Grammar is a fun loving thing. Not everyone may think so, but starting out pondering over when to use each tense and discovering a year later you’ve just about decided on how best to explain constitutes a fascinating journey for me. It was around a year ago that I started writing a short English grammar guide for foreign students, which should have been around 14 pages long. Now I’m about to release it as a resolute eBook, at some 114 pages, and feel that, if only for having more time, it could’ve been so much longer…
Things were getting tense…
Realising that most English grammar textbooks cover tenses in quite a dry and individual way (these are the sort of things I realise in my spare time), I decided to scrawl a short book that directly compared the different aspects of English in a more flexible, descriptive manner. That is to say, I wanted a book that basically listed the tenses and explained all their uses simply and comparably. It’s not something that many native English speakers will care about, but I like to think it’ll help more advanced foreign learners up their game, at least a little.
Not all English speakers use the language as they are supposed to. Not all the rules we give are followed to a T. And not many grammar guides let people know that, because rules are something students can work with. Freedom and flexibility breed confusion and unmitigated despair.
I like to think my grammar guide, The English Tenses, treads it’s middle ground carefully enough to give the rules, then the options that are out there to bend them. It explains what each tense is for in theory, with the little twists of how they’re used in practice. In many cases these are rules, just perhaps less commonly known ones. In other cases they are simply patterns – the methods of use we have adopted without grammatical cause.
These are the details that make our language interesting. And the finer points that can take a student from a proscribed use of English to a creative and more natural understanding of it.
And these are the details that are necessary, because often is it overwhelming majority use, not grammatical theory, that dictates whether or not a style of speech is acceptable. That drives the result of my grammar guide – the first of a series – as it seeks to demonstrate first how the language should be used, but then to also explain how it could be used. (Naturally in part it also tells you how it shouldn’t be used.)
It is indeed possible to dwell on just the aspects of English time in such a way for 100 pages, though of course it will prove more useful to students of the language than those with a passing curiosity. For foreign learners, this guide can give an understanding of some of the functions of English. For passing native speakers, it’ll reinforce your appreciation for not having to learn the often contradictory grammar we thrust onto others.
The English Tenses is available from the Kindle store, in eBook form. The print edition will follow.