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Features of Building and Understanding Sentences

Brown, R. (1973). A first language. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

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The present work is dedicated to the peculiarities of sentence construction and sentence understanding since the author believes these issues are of central importance to understanding English grammar and successfully mastering it. He outlines several essential aspects of sentence construction: relationships within a simple sentence, modulations of meanings possible within the simple sentence structure, modalities of the simple sentence, imperatives, and embedding another sentence within the structure of a simple one. Coordination of propositional relations and simple sentences are also of particular concern for the author, is included in the list of essential structures to be grasped for the sake of acquiring proficiency in English.

I am sure that sentence structure occupies great importance in the field of studying grammar, since even students possessing an average to high grammar units’ knowledge may change the structure in such a way that the meaning becomes vague and even illogical. Therefore, I would take the research of Brown (1973) as a focus on grammar teaching to help students achieve a higher level of proficiency quicker and to make their learning process more productive.

Chalker, S. (1994). Pedagogical Grammar: Principles and Problems. In Bygate, M. (ed.) Grammar and the Language Teacher. London: Prentice-Hall, pp. 31-44.

The author underlines the necessity of making grammar pedagogically directed, which means that students become the main stakeholders in teaching grammar. He suggests that teachers should construct their view of grammar as a set of arbitrary and mandatory rules, and then communicate the difference to students. The author sees the main problem with lack of pedagogical attitude to grammar and heavy reliance on the structural approach in the old school of grammar that created many formalities and rigid rules for teachers trying to impose the same approach in modern studies. His final argument is that not the surface structures, but the in-depth meanings communicated through grammar have to become the main focus of studies to release students from the limitations of structuralism.

I am also very strongly influenced by the structural and task-based approach to teaching grammar because of my background, but I see the need to construct pedagogical grammar knowledge as well. I feel that my students are unable to research the grammar rules themselves to identify the most troubling issues, or to detect the arbitrariness in grammar rules. Hence, we need to cooperate based on pedagogical grammar to work out the affluent, understandable body of grammar knowledge.

Givon, T. (1993). English Grammar: A Function-Based Introduction. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co.

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The present work is dedicated to several issues requiring attention in grammar studies. The author indicates that grammar should serve the coherent communication of people; hence it is not a logical machine but a living organism evolving in response to the speakers’ needs. The author indicates several arbitrary grammar rules and shows the dependence of the choice on communicative strategies employed.

He distinguishes such situational and discursive grammars as prescriptive and descriptive ones, the peculiarities of spoken and written language, the formal and informal varieties, the ethnical and geographical variations of the mainstream language, etc. The author also pays attention to the revelation of meaning through language, which means the reflection of one’s internal and external world. The deep and surface structures are examined in their relation to the meaning implied by expressions.

The present work contributed much to my understanding of what grammar studies should be, as it poses communication as the main objective of studying grammar. My experience of work with ESL students showed how important grammar acquisition was to help them fulfill their communicative goals, so I am strongly apt to consider grammar as a communicative instrument nowadays. Even under the condition of knowing words and phrases, possessing adequate lexicon, ESL learners often fail to explain their ideas, which is a failure in studies.

Gray, R. (2004) Grammar Correction in ESL/EFL Writing Classes May Not Be Effective. Internet TESL Journal X, No. 11.

The present research is dedicated to estimating the efficiency of correcting grammar mistakes in writing classes of L2 learners. The author states that the efficiency of such an approach is very low because of the non-linear process of language acquisition by foreign learners, and their inability to grasp the whole complex of grammar rules the English language implies. Therefore, the advice the author gives is to make corrections pertaining only to the specific lesson or course of studies which represents the active material studied by students at that given moment.

Also, the tip for finding the balance between giving the teacher’s feedback and spoiling time for correcting mistakes in a useless attempt to teach the student grammar through writing is to focus on content more than on structure.

The present work of Gray (2004) is highly valuable for me, though it has some restrictions on my practice. Surely, it is highly unproductive to correct mistakes, especially in the oral speeches of students, but the problem my students faced was that they could not identify their own mistakes, and did not see where they were incorrect. Therefore, I adopted a medium approach – I do not correct mistakes in the process of studies, but record them and discuss them with students later on, during grammar correction sessions.

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Leech, G. (1994). Students’ Grammar – Teachers’ Grammar – Learners’ Grammar. In Bygate, M., Tomkyn. A & Williams, E. Grammar and the Language Teacher, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall International, pp. 17-30.

The author identifies three types of grammar: for academic students, for teachers, and learners. He speculates on the level of awareness of the theoretical concepts of grammar that should be present in each grammar and continues to assess the variety of skills in grammar that a model language teacher should have. The author’s argumentation includes the teacher’s ability to use grammar as the communicative system, analyze the students’ difficulties that at times emerge with grammar rules, evaluate the usage of particular grammar forms, use contrastive grammar examples and exercises, and apply simplification procedures in the studies. The conclusive argument poses a teacher as a guide through learning grammar, thus imposing a much wider variety of requirements on the grammar awareness level than one of the learners.

This article proved of high importance for me in deciding on how to deal with the grammar challenges of students. The concept of teacher’s and learner’s grammar is a novelty for me, but I understood its value as soon as I studied my work with ESL students. It is wrong to think that in case the teacher knows and explains something well, students will know it as well as he/she does. Therefore, the consensus between learners’ and teachers’ grammar should be found, and the tools for this search are explicitly explained in the present work.

Odlin, T. (1994). Perspectives on Pedagogical Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-22.

The author of the work summarizes the overall need for the pedagogical grammar field nowadays. He speaks about the prescriptive and descriptive elements in grammar that are always present in any grammatical approach (with descriptive elements much harder for realizing and studying by L2 learners).

The author also pays attention to language acquisition as a mental process, with the mind being a source of grammatical patterning. Interlanguage competence and the ability to choose situational, contextual meanings by foreign speakers are also the subjects of the author’s concern. He concludes that motivation for engaging in the pedagogical grammar field is multi-faceted and includes: time, independence, fossilization, guidance, etc.

Interlanguage competence has been of much interest to me since the main function of my teaching is to make ESL students able to communicate efficiently. Therefore, I found much information about what interlanguage competence is, and how it may be developed, in this work. I realize that grammar knowledge comes from mental patterning, so I design my studies accordingly, to make students not only remember, but understand and accept the grammar units at the level of conscious and subconscious perception.

Qi, D. & S. Lapkin (2003) Exploring the role of noticing in a three-stage writing task. Journal of Second Language Writing 10: 277-303.

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The researchers undertook the study to examine the impact of noticing on writing and reformulating ideas for L2 learners. The main point of interest was whether higher noticing capabilities contributed in any way to the formation of L2 acquisition skills or not. The study was conducted with the help of two subject groups, with the results indicating the promoting noticing and the quality of noticing should be a focus of L2 pedagogy as it reveals a great potential for improvement of L2 learning outcomes.

Noticing is essential in the process of learning, as students may surely memorize the rules and the grammar units, but they also need to possess the ability to identify those grammar units in a sentence or an exercise. This skill is of key significance in the process of training and using a foreign language, as the user has to understand what he or she is intending to say, to realize which way it can be said (in case some formulations are hard to compose, he or she may choose others from the range of grammar tools available), and to state it in the way native speakers can understand. It is also essential to notice the lexicon of interlocutors – sometimes the background and language they use will also affect the productivity of communication.

Skehan, P. (2007). Task research and language teaching: reciprocal relationships. In S. Fotos & H. Nassaji (Eds.). Form-focused instruction and teacher education. Studies in Honour of Rod Ellis (pp.55-69).Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The researchers focus on the relationship between research and language teaching. Their prime goal is to investigate the course of task research; they discuss the influence of tasks themselves on the learning process, the pre-task, and post-task stages. One more issue of concern discussed is the way of choosing tasks according to the desired outcomes of learning (i.e. accuracy, fluency, and complexity). The researchers offer the phases of task use and examine the task-based instruction issues. The final point in their research is to identify the procedures of knowledge acquisition through the task-related activities examined.

Task-based instruction is very familiar to me, and though I am personally using the communicative approach, I know that it is hard to do without the elements of a task-based approach in teaching. It is necessary to eliminate the errors of students by designing task-based classes, for them to clearly understand the goal of the class, and to work narrowly on the elimination of grammar drawbacks.

Swain, M., & Lapkin, S. (2007). The distributed nature of second language learning: Neil’s perspective. In S. Fotos & H. Nassaji (Eds.). Form-focused instruction and teacher education. Studies in Honour of Rod Ellis (pp. 73-85).Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The researchers designed a study in which they attempted to investigate the distributed nature of the language learning process. The initial assumption on which they relied while constructing the rationale for the study was the theory of Vygotsky about learning as a distributed cognitive process. Exploring whether students learn English better when working alone or in pairs, the researchers chose a student called Neil as a subject and entrusted two tasks to him. The result of observing his progress showed that the intervention with the environment mediated through language produced much better outcomes for learning. Hence, the conclusion at which the authors arrive is that the language learning process is distributed and situated in the physical and social setting of learners.

I have made sure that the language learning process has a distributed nature, and the individual studies are less productive than cooperation with the immediate environment. The students may benefit much from the interaction with native speakers, other students who were born in the country of studies, and with teachers as well. However, in case students have little access to native speakers, they may benefit from the immersion classrooms, or study films and shows of authentic origin, discuss the lexicon used and acquire authentic features of speaking a target language that way.

Willis, D. (1994). A Lexical Approach. In Bygate, M., Tomkyn. A & Williams, E. Grammar and the Language Teacher, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall International.

The author researches the most complicated issues in the structural approach to studying grammar and reflects on the way those hardships can be avoided. Starting from the argument that grammar is surely a subject of central importance in language studies, the author gives a set of practical examples of studying passive voice constructions, the second conditional usage, and the formulation of reported statements.

The conclusion at which the author arrives is that these aspects of studying grammar are over-complicated by structuralism in grammar, and they can be grasped in a much easier way by the lexically based approach to studying. He notes that the lexis starting point in learning is potentially much more powerful because it takes into consideration the learner’s grammar and helps him or her identifies the needed implications of meanings of grammar issues studied.

I am confident that the study is of high value for all teachers, ESL teachers included because it shows the most troubling points of grammar studies. I have also made sure of the complexity of conditionals and passive voice constructions in English learning since the majority of ESL students have a completely different structure of their native language, inflections, and passive voice forms. Hence, they need much more focused instruction and explanations from the teacher regarding those subjects.

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