Grammar tips

All language learners need to use grammar, and this can take a long time to master. Take it in small chunks, and follow our tips to make it easier.

Learning grammar well involves three key strategies:

  • grammar study
  • input from reading and listening
  • real life practice through speaking and writing.

Remember it’s OK to make mistakes – but make sure you learn from them. Prioritise the areas you want to focus on rather than trying to improve everything at once. As a beginner, stick to short sentences – it’s easier to stay grammatically correct.

Strategies for improving your grammar

  • Active use—when you learn a new grammatical rule, try to use it actively by creating new situations (in speaking and writing) where you can try out new grammar. You can start to assimilate it and this will also help to reinforce it in your memory.
  • Study grammar in context rather than just looking at verb tables. Note down references of new grammar points you notice in what you read or hear.
  • Try to work out the rule for yourself by looking at several examples of a particular point. You can compare your conclusions about use with a grammar reference book afterwards. Vary between looking at examples of language first, and looking first at the rules of grammar.
  • Look for examples when you learn new grammatical structures. Collect useful examples of grammar in use from your reading.
  • Make comparisons with your language —think consciously about differences between expressions in your first language and the one you are learning.
  • Ask for feedback on your understanding of grammar points from other learners or your teachers.
  • Analyse teachers’ corrections on your written work—find some exercises for the grammar points you struggled with.
  • Try to become aware of your learning strategies. Think about whether the tactics you are using are helping you to understand the grammar, to record it, to practise it or to use in communication. Exchange ideas with other learners.

Activities for grammar practice

Drill, drill, drill! If you don’t like paper-based exercises, try a software package or a web-based exercise. The LLC has fantastic multimedia resources for grammar. Often, the software gives you instant feedback about your answers so you can see if you’re on the right track!

Inspired by: Fernández-Toro, M. & Jones, F. DIY Techniques for Language Learners, London: Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT), 2001, pp. 62-69