Imagine you’re playing a video game; essentially, you make progress in a game by crossing the different levels. Learning the English language is just the same. You need to learn the basics of grammar first and then move on to learn prose and poetry.
Grammar is the system that shapes the language, and every language has its own set of rules. But grammar is more about the conventions that determine how we write and speak, for writing people use grammar checker tools. It includes things like spelling, inflecting words for different purposes, and the way words are organised to form sentences.
Now, whether you’re in elementary school or you’re an ESL, if you want to improve your grammar skills, here are some ideas you might find useful.
- Conjugate verb forms properly
English technically only conjugates the present (“I prefer”) and past tenses (“I preferred”), meaning that English verbs are only inflected (have different forms or endings) for the tenses. However, other verb tenses, like the future (“I will use”), are created with the help of mood, words that indicate time (e.g. “tomorrow”), and auxiliary (helping) words and verbs. Here are the main tenses in the English language, along with examples.
- Simple present (I look/you look/they look, he/she/it looks)
- Present perfect (I have/ you have/she has looked)
- Present continuous (I am/she is/they are looking)
- Simple past (I/we/he/she/they/it/you looked)
- Past continuous (I was/ you were/ she was looking)
- Past perfect (I/ we/you/he/she/it/they had looked)
- Simple future (I/we/you/he/she/it/they will look)
- Future continuous (I/ we/he/she/it/you/they will be looking)
- Future perfect (I/we/you/he/she/it/they will have looked)
- Use punctuation properly
Punctuation is a pivotal aspect of language because it highlights starts, pauses, stops, and relationships. Make sure the first letter of every sentence is in capital letter, and also the first letter of all proper nouns (the names of people and places). The main punctuation marks in English—and their basic uses are as follows:
Commas separate elements, thoughts, ideas, and independent clauses. Periods denote the end of a sentence. Semicolons combine the independent clauses in a single sentence or separate the elements in a list.
- Learn the concept of “appositive”
Essentially, an appositive is a noun or pronoun set beside another noun or pronoun to explain or identify it.
It’s a convenient way to add details to a sentence. The term “appositive” is taken from a Latin word that means “placing near.” Also, it appears immediately after the word or phrase that it identifies. Here’s an example of appositive:
- The wardrobe, a large piece of furniture, was moved into the house first.
- Mrs Jones’ designer bag, a display of her wealth, was stained with maple syrup because she wasn’t careful.
- Know the difference between confusing words
The English language consists of various words that sounds, looks, and/or are spelt the same, even if their meanings are different. These homophones (words that are pronounced the same) and homonyms (phrases that are pronounced and spelt the same) may lead to a great deal of confusion and make way for common errors.
Remembering these common errors will assist you to avoid the mistakes. For instance, the word “close” can be a homograph as it may mean nearby or to shut down. The words “their”, “there”, and “they’re” are classic examples of homonyms.
- Use the active voice
In case of the active voice, the subject performs the action; in passive construction, the subject is acted upon by an external force. While there’s nothing wrong with the use of passive voice, it appears less forceful and can make sentences confusing.
So, you must use the active voice more often, but sometimes it’s acceptable to use the passive voice, especially to emphasise something.
For example, Joe changed the flat tyre.
I clean my cupboard every week.
- Find clarity on reflexive pronouns
The reflexive pronouns are yourself, myself, himself/herself/itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. These pronouns can be applied in a sentence reflexively or intensively. Reflexive pronouns are only presented as the object in a sentence and when that object is the same as the subject.
On the other hand, Intensive pronouns are presented to emphasise a sentence and reinforce that the subject acted.
The difference between these two types is that if the pronoun can be removed from the sentence and still retains its meaning, it is being applied intensively. However, if the pronoun can’t be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence, it’s being used reflexively. Here’s an example of reflexive pronouns-
- Lucy decided to treat herself to a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
- Read a variety of materials
Enhance your grammatical prowess by learning how other authors use the language. Try reading different genres and styles of writing, like classic literature, science-fiction, biographies, blogs, essays, articles, and of course, textbooks.
Pay attention to how sentences are organised, their spellings, and the creative variations that the authors use. Read newspapers, listen to podcasts, and watch televised news programs daily as well.
Always read aloud so that you have a clear idea of how the language sounds in conversation. Always carry a dictionary and thesaurus when reading.
- Notice how other speakers talk
Listen to how other people organise the sentences, where they use specific words in sentences, how they say common phrases and the vocabulary they use. The English language comes with multiple rules and exceptions, so try not to be too hesitant to ask questions if you have any.
Try mirroring what other people talk about by repeating it to understand how sentences are constructed to enhance your vocabulary.
- Practice writing every day
Enhance your grammar skills by writing and practising any new words you’ve learned. Maintain a journal, write short stories, or even write emails back and forth with friends or family. Focus on rectifying any problem areas you might have or mistakes you tend to repeat often.
Don’t rely solely on grammar checkers. These tools don’t always provide an accurate result. Second, you’ll never learn from your mistakes if you don’t correct work yourself. If you use a grammar check or proofreading tool, take the time to go over the changes so that you can understand where you went wrong.
- Play word and grammar games
There are numerous games and apps you can download on your computer or phone that will assess your grammar skills in a fun and enjoyable way. Since these games are educational, they often come with explanations if you give wrong answers so you can learn from your mistakes.
You can visit Libraries, bookstores and check out online resources also for receiving grammar lessons, practice exercises, and quizzes.
Wrapping it up,
Learning about English grammar is a lot like playing video games. You need to start from the basics and gradually move to more advanced concepts to improve the grammar skills. The tips discussed here will further help you hone your skills
Lauren Bigalow is a visiting faculty for a distinguished institution in Australia. Bigalow has pursued her PhD in English literature from Murdoch University. She’s also associated with multiple philanthropic organisations that work for children’s education. She’s also a member of MyAssignmenthelp.com and guides students for online assignment help tools.