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Real English – How important is it to follow grammar rules?


The first word you need to learn in order to understand this article is PEDANTIC. Pedantic means ‘giving too much importance to details and formal rules, especially of grammar’. When you go on Facebook, for example, there is always a pedantic person correcting other people’s mistakes. But the question is, how strictly should we follow grammar rules. Let’s find out.

The occasional mistake happens in all languages. Some mistakes are often linked to lack of education, but others are so general that even the most pedantic person would make them. Well, maybe not the queen of England, but we can’t really compete with her majesty, can we? Language is constantly evolving and being simplified.

Pronunciation Mistakes:

If you’re learning English, having good pronunciation is probably at the top of your list, hand-in-hand with having the right words to express yourself without stuttering. As a teacher, I’d say that’s a really important goal. Pronunciation is very important because it can stop people from understanding what you’re saying, hence hindering communication. However, pronunciation is very different from an accent. You can have good pronunciation and keep your accent and identity. All accents are beautiful. So focus on pronouncing the words correctly and not mixing similar words. Let’s look at some examples below.

Pronunciation: what to focus on

Long and short vowel sounds.

Mispronunciation can be dangerous. Just look at the example of two very similar words below. The words sound very similar, but in fact, example number one has a long vowel sound, while the second, a short vowel sound. Imagine that a friend of yours says ‘Where were you?’ and your reply is… ‘Me? At the bitch!’… oh oh… If you mean the place where you can swim, you need to make a long vowel sound, otherwise, people will think you are being very rude!

1)BEACH /biːtʃ/

2)BITCH /bɪtʃ/

Vowel sounds

A simple vowel sound can completely change the meaning of a word. Look at the words PAN and PEN, for example. If you pronounce the word PAN with an /e/, it becomes an object you use to write with, as opposed to an object you use to cook with, which is a PAN with an /æ/

1)PAN /pæn/ – used to cook

2)PEN /pen/ – used to write

Reported Speech

I absolutely love grammar and I really enjoy teaching it, but I really dislike teaching Reported Speech. I was preparing for a class the other day and it dawned on me why I hate this grammar point so much. It’s because NOBODY USES IT IN REAL LIFE (excuse me if you’re the pedantic exception to the rule).

So, the grammatical rule says that when reporting what other people say, you should change the tense to the past.

  • The Present Simple becomes the Past Simple
  • The Present Perfect becomes the Past Perfect
  • The Past Simple becomes the Past Perfect

And so on…

If you are a native speaker just think about how you’d normally report the sentence below:

‘I went to the cinema yesterday’

  • OPTION 1 She said that she went to the cinema yesterday.
  • OPTION 2 She said that she had been to the cinema yesterday.

I’d personally use option number 1 and I’d say that most of my friends would too, but option 1 is, in fact, incorrect!!! Can you believe this? Mind-blowing.

Mistakes that really get on my nerves!

Unlike the reported speech, there are mistakes that really annoy many people. Myself included. These can be a deal breaker, so watch out!

  • ‘I should of’, instead of ‘I should have’ – try again
  • Reading the L in Salmon – one more time?
  • Using a past verb with DID e.g ‘Did you went home?’  – I believe in you!
  • I could care less (the expression is I couldn’t care less) – Ok, at least you tried.

(Don’t worry, no actual violence is used in my lessons, just mental slaps in the face)

When doing an exam become a GRAMMAR HAWK!

Let’s face it. lessons, exams, job interviews, meetings, we all put on our best show and pull out our tricks and fancy words. So yeah, when doing an exam be pedantic, be very pedantic, be annoyingly pedantic. And you should be ok.

So, how to know when you are making a big mistake that will make the love of your life walk away or a mistake that has been so generalised that it has become a norm and accepted by most people?

You have to read, watch films, have lessons, make notes, and of course, ask your teacher!

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