I am looking for a U.S. college-level English grammar text, one with answers to end-of-chapter exercises. I was born in the U.S. and have only spoken and written in English. I had a good English grammar education through high school. (College consisted of Composition and Rhetoric.) Now, decades later and retired, my English grammar sucks, and I need a refresher. I have a variety of English grammar reference books, but reference books can lead down a rabbit hole if the error can’t be named in the first place. I have looked online for college-level English grammar educational texts, but all I find are either ESL or grade school workbooks. I use the word “text” because I am not looking for whimsical material. Also, I prefer a physical book over online material. Thank you to those well-versed in English grammar! I appreciate your help.

2 Answers 2


I can recommend "The Grammar Book. An ESL/EFL Teacher's Course." As the title states, teachers are the primary audience. But with your background knowledge and interest in the subject, you will learn a great deal in its 855 pages.

At the end of each of the 36 chapters there are various exercises to test your understanding of the content of the chapter. The appendix has answers and explanations to the exercises that further develop this understanding - in contrast to the single word answers that typify many grammar exercises for learners.

One disadvantage, the book is very expensive. Here is the Amazon.com page where you can read others' opinions about the book in order to determine if it meets your needs:



If you're really serious about getting a college-level English grammar textbook, be aware that

  • the course typically lasts a whole year (3 quarters or two semesters).
  • it's a hard course, about as hard as calculus (but acquiring different skills).
  • it's cumulative, like a math course (don't take Calc 102 before you take 101).
  • a great deal of the course is devoted to unlearning what you thought was
    "a good English grammar education through high school", simply because it's wrong.
  • English grammar has nothing to do with correctness, or social status, or race.
  • if you succeed, you will be muttering phrases and clauses to yourself a lot,
    which can be embarrassing.

If you can take all that, try Jim McCawley's The Syntactic Phenomena of English, which is intended for a 1-year English syntax course at the college level, as well as a list of the phenomena and their interactions. It's slow going, but it's got everything, uses consistent terminology, and has a complete bibliography. There is a paperback edition, and you can hold the book in one hand.

The first 3 chapters of the book, which tell you what the book is about and show how everything works) are online at Google books. (click on "Preview")

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of the Scheme of Syntactic Analysis Adopted Below
  3. Some Tests for Deep and Surface Constituent Structure

For most people, that's all they need (essentially the first 3 chapters are syntax 101, where the rest of the book is 102). Like I said, slow going; but like you said, college level.

  • I have a feeling that this is not the kind of book that the OP is looking for. As I understand the question, the OP is looking for something that will refresh the good education that he or she received earlier, and does not wish to 'unlearn' it 'simply because it's wrong'. I continue to find it strange that academic linguists, who in other contexts, would never dismiss established usage as incorrect (even if it is established only within a limited social circle), can be so casual about dismissing as simply wrong the kind of grammar that millions of people are taught.
    – jsw29
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 21:18

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