How to learn English grammar
With all the rules and guidelines that govern English grammar, it’s not surprising to find many people who find this subject intimidating. Grammar is a complex structure, so before you can learn to write long speeches in English, you need to understand the building blocks of grammar that will allow you to construct more complex forms. You could even become a master of English grammar with a little time, effort and practice.
Learn English grammar at the word level
Learn to recognize the different parts of the speech. Each word in the English language can be placed in a language category. These categories do not define what the word is, but they do define its use.
- A name is a person, a place or a thing. For example: grandma (grandmother), school (school), pencil (pencil).
- A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun in a sentence. For example: he (he), she (she), they (they).
- Articles are special words that precede a noun in a sentence. There are three articles: a (un/une), an (un/une) and the (le/la).
- An adjective modifies or describes a noun. For example: red, tall.
- A verb is a word that describes an action or state. For example: to be, to run, to sleep.
- An adverb modifies or describes a verb. Adverbs can also be used to modify adjectives. For example: happily, wonderfully.
- A conjunction links two parts of sentences. For example: and, but.
- A preposition is used with a noun or pronoun to create a group that modifies the rest of the sentence, such as a verb, noun, pronoun or adjective. For example: sur, sous, de, à.
- Interjections are words that express an emotion. For example: wow, ouch, eh.
Explore in depth the rules that govern each part of speech. Most parts of speech have other rules that establish their usage. If you want to master English grammar, you need to study these rules in detail. Remember the following points as you study.
- Nouns can be singular or plural, proper or common, collective, quantifiable or non-quantifiable, abstract or concrete, gerund.
- Pronouns can be personal, possessive, reflexive, intense, reciprocal, indefinite, demonstrative, interrogative or relative.
- Adjectives can be used alone, for comparison or as superlatives.
- Adverbs are either relative or frequency adverbs.
- Conjunctions are either coordinating or correlating.
- Verbs can be action or link verbs, main verbs or auxiliary verbs.
- The articles “a” and “an” are undefined, while the article “the” is defined.
Learn how to write numbers. Numbers (from zero to nine) should be spelled out, while numbers (from 10 upwards) should be written in their numerical form.
- All numbers in the same text must be written either in words or numbers. Do not mix the two.
- Here is a correct example: I bought 14 apples but my sister only bought 2 apples.
- Here’s an incorrect example: I bought 14 apples but my sister only bought two apples (I bought 14 apples, but my sister only bought 2 apples).
- Never start a sentence with a number written in numerical form.
- Spell out simple fractions and use the dash. For example: one-half.
- A more complex fraction can be written with numbers. For example: 5 ½.
- Write decimals in numbers. For example: 0.92.
- Use commas when writing numbers with four or more digits. For example: 1,234,567.
- When writing a date, write the day with numbers. For example: June 1 (the first of June).
Learn grammar at the sentence level
Learn how to structure a basic sentence. Each sentence consists of at least one subject and one predicate. Every sentence where one of these elements is missing is a sentence fragment and is not correct.
- The subject is usually a noun or pronoun and the action is carried by the verb.
- A correct example: The dog runs.
- Note that the subject is shown in italics and the predicate is in bold.
- An incorrect example: Yesterday afternoon.
- You can build more complex sentences after understanding this basic format.
Tune the verb correctly with its subject. Within the same sentence, the subject and the verb must have the same number. You cannot have a singular verb with a plural subject or a plural verb with a singular subject. 
- A correct example: They are at school
- An incorrect example: They is at school
- When two words in the singular are linked by the conjunction “and” (he and his brother, he and his brother), the subject becomes plural. When they are linked by “or” or “nor” (he or his brother, him or his brother), the subject is singular.
- Collective nouns, such as “family” or “team” are treated as nouns in the singular and therefore require a verb in the singular.
Create compound sentences. Compound sentences are the simplest type of sentence to form after basic sentences. Use a conjunction to link two ideas together in one sentence rather than making two separate sentences.
Instead of saying: The dog ran. He was fast. (The dog ran. He was fast.)
- Say: The dog ran and he was fast. (The dog ran and he was fast.)
- Instead of saying: We looked for the missing book. We could not find it. (We looked for the missing book. We couldn’t find it.)
- Say: We looked for the missing book but could not find it. (We looked for the missing book but couldn’t find it.)
Practice using conditional sentences. A conditional sentence describes a situation in which one part of the sentence is true only if another part is true. They can also be called “if, then” sentences, although the word “then” does not necessarily appear in the written sentence. 
For example: If you ask your mother, then she will take you to the store. (If you ask your mother, then she will take you to the store.)
- Note, however, that it would be just as correct to write: If you ask your mother, then she will take you to the store. (If you ask your mother, then she will pick you up at the store.)
- These two forms are conditional
Understand how proposals work. Use propositions to create more complex sentences. Propositions are the “building blocks” that you can use to expand the basic sentence form. They can be either independent or subordinate .
- An independent proposal has its own subject and verb. That’s why it can be the only part of a sentence. Note that compound sentences, as in the examples above, are composed of independent clauses.
- For example: She felt sad, but her friends cheered her up. (She felt sad, but her friends cheered her up.)
- You can use “she felt sad” and “her friends cheered her up” as two independent sentences.
- A subordinate statement is meaningless if it does not come after another statement.
- For example: While he agreed with his brother, the boy would not admit to it.
- The proposal While he agreed with his brother will make no sense if it is put alone, which is why it is a subordinate proposal.
Master the punctuation. There are many punctuation marks and as many rules that establish their use. You need to study these rules in detail, but first you need to know when to use a punctuation mark.
- The period ( . ) indicates the end of a sentence.
- Periods ( … ) indicate that a piece of text has been removed.
- The comma’ ( , ) separates words or groups of words when you want to pause without ending the sentence.
- The semicolon ( ; ) should be used in complex sentences where there is no conjunction to link the elements.
- The colon (:) is used to start a list in a sentence.
- The question mark (?) is used at the end of a sentence if the sentence is a question.
- The exclamation mark (!) is used at the end of a sentence to indicate surprise or emphasis.
- Quotation marks (” “) separate words spoken by another person from the rest of the text.
- Brackets ( ) surround information that is used to clarify a previously quoted point.
- Apostrophes ( ‘ ) indicate contractions and possession.
Learning grammar at the narrative level
Study the structure of the paragraph. A basic paragraph consists of three to seven sentences. Each paragraph should contain an introductory sentence, supporting sentences and a concluding sentence.
- The introductory sentence is usually the first sentence of the paragraph. It is a general sentence that introduces the idea that you are going to address in the paragraph in question.
- For example: English grammar is a complex topic that covers a range of information. (English grammar is a complex topic that covers a range of information)
- The support sentences explain in more detail the idea presented in the introductory sentence.
- For example: English grammar is a complex topic that covers a range of information. At the “word” level, one must learn about parts of speech. At the sentence level, topics like sentence structure, subject/verb agreement, and clauses must be explored. The rules governing punctuation use are also a part of “sentence” level grammar. Once a person starts writing larger piece, he or she must also learn about paragraph structure and organization. (English grammar is a complex subject that includes a wide range of information. At the “word” level, you must learn what parts of speech are involved. At the “sentence” level, you need to learn about topics such as sentence structure, the agreement of the verb with its subject and propositions. Punctuation rules are also part of the grammar at the sentence level. Once you start writing longer texts, you also need to learn paragraph structure and organization).
The concluding sentence summarizes the information you have introduced in the paragraph. It is not always necessary, but you still need to know how to write it.
For example: English grammar is a complex topic that covers a range of information. At the “word” level, one must learn about parts of speech. At the sentence level, topics like sentence structure, subject/verb agreement, and clauses must be explored. The rules governing punctuation use are also a part of “sentence” level grammar. Once a person starts writing larger piece, he or she must also learn about paragraph structure and organization. All of these rules define and describe how to write English correctly. (English grammar is a complex subject that includes a wide range of information. At the “word” level, you need to learn what parts of speech are involved. At the “sentence” level, you need to learn about topics such as sentence structure, the agreement of the verb with its subject matter, and propositions. Punctuation rules are also part of the grammar at the sentence level. Once you start writing longer texts, you also need to learn paragraph structure and organization. All of these rules describe and define the correct way to write English).
- Note also that the first sentence of a paragraph should also be slightly off to the right of the rest of the paragraph.
Vary the sentences within the paragraph. Although it is theoretically possible to have a paragraph that contains only simple sentences, it is better to introduce both simple and complex sentences into your paragraph.
- Here is a correct example: I love my cat. He has soft, orange fur. On cold days, he likes to cuddle next to me for warmth. I think that my cat is the greatest cat ever, and I am really happy to have him. (I love my cat. He has a soft beige fur. When it’s cold, he likes to cuddle next to me for warmth. I think my cat is the greatest cat ever, and I am really happy to have him).
- Here is an incorrect example: I love my cat. He is orange. His fur is soft. He cuddles next to me on cold days. My cat is the greatest cat. I am really happy to have him. He is beige. His fur is soft. He cuddles next to me on cold days. My cat is the best cat. I’m very happy to have him).
- Organize longer pieces. Once you feel comfortable writing paragraphs, try writing longer pieces, like essays for university. Essay writing is a separate subject, so you need to study it in more detail. However, there are several things you should keep in mind when you start.
- Organize your essay by writing an introductory paragraph, two or three development paragraphs and a concluding paragraph.
- The introductory paragraph should be a general paragraph that presents the general idea without giving too much detail. The development paragraphs should expand on the main idea in more detail, and each paragraph can address its own separate point. The concluding paragraph should go back to the main idea and summarize the information presented in the essay without introducing new information.
You should know that this is only the beginning. The rules and information you have found in this article will not teach you everything you need to know about English grammar. The purpose of this article is to serve as a starting point in your study. The very subject of English grammar is much more complex and it will take a lot of time and effort before you really know it.
Compare the rules of grammar. If you are learning English, compare the rules of English grammar with the rules of grammar in your mother tongue. Some aspects might be similar, while others will be different.
- When the rules are the same, rely on your knowledge of your mother tongue to help you learn English grammar.
- When the rules are different, spend more time and concentration practicing the areas of English grammar you are studying.
Read a lot. People who read a lot tend to become better at English grammar, both written and spoken.
- Don’t stop at grammar books. Grammar books can help you, of course, but that’s not the point of this step.
- Read books, magazines or other written material in English that you enjoy. The more you read, the more familiar you will become with how English grammar organizes words, sentences and paragraphs. It is important to learn the rules of grammar, but it will be easier for you to put these rules into practice if you are used to seeing them used correctly.
Take classes. If you’re at school, look for a course that focuses on grammar or an opportunity for private tutoring at school. If you are no longer at school, consider taking grammar classes at a university, community centre or library. You can also take courses online.
For people whose first language is not English, look for courses specifically designed for people in English as a second language. These classes are usually called ESL (English as a Second Language), ENL (English as a New Language) or ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).
Find yourself a teacher. If you can’t do it in group classes, find a teacher with whom you can review grammar rules privately. You can choose a professional or call on a parent, family member or friend who has a very good knowledge of the English language and is willing to help you.
Find more information on your own. Go to a bookstore and buy an English grammar book or look on the internet for free grammar sites.
As a general rule, look for websites created by schools (.edu). For example:
- The Capital Community College Foundation’s Guide to Grammar and Writing (http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/)
- Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/5/)
Practice. Practice makes perfect. The more you can practice English grammar, the better you’ll improve.