Published 3rd March 2017

When teaching lower level EFL learners, the grammar and vocabulary that we teach them is quite obvious. Because they have so much to learn, we have so much to teach them. Once they get to a certain level, though, it becomes a bit trickier as the gaps in their knowledge get smaller and smaller.

When our students are at an Advanced level, teachers can often be at a loss as to what to present in the classroom. “They can talk about anything” and “They know everything” are two common complaints from teachers of Advanced classes.

The thing is, they don’t.

There’s a reason they are in the classroom and that’s because they don’t know everything. But their experience of and exposure to the language has equipped them with enough tools to be able to communicate with their current level of English, without making it obvious what they don’t know. They are quite capable of communicating their meaning, but that doesn’t mean they can’t improve.

In fact, there are a few grammatical structures which are very useful for Advanced learners because they will help them say what they want to say better.

Collocation

Collocations are pairs or groups of words that occur together naturally. Using collocations appropriately is a sure sign of a very Advanced learner (or a native speaker!). At this level, learners can spend time on authentic texts in order to discover and analyse common collocations which will help them sound more natural.

Binomials

Binomials are similar to collocations in that they are phrases which are commonly found together. They are set structures and usually consist of two words joined by and or or, like by and large, touch and go and bread and butter.

Inversion

Inversion is commonly used in English in question formation, question tags and conditional sentences. Another use of inversion which is more complex, is that of negative inversion. In English, there are some phrases we use in order to emphasise what we are saying and with which it is necessary to use inversion. Hardly, Never and No sooner are just three examples which will elevate your learners’ language.

Mixed conditionals

Learners are often taught conditional sentences when they are about Intermediate level. However, while a lot of time is spent on the zero, first, second and third conditional, mixed conditionals are often avoided. Once learners get to an Advanced level, they should revisit conditionals and analyse mixed conditional sentences.

Nominalisation

Nominalisation is the act of turning verbs or verb phrases into nouns, so Police reacted violently to the students’ angry rioting becomes The students’ angry rioting provoked the police’s violent reaction. Nominalisation is often used in academic or formal writing and is a structure not commonly dealt with in the EFL classroom, except in EAP programmes.

Even Advanced learners have a lot to learn; for the teacher it’s a matter of developing their current knowledge and introducing structures and language they may not have been exposed to before.