A bit of Grammar for (new) TEFL teachers

You will probably be quite surprised to find that most foreign students have spent years studying their own grammar and almost as many studying English grammar. Foreign learners are equally surprised that most native speakers don’t have a clue about grammar rules (despite being able to use them perfectly well). While I don’t think grammar should be the main focus of your teaching, it is a good idea that you know English grammar so that you can help your students. A bit like a driving instructor should know what goes on beneath the bonnet. I have written four dialogues between a TEFL guru and a trainee teacher. I hope that trainee teachers will gain a better understanding of English grammar but without the pain of a standard grammar text. The files are in pdf format so you’ll need Acrobat Reader to read them.

There are currently four PDF files that you can download by right-clicking on the link:

Conditionals       Futurity       Possessive case       CountableVUncountable

Any other topics I should cover?


English is a very difficult language to spell. You may be familiar with George Bernard Shaw’s ‘ghoti’ spelling fish (enough, women, station). If you’re planning to be an English teacher it is a very good idea to get your own spelling sorted out. While being trained, I watched a colleague teach a lesson on shopping. “What’s that bit of paper that you get with your change?” he asked his students. “A receipt,” said Martin from Switzerland, pronouncing the ‘p’. “What did you say?” asked the less-than-diplomatic teacher. “Receipt,” said Martin, again pronouncing the ‘p’. “No, no, no,” said the trainee teacher. “It’s R-E-C-E-I-T!” as he wrote it on the board. At the back of the class, we were all trying to indicate that he was wrong. “Are you sure?” asked Martin. This did not please the arrogant young teacher. “Am I sure? Listen, I’m the teacher, you’re the student! Of course I’m bloody sure!” There was a very big smile on Martin’s face when he looked the word up in his dictionary…

As a teacher trainer, I come into contact with many people who want to be English teachers. Here are a few tips for those whose spelling could be described as ‘interesting’.

1. Thank you for the photo’s, I picked up a lot of idea’s, How many student’s will I have? All of these words are simple plurals. photo – photos. idea – ideas – student – students. You only need ‘s if you are talking about something which belongs to something else. Jeremy’s new book for example…

2. Your great! Nice to hear but… You’re great is the correct contraction of you are great.

3. If I’d have known what a great trainer you are, I would of done the course ages ago. The third conditional is a tough one. Most native speakers would use: If I’d known what a great trainer you are, I would have done the course ages ago. Interestingly, foreign learners rarely put ‘would of‘ as they are less likely to contract “would have” to “would’ve”.

4. Commonly misspelt words: definately (definitely) grammer (grammar) accomodation(accommodation) bussiness (business) profesional (professional).

5. loose and lose. This one is more common among foreigners. Why is it that the word with the short vowel sound has two ‘o’s while the word with the short vowel sound has 2? Ah, the joys of English spelling.

I have photographed quite a few examples of ‘alternative English‘.


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