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Grammar and Punctuation
Thread poster: Louisa Berry

Louisa Berry
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:08
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Aug 23, 2010

Ever since I began to learn German I marvelled at the ways it was taught in German.. the school children were actually taught the grammar of their own language. As I can hardly remember any English grammar being taught in a way that I could refer to in the future and as I find my grammar sometimes being (correctly) corrected by non native speakers I see the need for professional development in this area.

Can anyone recommend a good and comphrensive grammar and/or punctuation book for UK English?

Many thanks

Louisa


 

InfoMarex
Ireland
Local time: 08:08
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Grammar and Punctuation Aug 23, 2010

Louisa,

The Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation by John Seely pp.148
Penguin Guide to Punctuation by R.L Trask
The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar by Sylvia Chalker and Edmund Weiner (eds.)

Kind regards,

Michael J McCann


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:08
French to English
+ ...
Think carefullly about what the "problem" is and what is the obigation to "fix" it? Aug 23, 2010

Louisa Fox wrote:
Ever since I began to learn German I marvelled at the ways it was taught in German.. the school children were actually taught the grammar of their own language. As I can hardly remember any English grammar being taught in a way that I could refer to in the future and as I find my grammar sometimes being (correctly) corrected by non native speakers I see the need for professional development in this area.

Can anyone recommend a good and comphrensive grammar and/or punctuation book for UK English?


I would advise thinking a bit more about what the "problem" is that you're actually trying to solve here. In what way are people "correcting" you? If as a native speaker of English you feel that you expressed something in a way that is clear, natural, well-phrased etc, but somebody tells you that according to rule X in prescriptive grammar Y written by author Z it "should" be phrased in some other way, then it's worth thinking for a moment about where the obligation to follow rule X actually comes from. What you have written is only "incorrect" if you were deliberately trying to follow a particular rule and failed to do so. Maybe a particular client asked you to follow that rule. But if they didn't, and you don't instinctively feel that following the rule improves your text, then where's the obligation?

If the problem is that other people, irrespective of any "rule", point out improvements to your texts that you didn't think of, then I would suggest just spending more time trying to read more texts that you consider to be "well written", by authors whose style you like etc.


 

Werner Maurer  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
OTOH Aug 23, 2010

OTOH, Neil, there are at least a few rules that are hard and fast, at least most of the time. Talkin' proper English all high-falutin' like, da way dem Brits do, dat ain't no walk in the park, ya hear what I'm sayin'?.

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:08
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Eats shoots and leaves Aug 23, 2010

Louisa Fox wrote:

Ever since I began to learn German I marvelled at the ways it was taught in German.. the school children were actually taught the grammar of their own language. As I can hardly remember any English grammar being taught in a way that I could refer to in the future and as I find my grammar sometimes being (correctly) corrected by non native speakers I see the need for professional development in this area.

Can anyone recommend a good and comphrensive grammar and/or punctuation book for UK English?

Many thanks

Louisa



If you want to have fun doing it, read "Eats shoots and leaves" by Lynne Truss.


 

Werner Maurer  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
teaching grammar Aug 23, 2010

Louisa, when did they stop teaching grammar in grammar school, of all things? Yikes!

In my school days in Canada, late fifties/early sixties, they taught grammar and spelling backwards and forwards, inside and out, from side to side and from top to bottom, and you couldn't get away wit' nuttin'.

My sixth grade teacher was a Brit from the Midlands, and he was the best teacher I ever had. From him I got my love of the language, English literature, and linguistics in general.

The British used to be famous the world over for their love of their language. Are your kids over there being dumbed down as bad, I mean badly, as ours over here [are]?

Nevertheless, consider that most kids are already fluent in their mother tongue before they start learning the rules, and it's been pretty much proven that adult learning should follow that sequence as well.


 

Louisa Berry
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:08
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Grammar in schools Aug 23, 2010

I did indeed go to grammar school, and I'm sure we were taught some grammar, but not in any way that I can remember any specific rules. Most of the English language lessons I recall were to do with writing in different styles.

For example German sentences are supposed to be written in the order 'time, manner, place'
and this is the type of rule that I feel would be valuable to know when assessing my own work and when proofreading the work of others.

I am often asked to explain why something should be written in a certain way and most of the time I cannot give a concrete answer. Hence I feel the need for some grammar books.

Many thanks for your comments and suggestions so far.


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:08
French to English
+ ...
Swan's "Practical English Usage" Aug 23, 2010

Louisa Fox wrote:
I am often asked to explain why something should be written in a certain way and most of the time I cannot give a concrete answer. Hence I feel the need for some grammar books.


Have you had a look at a Swan's "Practical English Usage"? In case you haven't come across it, it's essentially a descriptive grammar aimed at foreign learners of English. As such, it does sometimes have a slight bee in its bonnet about explaining certain things in the way that "TEFL courses expect you to". But nonetheless it's a good starting point for thinking about how to explain many features of the grammar of native English speakers.

You could eventually move on to more technical texts/papers if you wanted to go into things more deeply (various of the chestnuts such as "avoid passives because X, Y, Z" are actually the subject of research, and some of the "arguments" you read in style guides turn out not to be backed up by such research...), but I think Swan will get you a long way from the sound of things.

Of course, not everything will be explained by a grammar book, and not everybody's judgements on all sentences will coincide. Think of a sentence such as "Which computer did you wonder whether would have enough RAM?"-- technically, does it break any "grammar rules" that you're aware of or that are mentioned in your favourite grammar book? and as a native speaker, what do you think of it? Does the native speaker next to you think the same?

Louisa Fox wrote:
For example German sentences are supposed to be written in the order 'time, manner, place'


I wonder about the "supposed to" here. The language happens to have evolved in such a way that native German speakers tend to put elements of the sentence in this order. But I'm not sure that this is by decree of God, or that anyone's saying "put your sentence in the order time-manner-place or pay a 10 euro fine"...?

[Edited at 2010-08-23 21:31 GMT]


 

Mr Murray (X)
Italy
Italian to English
Some suggestions Aug 23, 2010

My top five tips
  1. Multiple authors
    A one author text is often a diatribe of dislikes. They are difficult to reference quickly and are plain depressing.
  2. Small
    Small books with a detailed index is better for quick checks than a cumbersome 'grammar book' when it is to be left on your desktop.
  3. Include journals
    Pay attention to contemporary journal styles for medicine, engineering, law and similar.
  4. Note where they don't use punctuation.
Study scientific, mathematical and similar symbols.Be global
English is global; often used as a lingua franca between mixed cultures. Even though you specified 'UK English,' it is wise to have an understanding of non-UK forms to appreciate their use and influence across cultures.
Find easy examples
Many 'scholarly' textbooks have examples where I spend more time trying to understand the context of the sentence than the punctuation usage. This is particularly true when they use 'real life' quotes.


 

Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:08
French to English
+ ...
A Practical English Grammar Aug 23, 2010

Hi Louisa,

I bought "A Practical English Grammar" by Thomson & Martinet before I went to France to teach English for the first half of my year abroad from university many moons ago. Not so much because I felt unsure about my own use of grammar (and I don't recall having formal English grammar lessons in my grammar school in the 70's either!), but so that I would be able to explain certain points of grammar to my pupils - I found it very clear and concise. However, I think a lot of my formal grammar was helped by learning foreign languages - and German in particular.

Claire


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 14:08
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Webbased lessons Aug 24, 2010

Louisa Fox wrote:
Ever since I began to learn German I marvelled at the ways it was taught in German.. the school children were actually taught the grammar of their own language. As I can hardly remember any English grammar being taught in a way that I could refer to in the future and as I find my grammar sometimes being (correctly) corrected by non native speakers I see the need for professional development in this area.
Can anyone recommend a good and comphrensive grammar and/or punctuation book for UK English?

This website: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/ is very good for English study located in USA. But, many sections refer to UK English and grammar/punctuation. I am enjoying reading quiz and Q&A.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


 

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:08
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Grammar "rules" Aug 24, 2010

Neil Coffey wrote:

Louisa Fox wrote:
For example German sentences are supposed to be written in the order 'time, manner, place'


I wonder about the "supposed to" here. The language happens to have evolved in such a way that native German speakers tend to put elements of the sentence in this order. But I'm not sure that this is by decree of God, or that anyone's saying "put your sentence in the order time-manner-place or pay a 10 euro fine"...?



Well put! I wanted to challenge this statement, but didn't really know how to express myself. As a native German speaker, I've never heard this rule before. I checked and found that I do follow this rule in - well, maybe 50% of the cases?icon_wink.gif

I fear that this kind of rules isn't going to get you very far, though they may help you with your first steps in a foreign language.


 

Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:08
English
+ ...
Hear, hear. Aug 24, 2010



If you want to have fun doing it, read "Eats shoots and leaves" by Lynne Truss.



[Edited at 2010-08-24 08:00 GMT]


"To me a subordinate clause will for ever be (since I heard the
actor Martin Jarvis describe it thus) one of Santa's little helpers."
(Lynn Truss in Eats, Shoots and Leaves)


[Edited at 2010-08-24 16:14 GMT]


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:08
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Things Ain't What They Used to Be Aug 24, 2010

I was taught grammar very throughly in a UK grammar school, but that was in 1942-47.
I can't remember what the text books were.
It all went to pot in the 1960s with all the fashionable new education theories that came in with comprehensive schools.
I once did a two-month course in Málaga learning Spanish, and the teachers said their English pupils were the hardest to teach because they did not know anything about grammar in their own language.


 

Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 09:08
Swedish to English
+ ...
Absolutely agree with jack Aug 24, 2010

I do think it's much easier to learn a foreign language if you have a good understanding of the building blocks of your own. I learned very basic English grammar in at my 1980s comprehensive school, but nothing that was really any help at all in coping with what the modern languages teachers would give us as explanations for the whys and hows of French and German.

My understanding of English grammar has come about almost solely through teaching English to Swedes and helping to correct their mistakes (and going and checking in my own recently acquired grammar books). My mum did teacher training in the 1970s and has been indoctrinated into believing that teaching grammar is a bad thing, although I really can't get her to put forward a logical argument as to why this should be the case!


 
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