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Importance of grammar


Some teachers have questioned the rules they are required to teach. Many seem to find grammar a difficult subject to impart to students while others have challenged the need for grammar at all.

One of the problems teachers and learners face today centres on "uncertainty", arising from the fact that many grammarians have different opinions on terminology, particularly in relation to the various Classes of Speech, even arguing about what are the Parts of Speech.

For this reason, over the coming weeks, Exploring English will focus on this prerequisite to being a superior speaker and writer of English.

First of all, we need to determine the answer to the question: what is grammar?

Grammar means different things to different people. It can be:

·Speaking and writing in accordance with accepted rules or principles and standards of usage;

·The systematic study or analysis of words, word forms and sentences - their arrangement and construction - functions or uses - classes - characteristics - features - patterns and interrelationships in spoken and written language;

·The systematic study and description of a language sentence structure, i.e. the way that the words and word forms in a sentence are arranged to show their relationship to each other;

·A systematic analysis or study that deals with those aspects of a language that demonstrate the relationship between words in speech and writing; or

·A science involving the study of such aspects of language as phonology, orthography, syntax, etymology, semantics and prosody.


To teach English grammar, the 4S-Accelerated English Programme (4S-AEP) uses a formal-functional approach, which is a combined technique that focuses on the traditional aspects of formal grammar while emphasising the functional or purpose of words and word groups in context.

This approach is like starting out on a hike across unknown and difficult terrain, progressing slowly but surely from the easy to the difficult and from the known to the unknown.

Its underlying objective is to ensure that the grammar skills being taught are meaningful and purposeful with the emphasis on the function of words and word groups in various language situations.

4S-AEP contends that learners benefit most when knowledge of traditional definitions and class categories is combined with the newer terminology that has evolved in recent decades. It is a "partnership" between the traditional and the modern.

However, while 4S-AEP recognises the value of learners knowing about the various grammatical categories or classes of speech into which words and word groups can be placed (such as the traditional parts of speech), its main goal is to ensure that speakers and writers are able to use English correctly and understand why.

To this end, 4S-AEP emphasises the fact that every word or word group used in written or spoken English should have a specific function or purpose. Otherwise, it should not be used.

The primary objective of 4S-AEP in the realm of grammar is to ensure that speakers and writers master the skill of using words and word groups competently and correctly and in a meaningful and purposeful way - not just adhering to a specific definition or set of rules.

To be competent and confident in the language, 4S-AEP also strongly promotes the exploration and usage of various facets of "the art of the alternative" in grammar, which has been studied in previous columns.


For this reason, we will adopt the analogy that speaking and writing is like painting by an artist.

Just as a professional artist applies different techniques, media and elements and seeks to portray specific meaning and emphasis in a painting by using colours, shapes, lines and textures, so too does the accomplished writer and speaker through the use of different and superior words and constructions, formats and structure.

Furthermore, 4S-AEP quickly raises individual English language proficiency levels by systematically and gradually addressing the everyday, common grammatical errors that speakers and writers make in conversation and communication by pursuing a simple but effective and practical "problem - solution" approach.

There are 10 common problem areas in grammar - all of which are considered in great detail in the 4S-SCILLS companion and audio booklet, an e-learning, self-pacing programme, namely:

·Wrongly using adjectives instead of adverbs;

·Using wrong prepositions to begin phrases;

·Using wrong pronouns;

·Using verb forms wrongly;

·Using words and word groups incorrectly;

·Dealing with contractions, conjunctions and constructions;

·Common pronunciation errors;

·Subject-verb agreement;

·Using correct verb form tenses; and

·Using correct irregular verb forms.

Over the next few weeks, some of these 10 areas and other grammar-related issues will be addressed in this column.

Keith Wright is the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) - a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.

The 4S methodology and the associated Accelerated English Programme (AEP) mentioned in this fortnightly column are now being used internationally to enhance the English proficiency of people with different competency levels. for a free copy of the PDF file on Case in Grammar.