All the grammar you need to know

To speak English well you need to learn how words are used and how they come together to form phrases and sentences. Only a lot of listening and reading can help you learn this. You need to train yourself to notice how the words are used when you listen and read. You need to master the natural phrases of English, in a natural way.

At The Linguist you save words and phrases to a database for regular review. Each time you save a word you automatically save the context which you can see in the REVIEW section. Soon you will get better at noticing which words normally go together, in which form and in what order.

If you want to buy a grammar book for reference, buy the smallest one you can find. The more rules of grammar you study, the less you will remember. You only need to know a few basic grammar terms and concepts which are outlined here.

Nouns refer to persons and things, like a “car”, a “tree” or a “house”. Most nouns do not stand alone. Normally an article (the, an) or some other word like “his”, “her” “many”, “both” or “some” will come before the noun. Only if the noun is a general term like beauty, love, money, or honour etc. can it stand alone.

Pronouns are words like “he”, “she”, “it” “his”, “her” or “which” and “that” which stand in place of nouns. When you use a pronoun instead of a noun, you must make sure that it is obvious which noun you are referring to. If it is not clear you must use the noun again.

Adjectives describe nouns. They may describe the colour, size, degree or any other quality of the noun. You will notice that many adjectives end in “-ate”. “-able” “-ive”  -“ing” or “-ed”. Nouns often change into adjectives by adding the letter “y”, like “anger”- “angry”, “thirst”-“thirsty” “fun”-“funny” etc. Sometimes an adjective can change into a noun by adding a “y” as in “difficult” and “difficulty”. So you just have to observe the language and save the words and phrases you want to learn.

Prepositions are small words that indicate place, direction and time, such as “ in”, “at”, “on”, “by”, beside, before, after etc.

Verbs describe actions. Examples are “run”, “talk”, “sit”, “listen” etc. The form of the verb can change depending on when it happened (tense), who did it (person), and a few other factors. Watch carefully for these word forms. Some verbs combine with prepositions and have a special meaning. “Get in”, “get by”, “get with” are just some examples. These verbs are called phrasal verbs because the phrase is a verb.

Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. Adverbs often end in “-ly”. Nouns, verbs and adjectives can become adverbs by adding “-ly”. Watch for the different forms of similar looking words.

Sentences almost always include a verb. Sentences can state a positive fact. “This is a book”. “My house is there”. Sentences can state a negative fact. “This is not a book”. “My house is not there”. Sentences can ask a question. “Is this a book?” “Where is your house?” Sentences should usually be as simple as possible.

Sentences will often contain logical relationships expressed by words such as “because”, “even though”, “if”,”since”, “more than”, better than” as much as” “the more I eat, the fatter I get” and many more. You will learn these relationships by seeing them often and getting used to them. The logic of languages can be different in different languages. First refer to your own language for the meaning. Then observe the logic of English. Notice how the words are used together. Get used to the relationships of English.

Learn how to connect your thoughts and how to start sentences. You can introduce your ideas with phrases like, “in fact”, “on the other hand”, “nevertheless”, “however” or simply “and” or “but” etc. Notice how these words are used. They will make your language more natural.

Choose the right word. Work hardest on knowing how words are used. This is more important than grammar rules. The form of a word will change depending on whether the word is a noun, verb, adjective or adverb, singular or plural, and for other reasons. “Enjoy” is a verb, “enjoyment” is a noun.  “Act” is a verb, “action” a noun, “active” an adverb and “actively” is an adjective. Notice these differences as you read and listen and save words and phrases.

Many words look similar but have different meanings and are used differently. You have to get used to this by listening, reading and reviewing your saved words and phrases. You need to become observant of the language.

Wrong word form and wrong choice of words are the most common errors committed by non-native speakers. Become observant of the language and improve your word choice.

That is all the grammar you need to know. If you have questions about English ask your tutor or post on The Linguist Forum. I hope you will ask “how to say something” and not “why”. It is the not the rules of grammar but the practice and exposure to the language that will train you to become fluent.

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Learner’s views, from another website

My advice to both students is to join The Linguist.

I’ve been to Los Angeles to take some English classes, in order to take the TOEFL exam, I’ve just come back and I wanna review my expirience.
First of all I have to say I’ve been “studying” english, following the “Antimoon method” for about a year and a half(watching a lot of tv shows and movies, with or without english subtitles, reading some book, and looking up for every difficult word or strange grammar, writing some email with my american penpals. I confess I’ve never used Supermemo, ‘cause it’s pretty boring, at least in my opinion. I’ve also been studying pronunciation and the american accent, with Ann Cook’s “American Accent Training” and the useful Antimoon Forum).
Anyway I decided to take these classes to rewiev the teoric stuff (the infamous grammar!) and focus on the Toefl skills, while I would have the opportunity to speak for a whole month with natives and I could test my actual level in pratical situations.
The bottom line is that the english course has been a rip-off, for some reasons:
1)I expected to speak English all the time, but the place I lived in (UCLA) was full of Italians, who didn’t care a damn about speaking english, so I ended up speaking a lot of Italian (my native language)
2) There were a lot of foreign people, whose english was very bad. I think that talking to people who can’t really speak english can damage YOUR english, for many reason: first of all you are exposed to “bad” english, and this can reinforce your mistakes. Second, when you are talking to one of these guys you don’t care about the form, the correct grammar, the right intonation and pronunciation, you do care only about the contents of your message, because it’s hard to communicate with them; instead, when you speak with a native you’ll focus much more on the language.
3)when you are in an english-speaking country, sometimes you are in some situations that require a fast communication (resturants, stores, airports), and again, you’ll focus much more on the content than the language, and this could reniforce your mistakes.
4)The english classes were really useless: I was put in the most advanced level, and still they would stick with the same old crap (modals.. the future in the past.. the articles!!). The teachers were very bad, not really committed and not organized, and the lectures were boring, the only thing they were able to do was to read the grammar book.

I had some satisfactions, though: all the americans I talked with were very impressed about my english, especially the pronunciation and the american accent, they couldn’t recognize my nationality and they asked my how long I’d been living in the Us (I’ve never been in an english speaking country before),and they asked me if one of my parents was american.
I found that as soon as I got there I was really embarassed, I’ve never talk to natives before, and my english was really awkward. I knew I could find the correct expressions and sentences in my mind when I was alone, but when I was speaking to natives, expecially in class, my english freezed.
After a week of “trials and errors”, though, I started feeling more confident, and the right sentences started coming magically to my mind, without thinking about’em.
I think the sentences have always been in my mind, I’ve acquired them with all the inputs I’ve been exposed, like Antimoon explains, but I think that in the first place they were blocked by some psychological obstruction. At the end of the month I found myself thinking in english,and thinking about all the sentences I could use in some differnt situations. Hence, I agree with Antimoon about the inputs and the fact that speaking can reinforce your mistakes in some ways, but I also think some conversation pracitce is necessary, maybe monitored by natives, and focused on all the aspects of the language and not on the topic ( you wanna focus on “how you say it”, and not on “what you say it”).
Anyway, I took the Toefl test, scoring 275/300 without studying a single word of grammar.
I wanna advise all the Antimoon readers that intend to take the Toefl test not to waste a lot of money with this english courses, that are all scams, but to stick with the Antimoon method: watching tv, reading some book, chatting,writing, and maybe talking with some natives. I don’t know about the other exams (Cambridge, Ielts, and so on) but I think it’s the same.

tae won   Thu Aug 25, 2005 3:36 am GMT
I totally agree with you, JL Italy. I’ve been studying English for one and a half years with the Antimoon method. And now I think I’m falling in love with English. :)) In Korea, the most famous English exam is TOEIC (Test Of English for International Communication) which lots of college students need to take to get a good job with a big corporate such as Samsung, LG, etc. And some unversities require a certain point of TOEIC of their students to ‘let’ them graduate. Many students in Korea are tired of taking some English test and also studying their majors. Even students who are not interested in laguages can’t help but studying English for their career. So, actually, they do study English really hard and get some high TOEIC score before they graduate. But the problem is having a high TOEIC score doesn’t really match the real English fluency. I saw a student who got a 920/990 score couldn’t communicate with a native in a real situation. I think that’s because they focused on only the TOEIC test and its tips. I really want to introduce this method to my friends and other students. And I will. If you start to get interested in the language of English, itself, I think the TOEFL or TOEIC test won’t be a problem.

The Linguist Club and The Linguist Challenge

The Linguist Club is a free area in The Linguist. The Linguist Club has limited content and limited functionality. The Linguist Club does not provide tutoring, English conversation or writing correction services. It does, however, give an idea of what The Linguist is all about. In order to join you need to go to the site and click on “contact us”.

FM 96.1 Vancouver 各位听众为了了解预言家挑战请看这个说明

This is to remind our listeners on FM 96.1 Vancouver about their chance to participate in The Linguist challenge. Click on this link to read about The Linguist Challenge in Chinese and English. To join you will need to go to The Linguist website  and click on “contact us”. Just send us an email to tell us you are interested.

constant improvement without perfection

The following exchange was from our Forum at The Linguist. It might be of interest.

Question from Daniel Lautenbach, Germany.

“I think all of the above mentioned articles are very good. They explain the usage and the value of each single step of The Linguist system clearly. They are written in a highly motivating way. It is a perfect mixture of explanation, motivation, and marketing of your product and services. It also considers the basic purpose of your system: “Learning English without being forced to”.

The Linguist system has already reached a high level of professionalism. I would like to suggest two ways to improve your system further. I, and probably other students too, would like to get some more details on how to learn the huge amount of words The Linguist system recommends to learn. It is nearly impossible to click on a word, translate it, store it in the database, repeat all the words 10 to 20 minutes per day, and remember all the words and their meanings. Do you have special hints or advice on how to learn? “

My answer

“One of my principles of language learning is “constant improvement without perfection”. You will not achieve perfection so do not worry about it. Do not worry about the words you cannot remember. Just keep improving.

The goals that you set for yourself in The Linguist are meant to encourage good self-study habits. If you listen often, and read often and study words and phrases often, you will improve. You will become more observant of the key words and phrases that you need. You will notice them in different contexts. You will become more confident in using these words and phrases.You will start to use them naturally and almost unexpectedly.

But you cannot learn all the words and phrases that you are saving. The first time I save a word or phrase in another language, it just goes and sits somewhere in my brain, but I cannot retrieve it.  It is only after repeated exposure to the word that I will actually be able to retrieve it, to remember its meaning and eventually to use it.

But it does not matter! Keep saving words and phrases. Keep reviewing words and phrases.As you see your statistics of saved words and phrases growing, you can feel proud and confident that you are improving your mastery of vocabulary. You have sent these little items into some part of your brain. Through continued exposure you will gradually improve your ability to retrieve them when you need them. Keep listening and reading and reviewing. Try to save a list of words and phrases and use them in writing and speaking. Let our tutors be your personal coaches for constant feedback, encouragement and advice.”

It makes it all worthwhile

I just spoke on the telephone with one of our learners in Vancouver. He is a former research scientist from China (Harbin) who drives a fork lift in a fish packing plant in Vancouver. He has been on our system for 10 days and has saved over 300 words and 200 phrases. He has studied English for 20 years and thinks our approach is the most practical and effective he has come across. He is enthusiastic and a self-starter. He says many of the immigrants from China have simply given up and accept their less than satisfactory position here and make no effort to improve their English or their social position.

He is different. He is a man of action. I will get together with him and have some Chinese 白酒 (white liquor). I have been reading three books in a row on Napoleon. Prior to that I read a biography of Ghengis Khan. We are what we make of our lives. My conversation with that student has further inspired me. People who grab a hold of opportunities in life and do not complain are the ones that make things happen for all the other followers.Thank you my student. I am your student.

Fusion

A few nights ago my wife and I invited some friends. One couple were originally Chinese, one from Hong Kong and his wife from Taiwan. Their favourite country to visit was Italy, for the wine the food and the ambiente. The other two couples were of Anglo-Canadian origin, one originally from Newfoundland. My wife is from Macau of a Chinese father and a Costa Rican mother. My parents were born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, grew up in Czechoslovakia and I was born in Sweden and moved to Canada at the age of 5.

We had gravad lax, which my wife makes by simply marinating salmon in salt, sugar and dill. We eat this with a thimble or two of Akvavit. There is a song that goes with that.

Then we had a curry that was Sinified in a wok along with various salsas and tatskikis that my wife made to go with it. In the background was Paganini, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and then some Portuguese Fados. The wine was an excellent red from the Okanagan that my friend (originally from

Hong Kong ) brought because he is a wine connoisseur. It was more than excellent.

Last night I was in a restaurant in Yaletown called Shirobay. Japanese izakaya style tapas restaurant. I had negitoro and avocado on garlic bread which went really well with red wine. This was followed by sautéed scallops and squid with a side dish of kimchi and more red wine.

Long live fusion. Long live combining the creative efforts of people from all cultures. Lets stop focusing on the difference and celebrate what we can enjoy together.

Anne of Green Gables phrases

For the purposes of my radio program I am going to underline useful phrases from the following text of Anne of Green Gables. You find this text both in the Main Linguist Library and in the limited Linguist Club Library. You can listen to the text and work on learning words and phrases. We will be adding new chapters every week.

It is important that learners develop the ability to discover their own phrases and use them. I have selected a large number of phrases, of varying degrees of difficulty. These phrases are all typical of how a native speaker puts words together.

Learn to look for phrases. Learn to use phrases. Get the phrases right and you will not have to worry about grammar.

Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 1, Part 1

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Chapter 1 – Mrs. Rachel Lynde is Surprised

Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a valley where it was crossed by a brook. This brook started as a fast flowing brook but by the time it reached Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s house, it was quiet. Not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and good behaviour. The brook probably knew that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, watching everything that passed, including brooks and children. If she noticed anything odd or out of place she would surely find out why.

There are plenty of people in Avonlea who concern themselves about their neighbor’s business but neglect their own. Mrs. Rachel Lynde was one of those capable people who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks at the same time. She was a capable housewife. Her work was always done and well done. She “ran” the Sewing Circle, helped run the Sunday-school, and was the strongest supporter of the Church Aid Society and Foreign Missions Auxiliary. Still, Mrs. Rachel found plenty of time to sit for hours at her kitchen window, knitting while keeping a sharp eye on the main road.

Since Avonlea was on a little piece of land jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with water on two sides of it, anybody who passed by had to pass over that hill road where they would be seen by Mrs. Rachel’s all-seeing eye.

She was sitting there one afternoon in early June. The sun was coming in at the window warm and bright. The orchard on the slope below the house was in pinky-white bloom, hummed over by bees. Thomas Lynde – a meek little man whom Avonlea people called “Rachel Lynde’s husband” – was sowing his late turnip seed on the hill field beyond the barn. Matthew Cuthbert ought to have been sowing his seed on the big red brook field over by Green Gables. Mrs. Rachel had heard him tell Peter Morrison the evening before in William J. Blair’s store over at Carmody that he meant to sow his turnip seed the next afternoon. Peter had asked him, of course, for Matthew Cuthbert had never been known to volunteer information about anything in his whole life.

And yet here was Matthew Cuthbert, at half-past three on the afternoon of a busy day, placidly driving over the hollow and up the hill, dressed in a white collar and his best suit of clothes, which was plain proof that he was going out of Avonlea. He had the buggy and the sorrel mare which further indicated that he was most likely going a considerable distance. Now, where was Matthew Cuthbert going and why was he going there?

Had it been any other man in Avonlea, Mrs. Rachel might have given a pretty good guess as to the answer of both of these questions. But Matthew so rarely left his home that it must be something pressing and unusual which was taking him. Matthew Cuthbert was quite possibly the shyest man alive and hated to have to go to strangers or to any place where he might have to talk. Indeed, Matthew dressed up with a white collar and driving in a buggy was something that didn’t happen often. Ponder as she might, Mrs. Rachel Lynde could make nothing of Matthew Cuthbert?s peculiar behaviour and as a result, her afternoon’s enjoyment was spoiled.