Grammar Self-learning Guide
When we talk about “English grammar,” we mean the conventional rules that are essential to understanding the English language. These include basic word order, tense, articles, verbs, and mood. If you frequently produce sentences like “Mary and Lily comes from Russia,” and you are not able to self-correct, you probably need some grammar instruction.
Here are some books on basic grammar rules of the English language. They are all available at the Language Resource Center:
- Hewings, M. (2005). Advanced Grammar in Use: A self-study reference and practice for advanced students of English. ISBN-10: 1107699894.
- Murphy, H. (2012). English Grammar in Use with Answers and CD-ROM: A self-study reference and practice book for intermediate learners of English. ISBN-10: 052118939X.
- Thurman, S. & Shea, L. (2003). The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need: A one-stop source for every writing assignment. ISBN-10: 1580628559.
There are also a few self-learning sites we recommend:
- Useful English (this website is particularly useful for self-learning: it has quite detailed rule explanations, and it divides practice into several levels)
- English Grammar Quizzes - Easy
- Purdue OWL ESL Student Resources
If your sentences do not contain grammatical errors, but they sound odd to most English speakers, you probably want to improve your writing style, also known as “stylistic grammar.” Here are some stylistic guides you can check out from the library:
- Hacker, D. & Sommers, N. (2012). A Writer’s reference with Resources for Multilingual Writers and ESL. ISBN-13: 9780312649364
- Strunk, W., White, E.B., & Angell, R. (1999). The Elements of Style (4th Ed.). ISBN-10: 020530902X.
Speaking Practice Guide
Speaking includes, but it is not limited to, pronunciation. Everyone has a unique way of speaking, and the crucial task is to make oneself easily understood by others. Too often language learners become so worried about how their speech is perceived that they dare not speak up in public. This may put you at a particularly disadvantage when verbal participation is expected or evaluated in your classes.
- Vowels and consonants are key to clear pronunciation. You might want to pay attention to them in your practice. Here is a good English pronunciation video on vowels, consonants, and other important factors contributing to clear pronunciation.
- There are also sites to help you improve your pronunciation:
English Pronunciation Practice
English as a Second Language - Pronunciation
- You can also select any recording you like and read aloud after the speaker. When you read, we recommend that you record your own voice. You can compare your way of speaking to that in the video, and you can make adjustments accordingly. If you are a female student, check for a recording of a female voice you like; likewise, if you’re a male student, select a male’s recording.
Once you grow confident with your pronunciation, we recommend that you talk with real people. You can check out these two resources:
- Sweetland offers Chat Café: Casual Conversation Groups, where you can have a guided discussion with professionally trained peer facilitators and three or four other multilingual students.
- If you are more interested in one-to-one conversations, you can check the Conversation Partner platform at the Language Resource Center.
This page is specifically about using determiners (words such as “the,” “many,” and “his”), but the site contains valuable information on a wide range of other language-use issues.
The online collocations dictionaries linked below can help students choose the correct preposition for phrasal prepositional verbs or for noun + preposition combinations, such as “affinity for,” that frequently bundle together:
The sites linked below can help students choose appropriate transition words:
- The Guide to Grammar and Writing - Conjunctions
- A Guide to learning English - cohesion
- Cohesive Devices - Trnasitional Words/Phrases for essay writing
- Transition Words
The following websites and print resources offer helpful advice about sentence structure:
- Syntax - English sentence structure (includes exercises with an online answer key)
- Clause Structure (includes exercises with an online answer key. This site also includes information on a variety of other language-use issues. However, you may want to warn students that they should NOT refer to this site for information on using determiners correctly, as British English uses determiners in slightly different ways than American English.)
- Sentence Structure (includes exercises with an online answer key)
- Grammar and Mechanics (browse through the main menu of this website for pages on sentence structure, word choice, and other helpful topics)
BOOK: “Creating Meaning: Advanced Reading and Writing.” The first chapter of this book contains information about sentence structure as well as exercises that allow the student to test his or her understanding of sentence structure. The book is available in the Language Resource Center (LRC), which is located across the hall from the Sweetland Center for Writing in North Quad.
BOOK: “The Condensed ESL Writer’s Guide.” Pages 36-54 of this book contain information about sentence structure. The book is available at the front desk of the Sweetland Center for Writing and in the Language Resource Center (LRC). The LRC also holds a copy of the workbook that accompanies “The Condensed ESL Writer’s Guide.” This workbook contains exercises that allow the student to test his or her understanding of sentence structure.
BOOK: “The Well-Crafted Sentence: A Writer’s Guide to Style.” The first chapter of this book contains information about sentence structure. The book is available in the Language Resource Center (LRC).
The following websites offer helpful information on choosing the best verb tense, aspect, and mood to express your meaning accurately:
- Verb Tense Tutorial (includes exercises with an online answer key)
- English Verb Tenses (includes exercises with an online answer key)
- Table of English Tenses (includes exercises with an online answer key)
- Sequence of Tenses
- Summary of Verb Tenses - Progressive Forms
- Tenses (includes exercises with an online answer key)
- The English Tense System (includes exercises with an online answer key)
- The English Verb Tenses (includes exercises with an online answer key. Also includes video lectures on verb tenses)
- aspect (grammar)
- English Grammar 101: Verb Mood
- Moods in Verbs
- Using Verbs
The print-based resources below are helpful general references for all writers, but especially for L2 writers:
The Condensed ESL Writer’s Handbook, Carlock et. a. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of MI Press, 2013. ISBN 9780472035342
Copies of this book are also available for in-house use at the Sweetland Center for Writing and in the Language Resource Center in North Quad.
The Word Combination Card, Alves et. al. Rockville, MD: Language Arts Press, 2010. ISBN 9780979169977
A Pocket Style Manual, Diana Hacker. (Any edition is fine; I use the fourth edition.) Boston: Bedford / St. Martins, 2004. ISBN: 0312406843
Oxford Learner’s Thesaurus with CD-ROM. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780194752008
The CD-ROM that accompanies this thesaurus is very useful in helping students learn to use a thesaurus effectively.
Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary with CD-Rom, 8th Edition. ISBN: 978-0-19-479902-7
Oxford collocations dictionary for students of English, 2nd Edition. ISBN: 978-0-19-432538-7
Oxford learner’s thesaurus: A dictionary of synonyms. ISBN: 978-0-19-475200-8
Oxford student’s dictionary for learners using English to study other subjects. ISBN: 978-0-19-439966-1
Oxford advanced American dictionary for learners of English with CD-ROM. ISBN: 978-0-19-439966-1.
Oxford phrasal verbs dictionary for learners of English, 2nd edition. ISBN: 978-0-19-431721-4.
Oxford idioms dictionary for learners of English, 2nd edition. ISBN: 978-0-19-431723-8.
Hewings, M. (2005). Advanced Grammar in Use: A self-study reference and practice for advanced students of English. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN-10: 1107699894.
Murphy, H. (2012). English Grammar in Use with Answers and CD-ROM: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book for Intermediate Learners of English. Cambridge University Press. ISBN-10: 052118939X.
Thurman, S. & Shea, L. (2003). The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment. ISBN: 1580628559.
Rhetoric and Composition:
Joseph, S. M. & McGlinn M. (2002). The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric. ISBN-10: 0967967503.
Strunk, W. (1999). The Elements of Style. ISBN-10: 020530902X.
Kirszner, L. & Mandell, S. (2011). Patterns for College Writing: A Rhetorical Reader and Guide. ISBN-10: 0312676840.
Wilson, N. D. & Wilson, D. (2011). The Rhetoric Companion: A Student's Guide to Power in Persuasion. Canon Press. ISBN-10: 1591280788.
American Psychological Association. (2009). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th Edition. ISBN-10: 1433805618.