7 Fun Grammar Games for Adults in ESL Classes

The livelier and more fun you can make your ESL class, the more likely you are to have engaged and receptive students.

And this is true no matter their age.

Think about it! Adult language learners typically have many responsibilities beyond your English class, like their jobs and families. They’re already stressed.

But learning a new language should be enjoyable!

So, here are seven fun grammar games for adults and exactly why they’re effective in the ESL classroom.


1. Heads Up!

Grammar focus: Verb tenses

grammar games for adults

Heads Up! is a game and app (iOS/Android) that was created by television host Ellen DeGeneres. It’s a hilarious game and an excellent interactive tool for teaching an adult ESL course.

The game encourages students to use a variety of verb tenses and descriptive vocabulary—and quickly!

The app comes with more than 40 themed decks. You can also create a customized deck that goes hand-in-hand with the unit and vocabulary you’re currently focusing on in class.

The game is played in teams of two. One team member holds the smart device to their forehead so they can’t see what’s written on the card. The other teammate must describe the card without saying any of the words that are visible on it.

Once the first teammate guesses the word, they tilt the device down to change the card. This continues until the timer runs out, and then the team with the most correct guesses wins!

The Heads Up! app only costs $1.99, but you can replicate the game concept for free using index cards.

2. Alibi

Grammar focus: Past simple and past continuous verbs

Alibi is a role-playing game that is perfect for intermediate language learners. It doesn’t require any materials—as the teacher, all you have to do is create a crime and an alibi.

The game is ideal for practicing the past simple and past continuous verb tenses, and you’ll see why!

Divide your class into groups and assign one of the groups to be the suspects. The suspect group talks amongst themselves to get their alibi story straight before the interrogation begins. Each of the other groups will now interview every suspect individually.

Once all of the suspects have been interviewed by all of the groups, the alibi stories are compared. If the stories match up—everyone said they were in the right place at the right time—the suspect group is found not guilty. If the stories do not match up, the suspects are found guilty.

3. Fortune Teller

Grammar focus: Future tense verbs, questions

Fortune Teller is a role-playing game that focuses on the future tense. To play this game with your adult ESL students, split the class into two groups. One group will play the role of the fortune tellers and the other will play the fortune seekers.

The group seeking their fortunes will write as many questions as there are fortune tellers. So if you have five fortune tellers, each seeker will write five different questions.

Instruct students to write open-ended questions versus just yes-or-no ones. Questions that begin with who, what, where, when or which will elicit a response beyond simply “yes” or “no.”

So “Where will I meet my soulmate?” is a better question than “Will I meet my soulmate?”

To play, each fortune seeker will visit each fortune teller and ask them one of their questions. You could have them write the responses down if you wish. And if there’s time, you can switch positions halfway through the class period so everyone gets a turn as fortune seeker and fortune teller!

4. 20 Questions

Grammar focus: Questions

20 Questions is a yes-or-no game that is particularly fun to play with beginner English learners. You can certainly play this with no physical materials, but I recommend using paper and writing utensils.

To play, you can either demonstrate as question master or select a student to fill the role. The question master picks a category, such as jobs, places, hobbies or historic figures. They’ll write down a secret word in that category.

The rest of the class now has the opportunity to collectively ask 20 yes-or-no questions in an attempt to guess what the question master has written down. If another student successfully guesses the secret word, they take over as question master and select a new category and word.

Alternatively, you can play with points and always ensure each question master fields 20 questions. In this version, each student is responsible for keeping track of their own points, which they receive for asking grammatically correct questions that receive a “yes” answer.

You can play as many rounds as there are students so that each student has the opportunity to be the question master. At the end of the game, the student with the most points wins!

5. Duolingo

Grammar focus: Basic grammar points

Duolingo is one of the most well-known language learning apps for beginner-level language learners. It’s free to use on both iOS and Android devices.

Duolingo employs gamification in all of their lessons, so your students will be entertained as they’re being educated.

Each lesson only takes about five minutes to complete, so you can use it as a warm-up activity that’s personalized to each individual learner, for example.

It’s essential for students to continue to study and practice English outside of the classroom, too, and the Duolingo app makes it easy to do just that!

Duolingo focuses on reading, listening and speaking skills, and covers basic, everyday grammar points that are essential for building a strong foundation in a new language.

Want more info? Here’s our complete Duolingo review.

6. Johnny Grammar Word Challenge

Grammar focus: Everyday grammar structures

grammar games for adults

Johnny Grammar Word Challenge is another free app for iOS and Android that quizzes English learners of all levels on spelling, vocabulary and grammar.

The app’s games are time-based and test students on topics and structures that appear in everyday English.

There are three difficulty levels, three categories and 10 topics. Topics include food, restaurants, travel and hobbies, just to name a few.

As a teacher, you can either ask students to practice what they’re most interested in, or you can assign specific topics to coincide with the lesson that you’re teaching.

7. Free Rice

Grammar focus: Conjugations, syntax

Free Rice is a free online game that adult English learners can use to practice grammar and vocabulary.

My favorite part of this game is that for every correct answer, Free Rice will donate 10 grains of rice to the UN’s World Food Programme, which is working to end world hunger.

Difficulty follows a sliding scale. When students get a question correct, the next question will be harder; getting a question incorrect means the next question will be easier.

Your students can set up individual accounts or you can set up a group account for your class to keep track of what you’ve done.

This is a feel-good game that will help your students improve their English grammar and vocabulary skills—and there’s other game categories for more fun in English, as well!

Why Grammar Games Are Effective

Games offer authentic opportunities for conversational practice

Learning the rules of grammar is essential, but most language learners are more interested in learning how to apply those rules in everyday conversations.

Many English learners have the goal of being able to communicate verbally. For this reason, it is vital that you create situations in the classroom that force students to use their oral language skills.

Games provide these opportunities. They also put your students on the spot and require them to use their oral skills in a manner that is similar to real-life situations—only without the real-world pressure.

Games create a relaxed environment for using new grammar skills

Using games to reinforce a particular grammar topic in a classroom of adult learners will loosen your students up and encourage them to practice.

Games often inspire a sense of playfulness, which gives students space to make mistakes and laugh about them.

Adult learners are often more hesitant and insecure than young students when it comes to learning and practicing a new language.

So, the more you can do to make the learning environment feel inviting, accepting, safe and relaxed, the more likely your students will be to successfully practice their English in a group setting.

Games add color to black-and-white grammar concepts

Let’s face it… Grammar isn’t the most exciting component of the English language. It’s not the easiest part of the English language, either.

For many adult learners, acquiring the skills necessary to speak English properly can be daunting and tedious. By using games, you can transform grammar lessons from stale to stimulating!

Of course, not every grammar concept lends itself to these games. But games are not the only tools that can make learning grammar more fun.

You can also try utilizing English literature and other native media. For example, the FluentU program offers a range of authentic English videos—like movie clips, inspiring talks and more—that you can use to show your students grammar and vocabulary in action.


If technology or resources are limited in your English class, all hope is not lost! You can use these grammar games for adults to create interactive activities using what is available to you and your students.

Incorporating games into your adult English class can help your students on their path to flowing English fluency.

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