Published 30th April 2019

grammar rules

As teachers of English as a Foreign Language, we need to know grammar rules inside out and upside down. With English being the changeable language that it is, this can actually be quite difficult. What’s prescribed one year is abandoned the next. This is confusing for us so you can imagine how baffling it must be for our students!

Regardless of how we feel about grammar and grammar rules, we need to keep abreast of any changes that take place in the usage of English. To that end, here are a few grammar rules which you might have been taught in school but these days are better off forgetting.

Grammar rules you shouldn’t be teaching

What can you end a sentence with?

Traditionally, the question should be With what can you end a sentence? but these days that sounds pretty pompous. Your English teacher might have drilled the rule that you can’t end a sentence with a preposition into you because it was quite a hard and fast rule, but no longer. Nowadays feel free to end your sentences with anything you can think of.

And what about beginning a sentence?

Back in the day English language learners the world over, even those with English as a first language, were told not to start a sentence with a conjunction. But these days you are totally free to begin your sentences with and, but or because.

To be or not to be?

That might have been Shakespeare’s question but the question is now actually whether or not to split the infinitive. According to tradition, the base verb and to should never be split, but this rule has long since fallen by the wayside. Instead we are welcome “to boldly go where no man has gone before”, a la Star Trek.

Every teacher should

This is a controversial one. Using they to refer to a singular person has been frowned upon for a long time, but people seem to be tired of using s/he. Thankfully now we can happily use they when talking about a person to avoid issues with gender.

Less and less people know about this one

According to grammar books, we use few with countable nouns (books, people) and less with uncountable nouns (water, sand), but you’ve probably heard people say there were less people at the party than last time. We seem to have naturally relaxed this rule, though it might jar with any prescriptivists out there.

These are only a few grammar rules which have been left by the wayside with the changes of English. Of course there will be people who are adamant that these rules should be followed when using English, but for the most part the grammatically correct usage is dying out, to be replaced by more relaxed practices.

When teaching English as a Foreign Language, it’s important that we teach our students the language is used in everyday life rather than the language that is stipulated by grammar reference books that were published in the 1950s. After all, we’d rather they talk like David Beckham than Charles Dickens!