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Book of the month

July 28, 2009

Hello again,

Recommending a grammar book for teachers is always difficult. Why so? The problem is that that there is an enormous choice of grammar reference books and in order to recommend one I really need to know more about the user. How knowledgeable is the...

...teacher already? Is the teacher primarily interested in American English, British English, some other variety? Will it be used to check grammar points or to give the teacher a grammar course?

My own grammar reference is a dog-eared copy of A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartik (Longman 1985). No doubt this book has been updated and I still think every staffroom should hold a copy. But I accept that this weighty tome is probably a bit daunting for the new teacher.

On the other hand a lot of grammar references are written for students rather than teachers. Even though teachers may find them useful, they tend to have less depth than is needed for the teacher trying to gain an in-depth knowledge. Thus Michael Swan’s Practical English Usage, although an essential book for the school’s library, is really aimed more at the learner than the teacher. The same may be said of How English Works by Michael Swan and Catherine Walter.

However, Martine Parrott’s Grammar for English Language Teachers: With Exercises and a Key
(Paperback: 528 pages; Cambridge University Press, 28 Mar 2000 ISBN-10: 0521477972) is, as the title shows written with teachers in mind. As you see from the size of the book, it is not a pocket reference! But its aim is to help teachers improve their understanding of English grammar. It has teachers in mind in that it explains learners’ problems, and the difficulties learners often have with English grammar. Moreover, it has exercises to help teachers check their understanding.

However, it is concerned largely with British English so may not be so helpful for those teaching American English. On balance, however, I think it is one of the most useful grammar references for teachers who feel they need to deepen their own awareness of their subject.

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