3 Surprisingly Simple Steps for Learning English Grammar
You wanted to tell your friend that you were bored, but told them you were boring instead!
If this sounds familiar, you’ll need to brush up on your grammar.
Using correct English grammar will help you to communicate more easily. Here’s how!
- 1. Master Those Confusing Grammar Points
- 2. Learn Perfect English Grammar with Great Resources
- TV and Videos
- “Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss
- “Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English” by Patricia T. O’Conner
- “English Grammar for Dummies” by Wendy M. Anderson, Lesley J. Ward and Geraldine Woods
- “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl
- 3. Be Patient
1. Master Those Confusing Grammar Points
Some words are so similar that it’s hard to tell the difference between them. Here are a few mistakes that are often made by English learners.
Don’t worry—they’re easy to correct!
Excited and Exciting
These words are both adjectives, so how are they different?
Basically, if it ends with -ed, like excited, then this adjective is used to describe how someone feels:
“I’m so excited. I’m going on vacation to Guam tomorrow!”
You can also use other adjectives such as relaxed, intrigued and bored:
“He’s bored because he has just had a three hour meeting.”
However, if the adjective ends with -ing, it usually refers to situations and things that make people feel a certain way. People’s personalities can also be described with –ing adjectives. A boring place will make you feel bored. You won’t want to talk to a boring person either.
“That book looks interesting!“
“Yeah, the characters and plot are pretty exciting.“
Seeing, Looking and Watching
These verbs all mean that you’re using your eyes to sense something. So why use three different words?
It all depends on how you’re looking at something.
Seeing is something that happens automatically. You see things when your eyes are open—whether you want to or not!
“Ooh, do you see that interesting spider on the ceiling?”
“No, and I don’t want to see it. I hate spiders!”
Looking is more active than seeing. You have to actively try to see something to look at it. Sometimes that means moving your head or body. Often it means directing your attention towards something.
“Wow, look at that girl’s hat!”
“Is that a hat? I thought it was an animal.”
“We’re lost again. Let’s look at the map.”
If you want to find something and you can’t see it, you can look for it until you find it.
“I don’t see my keys anywhere! Please help me look for them.”
Watching is the most active word of the three. You have to concentrate on something when you watch it. You can watch things that are moving, like playing animals, naughty children or a car chase on TV.
“Can you watch Billy for me when I go shopping?”
“Okay. He’s watching a movie right now.”
By and Until
These are two prepositions that make grammar tough!
They both indicate a time period that lasts up to a certain point in time.
Until is used when talking about how long things last. You can use it to describe how long a certain activity, situation or time period will continue.
If you’re doing something and the activity will finish at a certain time, use until.
“I will be on vacation until Friday.”
“Lucky you! I will wait until you get back.”
“The new movie won’t be released until January.”
By is generally used for deadlines—it’s quite a serious word. If something has to happen no later than a certain time or date, use by.
“I need your report on my desk by Friday.”
“We need to get to the airport by one o’clock.”
Now that you’re confident with these words, here are some ways you can practice at home!
2. Learn Perfect English Grammar with Great Resources
This site has a brilliant section on grammar which is conveniently organized into different sections. It gives you plenty of helpful examples of how each grammar point is used in a sentence. The example sentences are in handy blue boxes which makes them easier to read.
The British Council Website
This site provides you with some great games to practice what you’ve learned! Although the games are for children, they’re great for adults too. For example, countable and uncountable nouns game is incredibly useful, and some of the games are timed which helps you to think faster.
TV and Videos
Have you heard of her already? Grammar Girl’s website is very informative when it comes to its main focus: English grammar. Her YouTube videos are also very handy! You can find many of them here. Most of her videos are short, easy to understand and give tips on how to remember certain words, phrases and grammar rules.
It uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you'll see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It even reminds you when it’s time to review! Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)
- Movie Moments You Didn’t Know Were Improvised
- Anna Kendrick Sings the Cup Song
- “Happy”—Pharrell Williams
YouTube and Netflix
Beyond educational English videos, there are also loads of fantastic subtitled TV shows and movies out there for you to watch. The subtitles will help you to spot any new English grammar points you’ve encountered and show you how to use them in conversation.
One great place to start is with Disney movies and other animated features. These kinds of movies are safe for all audiences and use wonderfully easy English. They also feature timeless tales that many people are familiar with—you’ve probably even watched some of these movies in your native language when you were a kid!
You can just relax and watch movies to learn new English easily. If you’re feeling studious, try hitting the pause button and writing down some new words!
“Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss
Possibly the most famous grammar book around. Not only is it very funny, but it’s also perfect for perfectionists (people who demand perfection) and advanced English learners. Even the title is a joke, showing the subtle difference a comma can make. The word “shoots” can mean either young plants or the act of firing a gun—two things that you wouldn’t want to confuse! Since it deals mainly with written English, it’s useful for people who are writing essays.
“Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English” by Patricia T. O’Conner
Another fantastic book for students who are confident English speakers. It also deals with commonly confused words and uses fun and unusual examples to clarify them. It also includes a handy glossary to help you understand those tricky grammatical terms.
“English Grammar for Dummies” by Wendy M. Anderson, Lesley J. Ward and Geraldine Woods
One of the popular “for Dummies” series of books which teaches basic skills. It covers virtually everything, so it’s brilliant for learners of all levels. Unlike a textbook, it’s written in a casual style with a sense of humor. The examples are helpful and easy to understand and it even tells you how to use formal and casual English!
“James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl
This classic children’s book is a wonderful fantasy story.
While it isn’t a book about grammar, it’s a great way to see how grammar is used. The language used in the book is simple and descriptive so it can be appreciated by beginners. It has also been made into a movie! The hero of the story is a small boy named James who accidentally causes a gigantic, house-sized peach full of friendly giant insects to grow in his aunts’ backyard garden. While enjoying the story you can use a pencil to underline tricky grammar points! For example, “disgusting little beast” is just one of the ways adjectives are listed in the book.
3. Be Patient
Don’t expect your grammar to be perfect right away—even native speakers make mistakes!
One of the best ways to become confident with a new grammar point is to use it as often as possible.
If you just learned about the difference between “who” and “whom,” use both of these words in sentences whenever you can. You can always check if you’re correct or not by asking a native speaker or checking online.
Remember to study just a little at a time. Take a break if you feel overwhelmed and come back to your studies later. You should also study in a way that suits your learning style. If you find watching movies or writing letters in a cafe is easier than reading books, go and find a good cafe with comfortable chairs. Don’t let tenses make you feel tense (stressed)—learning is supposed to be fun!\