Teaching English Grammar

Teaching English Grammar
(by D N Mukhiya)

Teaching English Grammar is an important part of language teaching. It plays a key role in every ESL/EFL teacher’s classroom instruction and testing. Here are two major questions that are often raised regarding grammar teaching in second language pedagogy:

  • Should we teach grammar or not? Do we need to teach grammar?
  • If we should teach grammar, how should we teach it?


Many linguists and language teachers have argued that formal instruction in grammar in a language classroom will not contribute a lot to students to gain the knowledge needed to participate in authentic communication. Rather they believe that grammar teaching should be for conscious-raising, not simply for remembering rules and forms. For most teachers, the main idea of  grammar teaching is to help students internalize the structures taught in such a way that they can be used in everyday communication. For this purpose, the learners are provided with opportunities to practise the structures in context of more normal communicative conditions.


The knowledge of grammar should be for conscious-raising so that students develop explicit knowledge that helps them to participate in authentic communication. To achieve this purpose, I have come up with a concept of PRET in grammar teaching by analyzing the feedback and suggestions that I obtained from hundreds of successful grammar teachers during my training sessions.

Teaching English Grammar



Deductive and inductive

  • An approach in which learners are taught rules and given specific information about a language. Then they apply these rules and structures when using the language.
  • Grammar translation method and audio-lingual method
  • ‘Top down’ approach
  • Rules come first then the meaning and use.
  • Teacher-centred approach
  • Stages:

Drilling again


  • An approach in which learners are not taught rules directly, but are left to discover – or induce – rules from their experience of using the language.
  • Emphasis on the use of language rather than presentation of information about the language.
  • Direct method and communicative approach
  • ‘Bottom up’ approach
  • Practice comes first, then the rule
  • Learner-centred approach
  • Stages:

Creation of need

Students discover grammar rules while working through exercises.

Inductive approaches are often seen as advantageous as the learner is more active in the learning process rather than being a passive recipient. Most teachers use  this approach as it keeps students engaged and helps them develop deeper understanding.

Teaching English Grammar

As both approaches (inductive and deductive) have some pros and cons, I often suggest English teachers to use the combination of both the approaches for teaching English grammar.

  • Use inductive approaches for teaching those grammar rules that have no exceptions or fewer exceptions, and are based on structures. (e. g. transformations, causative verbs)
  • Use deductive approaches for teaching those grammar rules that have full of exceptions and depend on meaning or context rather than structures. (e. g. prepositions, reported speech)


Teaching English Grammar

Making connections with rules and exercises

  • Extracting: Give some examples and ask students to extract rules.
  • Categorizing: Present some sentences and ask students to categorize them according to the underlying rules.
  • Spotting: After students have deducted a set of rules, ask them to find sentences for those rules.
  • Explaining: Ask students to give explanation of what they have learned.
  • Revising: Revision is much important in grammar teaching as students learn new rules and structures in each lesson and each lesson is full of exceptions. When they learn new rules, they often get confused and start making over-generalization. When they learn reported speech, they learn to change tenses. After that, when they move to passive voice, they use the same rule while changing sentences into passive. Here are the effective ways for revising grammar lessons.

Articles + Tag Questions
Articles + Tag Questions + Transformations
Articles + Tag Questions + Transformations + Tense
Articles + Tag Questions + Transformations + Tense + Voice
Articles + Tag Questions + Transformations + Tense + Voice + Reported Speech………


More Tips for Grammar Teachers

  • Do not include confusing options while preparing grammar questions in exams.
  • Do not confuse students with British and American English.
  • Use different levels of exercises. (word, phrase, sentence, text).
  • Let them do exercises making revisions in a meaningful way.
  • Use songs and grammar games.
  • Let the students read authentic text.
  • Check if  students have pre-knowledge before you start dealing with a proper topic.
Article singular and plural nouns
countable and uncountable nouns
superlative degrees
geographical names
types of nouns (proper, common, abstract)
Tag Auxiliary verbs
Nouns and pronouns
Transformation Auxiliary verbs
Forms of main verbs
Negative words
Relative clause Nouns
Preposition Time adverbials
Reported speech Tense
Conjunction Clauses
Active and passive Tense
Tense Time adverbials
Causative Forms of verbs


Which grammar books to follow?

Go through grammar books from simple to advanced levels for better learning and deeper understanding. Here some famous grammar books are arranged according to their level of advancement.        


Start with general grammar books or locally published books (written following the national curriculum framework)

High School English Grammar and Composition (Wren and Martin)
English Grammar in Use (Raymond Murphy)
Intermediate English Grammar (Raymond Murphy)
Oxford Guide to English grammar (John Eastwood)

Advanced Grammar in Use (Martin Hewings)
Practical English Usage (Michael Swan)
A Practical English Grammar (Audrey Jean Thomson)
A Communicative Grammar of English (Geoffrey N. Leech)

A University Grammar of English (Randolph Quirk,Sidney Greenbaum)
The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher’s Course (Marianne Cele-Murcia)
A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar (Rodney Huddleston)
Cambridge Grammar of English: A Comprehensive Guide (Ronald Carter)
Understanding Syntax (Maggie Tallerman)
Rediscover Grammar (David Crystal)


Thornbury, S. (1999). How to Teach Grammar. Pearson.
Brown, H.D. (2007). Principles of language learning and teaching. Pearson Longman.
Nassaji, H. & Fotos, S. Current Developments in Research on the Teaching of Grammar.
Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (2004) 24 , pp. 126-145

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