parts of Speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.), as well as English Nouns, English Pronouns, and English Verbs for more detail.

Nouns answer WHO did something, and to whom they did it. Verbs tell you WHAT they did. In English, sentence structure is also essential for making it the who & what clear (Adverbs tell you HOW, and adjectives give more details.) Prepositions clarify WHERE and WHEN.

See English Sentence Structure, as well as Negative Sentences, Question Formation, Compound Sentences, and Complex Sentences, for ways to form sentences in English. Complex sentences (especially those using adverb clauses), modal verbs, and transition words are a few forms we use to answer 'Why?'

Subject-verb Agreement gives a little practice with this grammar point that gives trouble even to some native speakers, but can help make your writing clearer.

The Challenge of English Verb Forms

English verbs (especially the pst tenses) take extra time. There are so many related tenses and modal verbs, each changing the meaning of a sentence. There are also many irregular verbs in the past tense. The good news is that English verb conjugations are much simpler than many other languages.

For most verbs, you only need to learn five forms, and most of those are closely related:

  • the base form (for the simple present tense, or add 'to' to form infinitives), 
  • the third person singular present, 
  • the present participle (for continuous tenses), 
  • the simple past, 
  • and the past participle (for the perfect tenses.) 

All the tenses and moods are formed using these five forms and various helping (auxiliary) verbs.

Thus, for example, the five forms of the verb to live are:

live, lives, living, lived, and lived.

For the verb to do :

do, does, doing, did, done.

The verb to be is the most useful and most difficult. (Note that its infinitive (and what you might call its base form, 'be,' is not the same as its present tense plural form.) It is the only English verb with three forms in the present:

(I) am, (you, we, or they) are, and (he, she, or it) is (3rd person singular.)

'To be' has two forms in the past, unlike any other English verb:

(I, he, she, or it) was,

and (you, we, or they) were.

The present and past participles of ‘to be’ are simple: being and been.

For more information on the present, past, and future of verbs, see English Verb Tenses. (The present and past participles can also sometimes be used as nouns or adjectives. English parts of speech can be very flexible!)

Practice English Grammar

To practice with verbs (as well as other grammar) see Grammar Practice. For Modal Verbs, see Modal VerbsModals PracticeUsing Helping Verbs to Give Advice, and Practice Giving Advice, as well as Adverb Clause & Complex Sentence Practice.

Don't get discouraged! With a little practice (and a lot of listening and reading), English grammar will begin to feel natural to you.

Where to Start?

Still not sure where to start? Try English Sentence Structure, Negative Sentences, or Question Formation.

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