Grammar! Who is it good for?

What grammar do we teach/learn?

Grammar huh, who is it good for?

How many of you remember that song “War, who is it good for?” by Edwin Starr (1969)?

Well, when I was sent this article from Online College:

“The 20 Most Controversial Rules in the  Grammar World” at

It made me think again about:

What grammar do we teach/learn?

  • What, or whose, English do we teach/learn?
  • or even, should we actually teach grammar?


I firmly believe that in the ideal language learning environment it is not essential to “learn” grammar. Most native English speakers of my generation never learnt English grammar, but we did acquire it naturally. The ideal learning environment is one where the “student” is totally emerged in the English language. Living with English speakers, watching TV and listening to the radio in English, reading English every day etc etc:

Learning English by living an English experience.

But most people can’t have that experience so it is useful to have a framework on which to build their language learning. Not all English teachers are good, in fact there are a lot of inaccurate and incorrect grammar lessons and exercises on internet, often on sites that appear on the first page of Google searches!


I personally believe it is grammatically incorrect to say: 

  • I haven’t a pencil       it should be either:
  • I haven’t got a pencil     or
  • I don’t have a pencil      Why?

Because if “have” is a principle verb (like go, sit, say, write) we must use the auxiliary “do” to form the negative     or

If “have” is used as an auxiliary it is accompanied by the past participle of a main verb.

But this is just one area where “incorrect” grammar is used in many situations. English is a living language used by millions of people around the world. The English we use today is not exactly the same as 20, 50, 100 or 500 years ago. The English used around the world is not the same in England, United States, India, Nigeria or Australia. The English in Manchester is not the same as it is in Liverpool only 45km away.

English teachers have to teach the English that they are comfortable with and one that will help their students to communicate anywhere in the world.



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