Author Topic: Learning the rules of the English language.  (Read 9272 times)

Offline TheGreyMan

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Learning the rules of the English language.
« on: July 12, 2013, 07:47:58 AM »
Unfortunately I didn't pay much attention in English classes at school, mainly because i had a horrible beast of an English teacher who almost completely destroyed any interest i had in literature. I think it was because she was fixated on my bad handwriting, me being a leftie.
Her chosen method of torture was public humiliation, she would drag you up in front of the class and publicly ridicule you for your mistakes, a particularly effective way to disengage an adolescent boy from writing I'd say!

Anyway enough therapy for now  :D

My question to you guys is this:

How would you suggest i go about improving my grasp of the rules of written English. I'm afraid i don't really know what a verb or an adjective is, any knowledge i do have is mainly acquired through reading novels and picking it up that way?

Do you guys know of any good online resources for adult learners of English, or perhaps a good book that starts from the basics?



P.S. as for my terrorizing teacher I'm sure there is an evil character role waiting in one of my future books for her.  ;)
Forgive me if I'm being naive, I'm quite new to this.

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2013, 08:06:06 AM »
There are plenty of resources online if you run a search.

I suggest you don't think of the elements as 'English rules' but more as ingredients for good writing. Compare them to recipes . . . okay so you have an egg -- sometimes it's separated and you use only the white or the yolk, sometimes it's beaten, flour often features in bread/cake/sauce recipes but there are different types requiring different treatment, some sort of fat is usually used oil, butter, lard and then there are sugar, salt and flavourings added at different points to make up the treat. Blimey, then you can go mad with garnishes or accompaniments and create a whole dinner party of writing.

Verbs have tenses -- past [what's happened before either a moment ago or long ago], present [what's happening right now] and future [ what is yet to happen. If you are a native English speaker much of this will come naturally to you but it is important to know the differences for writing so that you don't slip tenses and fill your sentences with muddled chronology.

Nouns -- are things. If you can touch it, smell it, see it, hear it, taste it, feel or imagine it it's a noun, it might be a person [named or pronoun], a place or an object and if it has a special name or title it's a proper noun and it's only proper it gets capital letters to show how special it is, like Trafalgar Square, Mrs Mahoney, The Title of my Next Book etc.

Sentences have to have nouns and verbs -- everything else is extra. She sings. The dog jumped. Henry screamed.

When you start analysing sentence structure it can be really good fun -- honestly.
   

Offline TheGreyMan

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2013, 08:21:02 AM »
Thank you for your reply.

Yeah i must admit i am surprised to say i do enjoy learning about the way sentences are structured. I like order (I'm a bit OCD  ;)) and discovering that there are rules and conventions behind something i have learnt instinctively is quite sattisfying.  :)

What i am looking for is a basic outline of the rules, something i can refer to if ever i am in doubt. Most of the time i can read a sentence i have written and instinctively know if it is right or wrong, but occasionally there are things that throw me off. For example sometimes i struggle with knowing when exactly to use a capital letter, when to use a comma and how to use hyphens. I tend to use too many commas, because i'm not entirely sure when it is right to end a sentence.

P.S. I like rules, they make me feel good   :D

Forgive me if I'm being naive, I'm quite new to this.

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2013, 08:47:22 AM »
Look up those items in a search and you'll probably find something with examples to show you what is usually used -- remember English grammar is reasonably strict, but it allows great latitude for style and as long as the syntax isn't mangled, you can see broken rules everywhere that read well.

If you can afford it and particularly like reading about rules, one of the textbooks for teaching English as a second language that TESOL tutors learn from has heaps and heaps and heaps of examples and explanations of how English is correctly used.

http://www.amazon.com/TESOL-Textbooks-for-Teachers/lm/R23RSE9VLJSFG0  This is Amazon . . .  but I can't see the book my husband used and I can't recall it right at the moment, but it was a beauty -- info about modality and auxiliary verbs, formal and informal expression and the use of tenses was great. I'll try to find out from him what the title was.

Offline TheGreyMan

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2013, 09:00:46 AM »
Thank you very much, i will have a browse throught those now.
Forgive me if I'm being naive, I'm quite new to this.

Offline TheGreyMan

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Forgive me if I'm being naive, I'm quite new to this.

Offline heidi52

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2013, 09:08:39 AM »
Good for you for wanting to learn. Bad teachers suck and can do a lot of damage but that's over and I'm glad you are moving on. It sounds like you have a good command of English so you probably use a lot of the rules without knowing them.

You'll learn a lot here reading, critiquing and posting. People will point out grammar errors. MWC is an invaluable learning resource.

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2013, 09:20:35 AM »
Good for you. ;)

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2013, 10:01:18 AM »

Offline TheGreyMan

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2013, 10:01:46 AM »
As i see it a good command of the language is a basic tool for a writer, if i am going to be sucessful at this i need to have a good tool kit. It would be like a mechanic trying to fix your car with cheap and broken tools.
Forgive me if I'm being naive, I'm quite new to this.

Offline TheGreyMan

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2013, 10:05:48 AM »
This might be handy too -- http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Writing/b.html#bugbears

 ;)

This looks just like the sort of thing i was after, i do like that it opens on the British English section too  ;)

I will have a good read through this and report back later.
Forgive me if I'm being naive, I'm quite new to this.

Offline ChrisHarrison

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2013, 03:42:31 PM »
I was only thinking yesterday how many English speaking people, and I include myself, are still unsure about English grammar. Why didn't they teach us any of this at school? Bloody comprehension, that's all we were ever taught: how to read a big paragraph and answer questions about what it said.

I would sue, but the school was demolished decades ago.

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2013, 03:48:10 PM »
Depends where you went to school and when . . . I learned all sorts of aspects of English Language and used to spend time 'parsing' -- sorting out subject, object and predicate, drawing little boxes to show which part of speech related to what, clauses, subordinate clauses, compound and complex sentences . . . many of these things have returned in the past decade, and are part of the National Strategy [formerly the National Curriculum] for Literacy in Primary Schools. :o

Offline protekme

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2013, 04:12:45 PM »
I believe it to be the same in every language. My mother used to tell us, grammar is one of the most important subjects. (What?)  If you learn it well, it will serve you all your life. She might have been right. Because of her, I loved grammar and was good at it (I was probably good at it because I loved it--or maybe I loved it because I was good at it--whatever).

I hated composition, though, and would have a headache and feel really sick when it was time (on Friday afternoon) to write a one-page piece. I would take it home to my Mom, and she'd do it for me. (Not good). But when I had no choice and had to finish it before leaving class, I'd do it and always got a good mark. I realise today, that I was lazy. I did not like to force my brain to create a story. . .

Wow!! Look at me today: I've been forcing my brain for ten years to create something that might not even go anywhere. I must be a masochist.

It's never too late to learn, TheGreyman. . . but you have to want to force yourself and believe it's important.

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Offline ChrisHarrison

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Re: Learning the rules of the English language.
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2013, 04:35:53 PM »
Depends where you went to school and when . . . I learned all sorts of aspects of English Language and used to spend time 'parsing' -- sorting out subject, object and predicate, drawing little boxes to show which part of speech related to what, clauses, subordinate clauses, compound and complex sentences . . . many of these things have returned in the past decade, and are part of the National Strategy [formerly the National Curriculum] for Literacy in Primary Schools. :o

Wigan, all through the 1970s. It was a Catholic school and we spent 99% of the time singing hymns and praying. The other 1% was spent wishing we didn't have to.  ;)