Grammatical terminology

One person’s ‘present participle’ is another person’s ‘ing form’

Teachers and students can have very different exposure to terminology. It is a matter of judgement whether or not to introduce new descriptive terms but on a short course it is often better to introduce the least number of changes and work with what your student understands. Gently try to find out what they have already been taught and how comfortable they are with abstract labels (foreign students often have much more grammar at school than their British counterparts but if their language is not European, the way English is ‘cut up’ and described may be more confusing).

Sometimes there is an issue of oversimplification e.g. where a student thinks there is only one way to refer to the future and that is via the ‘future tense’, because that is what they learnt at school. At other times there could be a translation issue where students confuse the conditional with the subjunctive (hardly ever worth unpacking!).

Perhaps it helps to remind yourself that terminology is not unchanging and that new, alternative descriptions can demystify. Some course books refer to the ‘ing’ form rather than the present participle. After all, our students usually want to speak rather than gain degrees in linguistics!

Unless you have a very academic high-level student who loves all things grammatical, a light touch often proves the best approach. Try not to get bogged down with the exact usage of the present perfect continuous passive on a 2-week General English course but use your time to pick up on major problems that are restricting your student’s ability to communicate effectively.

If you do teach on exam courses, where for some questions grammatical accuracy is important, then this can be the time to dwell for longer on grammar and syntax. And quite interesting it can be too.

This entry was posted in Grammar, Lesson ideas and examples, Private Posts and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply