A Concise Grammar for English Language Teachers

ISBN: 9780953132317

concise grammer book - Look Inside

A Concise Grammar for English Language Teachers excels at actually making grammar easy; easy to understand, easy to master, easy to apply in the classroom. Its underlying aim is to help teachers become au fait with the terminology used in modern ELT coursebooks and to build confidence in their ability to explain grammar rules, both structural and functional.

Among the bold innovations with this book is its A4 size, which more readily accommodates the plentiful and highly commended tables of grammar items. It is also the first English teacher’s grammar to use ‘tree diagrams’ to show sentence constituents in full clarity. Other strengths include the many excerpts from coursebooks and resource books, plus the excellent practical tips throughout.

Reference book and coursebook

A Concise Grammar for English Language Teachers may be used as a ‘dip in’ reference book, and its excellent user-friendly index helps immensely with that, but the real strength of this book is that it can be read from start to finish as a coursebook, where no prior knowledge of grammar rules or terminology is presumed. However, a good knowledge of everyday English is presumed.

Teaching Notes

The many Teaching Notes are also quite helpful. These ‘to-the-point’ pieces of advice serve as reminders to the reader who may have come across similar ones before, or as valuable tips to the novice. Some of the Teaching Notes are unique, for example a 13-point checklist on ‘How to run through an exercise list’. Trainees often write on their lesson plans ‘Teacher runs through the task’ or ‘Check around’, and, interestingly, when asked how they intend to do this, i.e. to start the task, to pair off the learners, to decide when to check around, to deal with errors, to use names, to personalise, etc, they have no planned procedure.

Here’s one Teaching Note that seems common-sense enough but many novice teachers would be unaware of the pitfalls of ignoring it:

teaching notes

What’s so different about this grammar book?

A Concise Grammar for English Language Teachers is the only grammar book of its type with:

  1. A concise example of using CONTEXT, VISUAL and COLLOCATION, essential for modern communicative teaching (p 4)
  2. Step-by-step instructions on how to ‘run through’ a controlled practice task (p 12)
  3. An actual visual of the perfect continuous tenses (p 23)
  4. A note on the American/Irish alternative version of the present perfect tense (p 25)
  5. A note on the American ‘if you would have’ vying with ‘if you had’ (p 94)
  6. A comprehensive list of irregular verbs (156) including American variations (and it does include shit) (pp 62-63)
  7. A list of all verb tenses, uses and examples on one page (p 34)
  8. A visual explanation of the adverbs quite, pretty and so (p 54)
  9. An explanation of Kim’s Game embedding article usage (p 100)
  10. Error analysis with correction on the whiteboard (p 109)
  11. A list of learner levels according to grammatical indicators (p 112)
  12. An index that is really user friendly, taking nothing for granted (pp 123-124)

Extracts from the book’s Introduction

I am cognizant of the value of coursebooks and recommend their use to varying degrees, hence the many extracts from coursebooks in this publication. But besides the coursebook there is a growing popularity of the use of authentic materials, games, instant lessons, etc, so the teacher now has to operate with more unpredictable language in the classroom. Today’s language learner is sophisticated and demands both communicative activities and competent grammar explanation.

It must be stressed that the activities in this book are designed for teachers, not for language learners. The extracts from ELT coursebooks and the Teaching Notes are intended to show the difference between what the teacher should know and what and how they should teach.

I would here like to include a few points on what I believe an English language teacher should know about grammar and its teaching:

  1. The teacher should know the terminology, because it is very difficult to explain a grammar rule without knowing the names of the items affected by that rule.
  2. The teacher should know the structure rules, simply because most learners are comparing those of English with their own while they learn, and clear explanation should be available to the student on request.
  3. The teacher should know how to fit the semantic (meaning) with the grammatical, i.e. we don't just explain the what of the structure, but also the why, the use/function of the structure. The good teacher knows how to teach the ‘feeling’ for the language besides the structure of it.
  4. The teacher should know when to teach grammar, better said, exploit grammar to aid the learning of the language. This involves knowing whether their students are the type who use grammar as a ‘mental framework’ for language acquisition (this sounds abstract but this type is evidenced by constant questioning about grammatical points, often consequently drawing accusations of testing the teacher). It also involves waiting till learners become curious about a grammar point and being able to present a grammar lesson on that.
  5. The teacher should know when not to teach grammar, that is, not to present grammar for grammar’s sake. Primarily the teacher is a teacher of English communication, not of English grammar, and these in effect are two different subjects. Native speakers never had to learn (consciously) the grammar of their own language in order to communicate.
  6. The teacher should know how much grammar to teach at each level. Most experienced teachers know when to tell a white lie in order to keep information simple and not overwhelm slow learners or learners at lower levels.


"... concise definitions and explanations, the book contains much teacher-friendly material... clearly laid out, ideal for the teacher who requires a quick reference and some useful teaching tips... For the trainee teacher particularly on pre-experience courses such as CELTA… it provides an easy to use learning aid. "IATEFL Issues
"... a useful reference and resource for practicing teachers and ELT trainers... Of particular interest to trainee teachers will be the three chapters at the start of the book dealing with the form and function of verb tenses."International House Journal
"... visually appealing... very accessible... imparts wisdom not only on grammar but also on teaching methods and differences between language learners... a valuable asset to your library."TESOL Ontario