How to Master Grammar
Grammar is essential to a strong second language foundation. Before you dive into target language rules, it is crucial to first understand your native grammar.
These eight parts of speech are the main components of an English sentence:
Nouns – A noun can be a person, place, thing, or idea. Examples include: Henry, London, and house.
Adjectives – An adjective is a word that describes a noun: pretty vase, professional Sam, or fast-paced London.
Determiner – This includes articles (a, an, and the) as well as demonstrative adjectives like these and that. A determiner will define the specificity of the noun.
Preposition – These words express relation between two or more elements of a sentence. They often refer to position in time or space. Example words are to, around, and before.
Verb – Verbs are complicated creatures. A verb describes the action of the sentence, the what. Verbs abide to the time the action took place, called tense, as well as how the action happened, known as mood. Examples are: to eat, to drink, to read.
Adverb – An adverb describes the verb, an adjective, or another adverb: He ate quickly, she walked loudly.
Conjunction – A conjunction combines two items, whether they be individual parts of speech or full sentences. Examples are and, but, and although.
Interjection – An interjection is a word that expresses an emotion and appears most often in spoken language. Wow, well, and oh my are only a few examples.
These eight categories are fundamental to understanding the structure of many languages. The grammatical rules of a language are just the patterns of relations between these categories.
They will appear in almost any language you study. Each will vary in complexity and form. Nouns in the Romance languages, for example, have genders. In Japanese, the verb does not change depending on who or what is the subject (I/you/he/she/it…). Instead, it conjugates based on the basis of affirmation/negation: I did eat vs. I did not eat.
Instead of burying your head in a grammar book—at least until you are an intermediate student—try diagramming the sentences you encounter regularly. Diagramming a sentence will let you practice every grammar component without becoming overwhelmed.
If you are still anxious about grammar study, that’s okay. Start small. Look at a short phrase like “You eat pasta” and see if you can label the part of speech of each word.
Of course, you can also practice grammar through flashcards and writing articles. If you are working with a word list, see if you can recall verb conjugations (I am, was, will be) or noun/pronoun declensions (he, him).
Grammar doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating. In fact, if you know the basic terms, you can acquire the forms as you need them and focus on expressing yourself in your target language.
Now that we’ve covered basic grammar terms and strategies, tomorrow we can talk about how to have a successful language exchange.
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