Teaching of Grammar

What is grammar? It is generally thought to be a set of rules that governs how words and group of words can be arranged to form sentences in a particular language. Though it is quite difficult to give a concrete definition of grammar because different people offer different views of what grammar is. Let us look into what grammarian and language experts say:

Grammar: the rules that say how words are combined, arranged and changed to show different meanings.

                                                                                      Michael Swan, 1980

Grammar is a description of the structure of a language and the way in which linguistic units such as words and phrases are combined to produce sentences in the language. It usually takes into account the meanings and functions these sentences have in the overall system of the language. It may or may not include the description of the sounds of a language.

                                                Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics, 1985         


What do you understand by the word grammar in these sentences?

  1. I find English grammar dull but like Biology.
  2. Quirk’s Grammar is quite useful, I have found.
  3. Neeta’s spelling is good but her grammar is horrifying.
  4. Rohit’s grammar is all right but his vocabulary is too limited.
  5. What is the point of Krishna’s knowing grammar? You can’t understand his pronunciation.
  6. Traditional grammar was criticized by scholars who followed the transformational generative model.
  7. Tribal languages have no grammar.
  8. I don’t have to bother about grammar when I speak my mother tongue. But I am very conscious when I speak English.


  1. Grammar here means a subject of study included in the curriculum.
  2. Grammar here refers to a particular book of grammar.
  3. 4.   5.  Grammar refers to a particular area or an aspect of proficiency in the language.

6. Grammar here means particular theoretical approach to language in  general or Grammar in this sense refers to   linguistic theory.

7. & 8.  Speaking mother tongue or any language learnt by mere exposure and use makes us realize that the                 language has no grammar. But every language including mother tongue has its own set of rules.  When we speak mother tongue we internalize these rules in an unconscious manner. When we learn English it has lots of grammar.

Implicit Vs Explicit Knowledge:                                                   Which one will a teacher of English have?

Implicit KnowledgeExplicit Knowledge
Ability to use language, produce acceptable sentences, detect unacceptable ones.Ability to talk about language, explain rules, or processes Involved.


State whether these sentences right or wrong?

  1. Please look the word up.
  2. The shepherd took his sheeps for gazing.
  3. He only died last week.
  4. After the bomb blast, they didn’t send their daughter to the school.
  5. He made us to realize about the loss the company suffered.

When I presented the above sentences to my daughter who is not an English teacher but has a good sense of sentence acceptability she proceeded to correct them to make it acceptable  and as per her knowledge the acceptable sentences are as follows:

  1. Please look up the word.
  2. The shepherd took his sheep for gazing.
  3. He died only last week.
  4. After the bomb blast, they didn’t send their child to school.
  5. He made us realize about the loss the company suffered.

However when I asked  my daughter  what exactly it was that she found wrong with the sentences, and if she could explain me the nature of the mistake in each case, she said  that she can’t. Later on when I asked an English teacher about those faulty sentences she not only corrected those sentences but also give an explanation me why those sentences were faulty. Example

Sentence- i.            A sentence cannot end with a preposition.

Sentence -ii            ‘sheep’ is a noun which does not undergo any change in plural form

From the above discussion, what do you think ……………..

Which grammar knowledge implicit/explicit will a teacher of English have?_______________

Types of grammar practice

Type 1        Awareness

After introducing to a grammatical structure, the learners are given opportunities to do a task that focuses their attention on its form or meaning.

Example:  From a given newspaper articles the learners are asked to underline the passive form.

Type 2        Controlled drills

Substitution table for giving practice of ‘has’

My friendhasknown Mr. Rajusincelast May
Mohantaught French
Your sisterlived in DelhiApril

Type 3       

Meaningful drills

The responses are controlled and the learners have limited choice.

Example: practicing the usage of ‘can’ and ‘cannot’

  1. A deer __________________ very fast. (run)
  2. A cow ___________________ very fast . (run)
  3. A crow ___________________ in the dark. (see)
  4. An owl ___________________ in the dark. (see)

Type 4       

Guided, meaningful practice

Learners complete the incomplete sentences of their own according to a  set pattern. E.g.: Practising conditional clause, learners are given the cue I  to complete the task.

Here are some clauses beginning with if: (Grammar item – If conditional)

if the weather was better

if I had the money

if she stopped talking

if the builders worked faster

if it was a little bigger

Complete the sentences using the clause above. [Focussed on form and meaning].

  1. I would buy a house __________________________
  2. The rat could go through the hole ____________________
  3. We could play in the garden __________________
  4. I would hear you better __________________
  5. We could move into the house  __________________

Type 5       

(Structure- based) free sentence composition

Understand the difference and write a sentence about each pair using an adjective from the box with –er or more.

intelligent loud dangerous precious big easy sweet

Example:     a shout and a whisper

A shout is louder than a whisper.

  1. a lion and a cat


  1. chocolate and fruit


3.  diamonds and pearls


  1. people and monkeys


  1. a mountain and a hill


Type 6       

(structure-based) discourse composition

Fill in the blanks with the past forms of the verb given in the brackets and read the paragraph.

In the Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Leander Paes ______________ (win)               the bronze medal. When he _______________(return) to India, he was given a hero’s welcome. Hundreds of students _______________ (go) to the airport            to receive him. When they __________ (see) him, they________________ (cheer)     loudly and _______________ (garland) him. Some of them____________ (take)               his autograph.

Type 7       


In language classrooms, learners are exposed to language from a various sources. As teachers we want to help learners to get most of this language, known as input, so that it enters their working systems and feeds into the learning process. Input which becomes part of the learning process is known as intake. This intake of grammar results in paying conscious attention to the input; this kind of intake is known as noticing (Schmidt1990).

To find the adverb phrase we must first identify the main verb in the sentence. Then we have to ask how, when, where and why something happened. The answer will be an adverb phrase (or clause if it has a verb).

Find the adverb phrases in the following sentences:

Example: Jagan wrote the poem with great feeling.

(How did Jagan write the poem? With great feeling)

  1. The train whistled and pulled out at a low speed.
  2. People at last began to think that I was wrong.
  3. Juli was sitting down in an upright position.

Type 8       


In consciousness raising approach learners discover grammatical rules and notice the structure by themselves and contribute to the acquisition  of implicit knowledge.

Task 1

Identifying the usage of   Simple present tense, ask the learners to read the comic characters and the underlined verbs.



Read these sentences about Garfield and his friends and put the verbs in brackets into the correct form:

  1. Garfield (to love) _loves__TV and (to hate) _______ Mondays.
  2. Garfield and Odie (to live)__________ with Jon. 3.        Sometimes Garfield (to kick)_________Odie off the table.
  3. Jon and Odie ______ Garfield very much!
  4. I am a lazy cat of 25 pounds and don’t like _____________.

Conciousness raising_task-2   

What does Garfield like? And, what does he dislike?

strong coffeeraisins
teddy bearmice

Eg.1.  I like Mondays.                                                                  No, I don’t like Mondays. I hate Mondays!        

2.  Garfield hates TV.                                                            No, he doesn’t hate TV. He likes TV.        

3.  Garfield likes dieting very much.                                                             ………………..………………………………

4.  Garfield dislikes eating.                                                                              ………………..………………………………

5.  I eat raisins every day!                                                                                 ………………..………………………………

6.  Garfield plays with mice.                                                                              ………………..………………………………

7.  Garfield hates lasagne and loves vegetables.                                       …………..………………………………





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