Inspired by an article I read recently in the Los Angeles Times I thought I might throw my tuppence worth into the seemingly neverending battle into the importance of good grammar.
Quite rightly the author of the piece – David L. Ulin – highlights, rather succinctly, that commas, punctuation, and good grammar are ‘precision tools, designed for clarity’ which is all very well but often the rules for these clarifiers are so deeply buried in myth that is can be hard to determine the correct usage.
Take the innocuous semicolon for example…you’ve a better chance discovering the lost city of Atlantis than fully understanding exactly when and where it should be used.
As an English language teacher I can not help read such articles from a student learner point of view. My current flock of students are, more or less all, Hungarians from Budapest. Now the Magyar are lovers of language, it is imperative to their cultural identity. To speak Hungarian is to be Hungarian.
Consequently most of my students are sticklers for accuracy and all too often beat themselves up at their lack of complexity and brevity when surmising the events of the day when dutifully ask ‘How’s tricks?’.
As a lad who grew up somewhere between Lincolnshire and Yorkshire I have a tendency to keep things simple and here is what I say to my language lamenting students…
‘Writing is for accuracy, speaking is for fluidity.’
When speaking in an informal setting it is unreasonable to expect an English learner to differentiate between the future simple and future perfect continuous and no-one really gives a damn if you say was when you really mean were.
Stumble over the grammar as best you can, focus on the message, use your hands, point at pictures or break into an impromptu dance routine for all I care just tell me what you want to say and I will figure out the rest.
Read on for more common grammar rules that you can completely and unashamedly ignore.