They ask me about the grammar and I don't know how to explain. So I need a book to teach me how to teach them how to write and why I make the changes I tell them to make.

  • 2
    We can only make sensible suggestions if we have more details, such as: Who are your learners? How old are they? Why are they learning English (Do they specifically want to learn to write English well?) What kind of grammar questions do they ask?
    – Shoe
    May 14, 2018 at 7:05
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    They are MSc and PhD students. Mostly, they want to write letters and articles. They want to learn all four talents of English (speaking, listening, writing, and reading) but currently we want to focus on writing. For speaking we have weekly free discussion sessions (which doesn't seem to be helping as much as we had hoped). The questions they ask is mostly why I say a part of their sentence is wrong and why I correct it to the structure I do.
    – hossein
    May 14, 2018 at 16:51
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs on English Language Learners Meta, not ELU. May 14, 2018 at 17:42
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    Thanks. Then I would recommend Owl at Purdue for writing advice of all kinds, and Grammar for English Language Teachers for help in explaining grammatical errors to your students: owl.english.purdue.edu/owl - amazon.com/Grammar-English-Language-Teachers-Parrott/dp/…
    – Shoe
    May 14, 2018 at 17:49
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    @FumbleFingers This type of question would have been welcome on Language Learning Stack Exchange, but I guess it's too late for migration now.
    – Tsundoku
    May 18, 2018 at 17:42
  • @Christophe Strobbe: I've always assumed the mods could do anything they wanted! There might already be a dup (meta) question on ELL, but I don't see why this one couldn't go there too. May 18, 2018 at 17:59
  • @FumbleFingers I thought there was a time window of only a week or so after a question got posted, but after checking Meta SE, it appears to be much longer. So I now assume it can still be done.
    – Tsundoku
    May 18, 2018 at 18:05
  • I'm not going to vote to close this question, as I don't think it's off-topic here and I don't believe a custom close-vote will automatically migrate it, but if Language Learning.SE wants it I do support having the mods move it.
    – 1006a
    May 21, 2018 at 21:39

4 Answers 4


As a TEFL trainer, I always found R. Murphy's English Grammar in Use very useful, especially for new native Engish speaking teachers who didn't have much knowledge of their own grammar, as they learnt the names of tenses and constructions from it along with their students.


Another one I recommend for more advanced students is Practical English Usage, by Michael Swan, which was recommended reading on my RSA Dip. TEFLA course.


Requests for teaching resources are arguably off-topic for this site, and are even explicitly off topic for the English Language Learners StackExchange (see 'Requests for resources' here). On the other hand, they may be on-topic for Language Learning Stack Exchange (see here).

Having said that, the ELL StackExchange has a Resources List on its meta, here.

As far as books that explain to you the systematics behind why certain changes seem necessary to you as a native speaker, I would recommend a good comprehensive descriptive grammar of English. At present, the most authoritative one is arguably CGEL. And if a topic is not covered there, it may well be covered in CGEL's predecessor, ComGEL. A third well-known modern comprehensive grammar is Longman. Another one that's worth a look is OEG.

Among English grammars that are not comprehensive, but also not specialized to one area of grammar, look at e.g. Downing and Huddleston and Pullum (Student's).

Finally, I want to mention two books that deal with specialized areas of grammar. For the articles, Collins COBUILD English Guides: Articles is unparalleled. And for intricate details about the English tense system, consider Grammar of the English Tense System.

  • Also Oxford Modern English Grammar by Bas Aarts. May 13, 2018 at 20:00
  • Verbs: Meaning and the English Verb by Geoffrey N Leech May 13, 2018 at 20:04
  • There's also Dixon's excellent A Semantic Approach to English Grammar, and if you're interested in the details of how and why, McCawley's The Syntactic Phenomena of English. Be aware that many non-native English speakers have already studied really terrible grammar books and have already been taught a lot of nonsense by people who never spent much time around English speakers. As pointed out, grammar is hard to explain, and just getting one book is not going to help much. May 13, 2018 at 23:04
  • Thanks, so I'm sure these are really good books, but apart from Rodney Huddleston's A student's introduction to english grammar, the rest are HUGE. Teaching isn't my job. I'm doing it temporarily, for some cash, for fun, and for friends, I need something much smaller.
    – hossein
    May 14, 2018 at 17:24
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    @hossein Just remember that very few people read comprehensive grammars cover to cover. Their great advantage is that for any particular question you might have, chances are good that they have covered precisely that question. And the answer to that question won't be that long; the books are long because they cover lots of different questions, rather than because they give long answers to single questions. The smaller books of course can't do that. They are more for giving an 'overview' of basic points of grammar, of how grammar 'works'... and I don't think that's actually what you want? May 14, 2018 at 17:53
  • @hossein English Grammar: A University Course 3rd Edition by Angela Downing is not huge. It's 550 pages plus answers and glossary. Note to linguistictum that there is a 3rd edition of this work out (the answer's link points to the 2nd) May 16, 2018 at 17:09

Just some suggestions:

Once they get started, you might want to try FCE/CAE/CPE materials. In addition to the four 'talents' you mention, they also focus on use of English, which is all about using the correct prepositions and idiomatic use of the language.

Consider this example cloze test at CAE level. Just by letting them fill in those tests and discussing them afterwards they will come across a wide variety of idioms and it's much more fun to learn by practicing than by having a list and repeating them over and over again (speaking from experience here).

Another great way to learn is by listening (including video). Suggest to them to listen to BBC radio (Radio 1 is fine, doesn't have to be BBC 4, although the latter has more talking and less music). If they have the time, tell them to binge television series or current affairs (including US late night shows), whichever they like.

Remind them that they can listen to music while doing other things like commuting or sporting. Also tell them to find television programmes that they like, so they can watch them to relax rather than it being one more 'work/study' thing they have to do.

Also check if your / their university library has some books on for ESOL (aimed at learning English as a foreigner / non-native).


They ask me about the grammar and I don't know how to explain. So I need a book to teach me how to teach them how to write and why I make the changes I tell them to make.

It's very difficult to explain grammar to non-native speakers. You might try using English language elementary school textbooks as sources for their writing exercises. Many really good basic education textbooks are available online, and free for public use (no copyright limitations). You should get some excellent teaching ideas from them, and could copy relevant pages for use in the classroom.


And these have helped generations of Americans learn English in public schools:


I'm sure there is much to be learned from vintage school textbooks (or old-school, if you will).


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