During your language learning journey, you may come across advice that tells you that learning grammar isn’t important. You may find articles saying that you don’t need to know and understand English grammar to be able to speak the language.
And they’re right! You don’t actually need to know anything about grammar to learn a new language, but is that the most efficient way to learn? Nope!
You are able to effectively pick apart a sentence you don’t understand and explain its inner workings when you understand grammar. Knowing about grammar allows you to ask intelligent questions about English usage, and it makes you aware of the tools available to you when speaking or writing.
Grammar is an important building block for being able to effectively and fluently communicate in English, and that’s your goal, right?
What is grammar?
Grammar is the set of rules in a language for building sentences. Grammar is important because without it no one would speak or write in a way that was easy to understand.
You can think of grammar as the recipe you follow in a cookbook. There is a certain way to bake a cake. If you don’t follow the recipe properly, then what you end up with might be a very bad cake, or it might not even be a cake at all!
Can you imagine if everyone wrote or spoke however they wanted to and didn’t follow any rules?
It would be chaos!
While it may be true that we can speak and write without knowing grammar, it is also true that you can speak and write better when you do.
Understand Why Something is Right (or Wrong).
Would you be able to explain why the following sentence is wrong?
The dog brown runned to him home.
There are three things wrong with this sentence.
- Adjectives in English do not appear to the right of the noun which they modify.
- “dog brown” → “brown dog”
- The verb “run” has an irregular past tense.
- “runned” → “ran”
- The pronoun before the word “home” should be a possessive.
- “him” → “his”
If we apply all of these fixes to the sentence above we get the perfectly good English sentence:
The brown dog ran to his home.
At the very least, you should be able to recognize and name the English parts of speech. These are categories that explain the function of words in a sentence.
|Part of Speech||Function|
|Noun||A person/place/thing. (man/cat/house/etc.)|
|Adjective||Descriptive word for nouns. (hot/cold/red/dark/etc.)|
|Adverb||Descriptive word for verbs. (quickly/slowly/etc.)|
|Verb||An action word. (run/eat/sleep/etc.)|
|Preposition||Explains the location of something (in/at/on/etc.)|
|Determiners||These specify nouns. (this/that/these/the/a(n)/etc.)|
|Pronouns||Takes the place of a noun. (he/she/it/her/him/etc.)|
|Conjunctions||Join sentences together. (and/so/but/or/yet/etc.)|
The eight categories above are the eight most common parts of speech in English.
Knowing this type of information will allow you to spot mistakes as you make them. This is the most important skill to develop for English learning. If someone corrects us, we often quickly forget the mistake we made. However, if we correct ourselves we very often do not forget and eventually the mistake disappears as we continue to notice.
This is incredibly hard if you are not able to understand the reasons why something is or is not grammatical.
Know What to Ask.
Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to know something about English usage, but you didn’t know how to ask it?
You have a much easier time knowing exactly what to ask when you understand grammar. Similarly, you have an easier time understanding the answers to your questions when people answer them too.
The language of grammar allows you to intelligently and clearly talk about English, its structure, and the proper usage of its words.
When you’re empowered with the skills to know and understand grammar, then you’re able to engage in discussions about the structure of English in a clear way. No more will you be confused by “why” something is right or wrong because you will be able to explain clearly and easily why.
Know the Tools Available.
It’s pretty hard to use a word or phrase we don’t know exists, right? Learning about new ways to use English allows you to broaden your abilities and speak or write in new ways.
Here’s an example:
I have a cat. The cat is white. My cat’s name is Bill. Bill is a friendly cat. He eats a lot. I like cats very much. Cats are fast. They can jump high.
This passage is full of simple sentences. Notice how all of the sentences are very short, there is not a lot of detail offered, and all of the sentences are in the same present tense. When we write or speak like this, it leads to a boring time for the reader or listener. It’s uninteresting for the audience, and it doesn’t offer anything to catch and hold their attention. Let’s fix that.
I have a white cat whose name is Bill. Bill is a very friendly cat. I’ve had him for six years. He eats so much food. Cats are my favourite animals because they are fast, and they can jump really high. In the future, I want to own more cats!
This time the passage is much more interesting because the sentences have been given a more complex structure. They are now both more interesting to read, and they are more interesting listen to as well.
More complex grammar allows you to order your ideas logically and provide a better flow to your ideas, which allows readers and listeners to more easily follow you, as well as better understand what you’re trying to say.
Notice too that I included various tenses including: past, present, and future. This allows you to not only include extra information in the passage, but also switching the tense provides a more interesting experience to your audience.
This is only a very simple example, but even with such a simple passage you can see how the inclusion of more complex grammar enhances it.
You won’t be able to make use of this strategy if you aren’t aware of the tools available to you, however. That is why it’s so important to study English grammar.
You learn the types of tenses, words, and grammatical structures available to you, and the proper way to use them to enhance your English.
Fundamentally, the skills gained from studying English grammar extend to all aspects of English learning. Students who understand grammar are more comfortable speaking and writing, more clear when they do so, and find using English to be a more enjoyable experience.