How to learn English grammar

How to learn English grammar

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated November 10, 2022

Grammar doesn’t have to be a headache. It can be fun.

Many English language learners remember boring or complicated grammar lessons from school. Remember that perfect grammar isn’t the goal, good communication is. If grammar gets in the way of your communication goals, then it’s time to step up your grammar. There are lots of ways to learn English grammar that are interesting for you and help you communicate better. 

Here are some tips on how to learn English grammar easily:

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Have a goal

Total grammar perfection is an overwhelming language goal. It’s important to have a goal you can achieve. Having a goal can help you see your progress. Set a target that is meaningful to you. Here are examples of goals you can set:

  • Giving directions
  • Meeting family
  • Talking about work
  • Talking about the past
  • Talking about the future
  • Giving a presentation
  • Writing a college-level essay

This goal will help you know what grammar structures and vocabulary you need to learn.

Listen and Repeat

Children learn languages by copying what they hear. If you want to know how to learn English grammar naturally, listen and repeat what you hear like a child.

  • Watch a movie. Wait for a difficult sentence, pause the movie, and repeat that sentence. 
  • Have a conversation. Remember one thing the person said, and say it out loud later.
  • Listen to a song. Find the lyrics online and sing along.

Listen-and-repeat is one of the most natural ways to internalize how to learn English grammar. Most apps and language programs begin with this step.

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Get the book

The best book that teaches you how to learn and memorize English grammar rules is Practical English Usage by Michael Swan. It is widely available and you can find it at your local library.

This book is for English language learners and gives great examples of how to use all the different English grammar rules. The book also explains things like verbs, nouns, and subjects.

Sometimes native speakers make a lot of grammar mistakes, so having an official book can help you understand what is slang and what is proper grammar.

Practice verb forms

In English, verbs have three different forms: infinitive – past simple – past participle. The infinitive verb form is for present or repeated behavior. Keywords are usually, normally, often, etc. Past simple verbs are used to talk about completed actions. Keywords are yesterday, last week, last month, etc. The past participle is used for past actions for a time frame that is not yet finished.

Go – went – gone

Usually I go shopping on Mondays. Last week I went shopping. I haven’t gone shopping yet this week.

Eat – ate – eaten

I always eat breakfast. Today I ate eggs. I have eaten eggs my whole life.

Verb forms are one part of learning English grammar that is just about memorization. Make a list with all the verbs you can think of and practice changing the verbs. 

Tricky verbs such as “to be” need extra special attention when it comes to how to learn basic English grammar.

Write, write, write!

Writing is a great way to reinforce how to learn English grammar. It helps you from the basics such as modal verbs to advanced grammar such as relative clauses. You can write anything you want. Try:

  • A summary of a TV show
  • Recap of a football match
  • A dialogue between two people
  • A summary of your day
  • An email
  • A thank you letter
  • A postcard

Take your time and focus on getting the grammar and vocabulary correct. Use convenient tools such as your grammar book.

Talk, talk, talk!

Make sure to speak English every day. The goal of learning English grammar is so you can communicate with someone. If you don’t have friends or coworkers who speak English, find a practice partner online. 

People are often looking for language exchanges, so find an English-speaker that wants to practice your native language. Help each other. Meet up on Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet to practice.

When you’re talking, focus more on having a good flow without pausing or thinking too much. Don’t use web-based tools while talking face-to-face. It’s ok to make mistakes in real-time.

Get feedback

Talking and writing are important, but you need feedback to improve. Ask your family, friends, or coworkers to look at your writing and point out any mistakes. Go back and fix it. 

Tell them to correct your mistakes when you’re speaking. For example you can say, “I’m working on my past tense grammar. If I make a mistake about the past tense, please correct me.” Native speakers are happy to help.

Put it all together with English grammar classes

WIth our tips you are set up for success: Write, read, listen, repeat and set yourself a goal! Another way to learn English grammar online is to reinforce your self-study with a class. Online classes guide you through all of these stages from listening and repeating, writing, reading, talking, and getting feedback. Lingoda courses give you target grammar and vocabulary so you know exactly what to learn.

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Czech and Turkish. Her tech copywriting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

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