Grammar: What grammar isn't

One of the big misapprehensions about the word grammar is that it is all to do with getting things right or wrong. Grammar teaching in the past has often taken a prescriptive turn, and for many people of older generations the memory of grammar tests at school is often a painful one.

There have also been debates for many years – centuries even – about the place of grammar in English teaching. Some see grammar as a restrictive set of rules, others as a mass of technical jargon that has to be learned, while many English teachers have often seen it as something that probably has to be done, although it’s not much fun.

Many of those views are understandable and we can’t hope to change every English teacher’s mind with what we are attempting to provide here. In fact, the prescriptive view – that grammar is all about getting things right or wrong – has had something of a mini-revival of late, with writers like Lynne Truss, John Humphrys and Simon Heffer all weighing in to the discussion and telling us how we should or shouldn't be writing, or speaking, or texting.

Others – mostly linguists, but not exclusively – have argued against those prescriptive views. So in recent years we have seen David Crystal, Geoff Pullum, Henry Hitchings and Kate Burridge argue that language usage should be open to scientific investigation, as well as discussion, and that change is not for the worse.

In Englicious we take a different approach to grammar.


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