The Importance of Learning English Grammar

7/5/2014


The British Department of Education has decided that all primary schools in Britain teach pupils grammar course from the coming September. According to the report by the Telegraph on April 11, British people have not received systematical grammar education in the recent three decades, which has resulted in much difficulty when they start to learn a foreign language like French or German.

 

From September on, pupils in the UK will be introduced terms such as "adverb", "adjective", and "second-person plural" in class. Based on the new National Curriculum, pupils will begin by learning some suffixes, prefixes and associated changes in spelling from their first year in school. The bureau believes that the introduction of grammar knowledge to students will not only help them better speak "standard English" but master foreign languages as well.

 

While there has been a compelling feeling that grammar should be taught in school, disputes over "the rightest out of the rights" of quite a few controversial grammar usages never fade out. There are some grammar rules which are so apparently understood that no one will bother to make changes, say, "ed" after a verb implies its past tense; but people and even linguists quarrel over the correctness of some other ambiguous rules. For instance, in many grammar books it is said if there are multiple adjectives before a noun, the adjectives should follow a certain order; many people don't think so however. Take another rule as an example, some linguists (especially the elderly) contend that it is wrong to split infinitive by putting an adverb between "to" and the verb (e.g.: to bitterly cry), but such splitting infinitive can be seen commonly here and there nowadays. A British linguist claims that some rules in popular textbooks and grammar books have been wrong for hundreds of years because the authors themselves wrongly concluded the usages in their times; meanwhile many of the sayings that modern people believe are incorrect or "new" have actually appeared centuries ago. One example of the former is the belief that the word "none" must be a singular, that is, you can only say "None of them is…" instead of "None of them are…" regardless of the fact that more people prefer to regard "none" as a plural ever since the year 1640. In another rare example, people believe that they cannot use "they" to refer to a single object, not knowing that great writers Shakespeare and Jane Austen frequently did so.

 

Grammar rules of English have gone through continuous development and expansion all the time, and they have no doubt changed a lot. It should be made clear that rules are summarized based on close study of native speakers' daily usage rather than certain experts or old grammar books. In addition, sometimes there is no explicit "right or wrong" answer to a certain question, which means there are more than one usage of a word or phrase in certain situations, and such usages are considered merely people's personal preferences, not rules.

 

The aim of learning grammar is to make it easier to learn a language. If one is taught how words and phrases combine to form sentences and the components of sentence structures, he or she will be able to write correct sentences of quality, understand difficult texts and better master a foreign language.


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