Category Archives: Grammar

Principled Eclecticism

According to Michael Swan, when teaching grammar,

we should reject nothing on doctrinaire grounds:

* deductive teaching through explanations and examples,
* inductive discovery activities,
* rule-learning,
* peer-teaching,
* decontextualised practice,
* communicative practice,
* incidental focus on form during communicative tasks,
* teacher correction and recasts,
* grammar games,
* corpus analysis,
* learning rules and examples by heart
— all of these and many other traditional and
non-traditional activities have their place, depending on the point being taught, the learner and the context.

Source: TEACHING GRAMMAR – DOES GRAMMAR TEACHING WORK? (Modern English Teacher 15/2, 2006)

10 Grammar Rules Revisited – they are sometimes OK to break

There are several grammarians and linguists that are always exciting to read and listen to, and Steven Pinker is definitely one of them. His article in the Guardian revisits 10 most important grammar rules. It is surely worth reading

Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style: the Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century is published next month (Allen Lane, £16.99). To order it for £13.59 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

Writing & Punctuation – 10 Common Mistakes

GRAMMAR – the singular “they”

GRAMMAR – the singular “they”

10 grammar rules you can really forget and 5 grammar points you should worry about more


TAG Questions

The basic tag questions are general English, shared by British and American:

informational: ‘You don’t wear glasses, do you?’ (I’m not sure, but think you don’t. Am I right?)

inclusive: ‘It’s a nice day, isn’t it?’(It obviously is – I’m not really asking, but just making polite remarks so you can join in the conversation).

emphasizing: ‘I made a bad mistake, didn’t I?’ (This is a soliloquy. I’m not talking to anybody but myself and don’t expect an answer to the rhetorical question. It’s the verbal equivalent of underlining.)

The last of the above types is more characteristic of British than of American use, but the next two are distinctively British and are relatively recent contributions of British English to the rhetorical inventory of impoliteness:

peremptory: ‘Is the tea ready?’ ‘The water has to boil, doesn’t it?’ (Everybody knows you can’t make tea without boiling hot water, and you can see that the water has not come to a boil yet, so stop bothering me with idiotic questions.)

antagonistic: ‘I telephoned you this morning, but you didn’t answer.’ ‘I was in the bath, wasn’t I?’ (The reason I didn’t answer was that I was in the bath, and it was a great annoyance having you phone at that time; if you had any sense and consideration, you would not have called then. [Never mind that the caller could not possibly know all that – I was annoyed at the time and I’m even more annoyed now at what I perceive to be a complaint when I am the one who was put upon.])