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Basic Grammar for ESL Teachers

Updated on August 5, 2015

The 8 Basic Parts of English Speech

Many ESL Teachers go abroad for their first job out of university without much knowledge of How to Teach English, or even basic English Grammar and parts of speech. Grammar is often simply not studied in school these days, with the emphasize more on "meaning" vs. "accuracy."

Knowing the names of, and being able to recognize the 8 basic parts of English Speech can go a long way to helping you succeed in your mission to Teach English as a Second Language. Adults especially can be quite demanding, wanting to know specific grammar rules and how to apply them, so it really pays to know your stuff before setting foot into a classroom. Keep reading for a simplified guide to English Grammar that everyone can understand, even a total beginner at English grammar.


#1: Nouns

Nouns are basically people, places or things. Abstract concepts such as "liberty" or "happiness" can count as a noun. Nouns can be used as subjects or objects.

A Proper Noun is capitalized and is used for the name of a specific thing. For example: London, or Tom.


#2: Verbs

A verb can be defined as: A word which shows action or a state of being. Every English sentence MUST have a verb. When you know the Verb in the sentence, you can understand the meaning of it.

What is confusing about verbs is that they change form. Sometimes endings are added (Go --> Goes) or words are changed entirely (eat --> ate). The form of the verb is used to show the tense (past, present, future), person (1st, 2nd, 3rd), number (singular, plural) or voice (active, passive).

The most important concept for ESL students to get is verbs' relation to time. Is something happening now, did it already happen, or will it happen in the future?

Eats, Shoots & Leaves - A funny take on English Grammar


#3: Pronouns

A pronoun is when you take a noun, and replace it with a word that stands for that object. For example, "Jackie found HER (Jackie's) wallet in the drawer" or "She (Jackie) went to the store."


#4: Adjectives

An adjective describes a noun or pronoun. For example, "The BLACK cat walked into the room." "The TALL, THIN Woman spoke to me." When using adjectives, care must be used not to over-do it. For example, "The FRIGHTENING, INTIMIDATING, BIG, TALL, DARK-HAIRED man is coming down the road" is not that interesting of a sentence.


#5: Adverbs

Adverbs have the capability to modify adjectives, verbs as well as other adverbs. The most common way to form an adverb is add an "ly" to the end of an adjective (slow--> slowly, happy-->happily). They're really useful in writing in order to make it descriptive, interesting and to catch the reader's attention.

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#6: Prepositions

Prepositions helps explain the relationship between 2 objects. For example, "I put my hat ON the hook," or "The cat was hiding UNDER the bed." They are often quite difficult to teach since the relationship between the hat/hook or cat/bed might be in a different order in their own language. However, it's very important and we shouldn't neglect it!


#7: Conjunctions

There are 3 types of conjuctions whose purpose is to join words and phrases into an understandable sentence. By using them well, run-on sentences can be avoided.

1. Co-ordinating Conjunctions:

Fanboys: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So. For example, "I had no money SO I went to the ATM Machine."

2. Subordinating Conjunctions:

Words like: as if, after, because, when, until. For example, " She went home AFTER classes were done."

3. Correlative Conjunctions:

You will only find these in groups of 2 because they serve to coordinate 2 equivalent things. Some of the most common ones are: Both...and, Either....or, Neither....nor, Whether...or, Not only...but also, For example, "Both She and I decided to go for pizza" or "Not only do I want to see that movie, but Jen does also."


#8: interjections

While not exactly a "sentence," interjections serve the important purpose of reflecting an overflow of expression. Oh yeah baby! Take that! WHAT?! They express emotion directly and clearly, but be careful not to overuse them because it will make your writing seem childish and over-dramatic.

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