Teaching Syntax: Helpful or Hellish?

Seeing some students struggle to build clear sentences has made me reflect on what information might help to guide them. I’ve posted videos on types of sentences according to purpose and structure. But understanding the difference between a statement and a question or the difference between a compound and complex sentence doesn’t always eliminate doubts…

Word Order with the Prepositions FOR and TO

Prepositions are a grammar topic that require a degree of focused practice. Exposure to correct structures and acceptable uses is not usually enough for mastery. Recently I helped students understand when and why more than one word order is possible with indirect objects. We discussed phrases like giving someone an explanation and giving an explanation…

Getting a Firmer Handle on Word Order

In an effort to help an advanced student avoid awkward wording, I’ve been reviewing standard word order in our lessons. Some rules have been easy to state and reinforce, like putting the subject before the verb in statements and embedded questions. Other patterns are easier to recall only in the process of correcting a student’s writing. If…

Student Stumper 10: The placement of adjectives

QUESTION: Do adjectives always come before nouns in English? ANSWER: No. This question was shared with me by my Finnish colleague, a remarkable teacher with a firm grasp of grammar. She was challenged by her students to prove that adjectives in English always precede the noun they modify. Apparently, other sources led them to believe…