I have heard saying many people that English grammar is necessary to learn(To some extent I guess I do agree with them, basic English grammar knowledge is necessary/important) But in the next hand I have even heard saying many people that English grammar isn't necessary otherwise you wouldn't be able to speak English like a natural way and always get stuck thinking about the correct use of the grammar in your mind.

I am a bit confused actually and don't know what should I do. Whether I first focus on the English grammar or just start reading books and watching movies and try to speak English like a natural way (Even with some mistakes which will be corrected in future anyways).

Waiting for your precious answers Thanks.

  • Welcome to ELL! I can't imagine why this was downvoted -- it's surely a fundamental question about language learning, potentially of interest to every visitor here. Mar 24, 2016 at 12:39
  • @StoneyB Thank you so much for considering it a good question :).
    – Sarah
    Mar 24, 2016 at 14:15
  • There is a new Stack Exchange site proposal you might be interested in Language Learning This type of question would be on-topic there as well.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 25, 2016 at 12:17
  • @ColleenV Thanks but after registration my account there it shows that I am unregistered user don't know why.
    – Sarah
    Mar 25, 2016 at 17:56
  • So your English doesn't sound terribly non-standard and non-idiomatic and you are judged in a negative light. Your question is full of grammatical mistakes and unnatural uses. Adults have cognitive skills and study skills that children who 'learn naturally' don't have. Use them. At some point, if you want to work towards mastering English, you are going to need to study grammar. Jul 22, 2016 at 14:36

4 Answers 4


Before I answer this question, I would like to make a distinction between learning and acquisition (a distinction borrowed from the linguist Stephen Krashen). Language learning involves formal instruction and explicit rules (especially grammar rules). Acquisition is what some people refer to as the "natural way": you acquire the language by being exposed to it and by using it. This is what happens when children acquire their native language and in immersion programs that don't rely on the formal teaching or rules.

Consulting grammar books and doing grammar exercises is an example of learning, not acquisition. There has been a lot of research on the effectiveness of formal grammar instruction. Researchers found that people learn or acquire certain aspects of the language (especially grammatical aspects) in a certain order, and formal instruction is hardly able to influence that order. Some researchers found that formal grammar instruction could make learners use grammatical features that were more advanced than their level but that they then slid back to the structures they already new, so the effect was temporary, and learners acquired the rules or structures when they had learnt other things first. (See the research cited in Krashen's book Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning, more recent findings by Patsy Lightbown, etc.). Krashen and other researchers found that language learners had difficulties checking their output against the grammar rules they had learned, both when speaking and when writing. (This process of checking your output is known is monitoring. See also Krashen's monitor hypothesis.)

Based on this, it would seem that taking a grammar book and studying it, or even doing grammar exercises is not going to help very much. However, other linguists have pointed out that the "order of acquisition" mentioned above is only known for a relatively small set of things.

The question is then how to acquire grammatical structures. Getting a lot of input from books, podcasts and films is very helpful. This input will contain usage examples and grammatical forms that you don't understand or would not produce spontaneously. In such situations, it can be useful to consult a grammar. You can use both the grammar book and your other sources of input as a source of example sentences that illustrate certain grammatical points. You can "acquire" these grammatical points by turning the sentences into cloze tests that you put in a spaced repetition system such as Anki, Mnemosyne or SuperMemo. When you use your spaced repetition system every day, you will be exposed to these cloze tests on a regular basis, depending on how easy you can solve them. (I got the idea of using cloze tests in a spaced repetition system from Gabriel Wyner's book Fluent Forever.)


Grammar talks about language, it explains how language works and has invented a series of useful grammar terms in order to be able to talk about language.

If you don't know anything about grammar, you can talk English as a native or a not-native speaker, but you can't check whether your English is correct or not.

With a grammar in bookform or online you get a lot of information about correct and not correct English.

Of course, you have to learn the terms grammars use, and that is no easy task, but it is worthwhile. Using a grammar is no easy task either. My experience is when schools don't teach how to handle a grammar a beginner is helpless. Those who use grammars are mostly those who have learnt Latin or another foreign language.

If you don't know the grammar terms it is like knowing the ten digits without knowing the mathematical operations like plus, minus, multiplied with, divided by etc.

My recommendation for you would be try to learn how to use a grammar, to find something in such a grammar by using the table of contents and the register/index. Grammar terms should be explained in a grammar and be listed in the register, so that you can find the definition of the terms like word classes, the parts of a sentence, word groups, and a lot more. Unfortunately, I must say explanations of grammar terms in English grammars are often of very low quality, often too short, and using a lot of confusing terms or the explanations are simply not optimal. English grammars can't compare with a Latin grammar.

But you don't study a grammar in detail and then begin reading. You start reading and when you find things where you are unsure then you try to find that point in a grammar and try to understand it. If need be you can ask here and get information about your problem and where to find it in a grammar. That is sometimes a bit difficult because grammar things often have two or even three names. You should only use the simplest and clearest names and no fantasy terms.

And if you get a grammar don't buy such books with a lot of exercises. Real grammars don't have exercises in them. They explain a grammar point, such as to-infinitive or gerund after a verb, give examples and when necessary lists.

  • Thanks Rogertmue I almost agree with your all points. I will try to focus on the grammar.
    – Sarah
    Mar 24, 2016 at 10:56
  • @Sarah What are the points you don't agree with ( laughing)?
    – rogermue
    Mar 24, 2016 at 11:05
  • No, I said I agree with you completely what you said. Even you explained it very well and almost everything makes sense :). So I should try to learn more grammar (Though I know basic grammar already).
    – Sarah
    Mar 24, 2016 at 11:17
  • Begin reading, have an eye on how sentences are built and use a grammar when you find things where you are unsure what is right or wrong. And try to use good online dictionaries such as OALD, you can change from BrE to AmE, or Longman's DCE.
    – rogermue
    Mar 24, 2016 at 11:33
  • Thanks for recommend me these dictionaries. I would try to get them and install if they have applications. This way I will able to use them easily.
    – Sarah
    Mar 24, 2016 at 14:01

Native English speakers (well, most of them) don't learn grammar. Why not? Because they learned the language as children. Up until the age of about 16, a child's brain is like a computer that's programmed to learn and store languages- including all the tiniest details of grammar- just by watching other people and listening to them, and without any effort or study.

From about 16, most people lose this ability to automatically learn languages, so it is necessary to learn vocabulary and idioms and study grammar, and practice, practice, practice!

You learn best if you have a burning need to learn something: start off by asking yourself why you want to learn English. Do you have English speaking friends? Do want to live or work in an English speaking country? Would your work prospects or salary improve if your English were better? Understanding your motivation will help you to decide which areas of study you want (or need) to focus on.

Whatever age you are, the best way to learn a language is by total immersion- living in a country where the language is spoken, or living with a partner who speaks the language. If that's not possible, find an English teacher whom you like and can work well with- preferably one-to-one or in small groups.

If you are under 16, watching movies is a very effective way of learning a language: for over-16's less so. Books and magazines don't have the visual information to help you to understand the words, but they can be useful if you know the story already.

  • You are absolutely right and as there is a saying 'Practice makes a man perfect' (Y). And agree with the fact you said in your first paragraph. As far as to learn this language it is considered the international language so you can easily communicate people all over the world and that's my first reason 'Why I am so interested in' (And for job purpose as well).
    – Sarah
    Mar 24, 2016 at 14:12
  • There is research that suggests that total immersion is not "the best way" to learn a new language, since students quickly become depressed about how little they know compared to the inundation of the target language around them. In fact, learning one-to-one is the best way that has been quantified, and this doesn't matter if it's in a place where the target language is spoken or not. Of course, "immersion" (ie, as much exposure as one can handle) in the four skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing) can be helpful–as an adjunct to a tutor who takes advantage of the adult's... Jun 22, 2016 at 14:59
  • ...cognitive abilities to study a language in ways that kids can't. Jun 22, 2016 at 15:03
  • OK, immersion with a swim-aid to make sure that you don't sink :-)
    – JavaLatte
    Jun 23, 2016 at 6:55

Learn grammar first ... Build the base And then as time goes by the use of grammar in your head will be automatic because the brain works in a very fascinating way .. You just need to keep practicing in order to improve your communication skills and work on that accent in order to sound like a native speaker And then eventually all you will be hearing from people is : waaaw your english is just wonderful / just amazing / mesmerizing.... How did you learn to speak that well ?
You can then start showing off a little bit or just be modest by saying it was just a personal effort and i am eating from its fruit now . Allright , keep up the good work sunshine !!

  • You are right I am in complete agreement with you (Y).
    – Sarah
    Mar 24, 2016 at 10:57
  • Can't agree more! Grammar is a skeleton and then movies will make their part of the magic..)
    – Olha Horak
    Mar 24, 2016 at 19:22

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