Just as I said in the title, I'm wondering if there is a good book which covers basic syntax overall. I've been learning English for fairly a long time, so I don't have a lot of problems holding daily conversations and understanding many parts of books or articles written in English.

But the thing is I haven't learned grammar in depth, because I didn't realize the importance of it when I was younger. I was kind of exposed to English content when I was a kid although I grew up in a non-English speaking country, so I could just tell which makes sense and which does not, without knowing why.

So when I have to write something "professional" in English, or want to read a novel which has complicated structured sentences in English, there are some times when I cannot fully express what I want to say or understand the meaning or structure of some sentences.

I'm currently re-learning English grammar using GIU Intermediate and Advanced simultaneously, which are really helpful for me, but they do not seem to tackle syntax very much. So I thought it'd be better to have a book that covers syntax and basic structures of sentences so that I can refer to and improve my knowledge in English overall.

  • See under Books here. Michael Swan's Practical English Usage seems well-regarded although it covers other topics beyond grammar. There are also various more introductory texts for learners, so it will depend your level of linguistic knowledge and English knowledge.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 13, 2023 at 9:03
  • 2
    Covered in the resources article. Jul 13, 2023 at 10:25
  • Much appreciated! Jul 13, 2023 at 10:48
  • @Velvet_-Underground I'd recommend asking this question also over at English Language Learners or Language Learning. Here at ELU you're more likely to get linguistically oriented/theoretic references about syntax (eg anaphora and piedpiping, theta roles) whereas you're looking for practical rule sets for those learning or having to write professionally (where theory is not as important as just the rules).
    – Mitch
    Jul 13, 2023 at 13:36
  • 1
    Read, read, read and copy out the sentences you don't get and try to break them down.
    – Lambie
    Jul 17, 2023 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


Judging by the quality of the English in your question, I doubt that reading a book on syntax would very much improve either your ability to express yourself clearly or your ability to understand the meaning of some of the sentences you read. In the case of the latter, it seems possible that the sentences you have difficulty with may themselves be poorly written in various ways.

Nevertheless, if you want to improve your knowledge of English syntax in general, I can recommend Analysing English Sentences by Andrew Radford. Radford in the preface states:

The book is intended to be suitable for people with little (if any) grammatical knowledge and/or experience in linguistics; it is aimed at intermediate undergraduates, or graduates in the first year of a Masters programme.

The later chapters are rather demanding and go into more detail than you probably need. But the opening chapters are a very good introduction to the topic.

If you want advice on writing non-fiction I can recommend William Zinnser's On Writing Well. According to the New York Times, it is "a bible for a generation of writers looking for clues to clean, compelling prose".

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