icon  icon icon

From teacher to teacher

Target audience: The grammar explanations on these pages were originally conceived for ESL students at Frankfurt International School. They represent the essential grammar that students are expected to acquire in their 2/3 years in the ESL programme. The explanations are short and simple, and do not attempt to cover the numerous exceptions and special cases.

For ESL students to be successful in their school subjects, such as science or history, they do not need to learn grammar in depth. For example, it is unnecessary to try and master the complexities of the article system* or to understand subtle differences in tenses; e.g., between the present perfect (I've worked all afternoon on English grammar) and the present perfect continuous (I've been working all afternoon on English grammar). There are more important things that ESL students can do with their precious time.

Some visitors to these webpages, however, may be preparing for formal examinations in English, which usually require a wide and detailed knowledge of English grammar. I hope they will find the advice, explanations and quizzes on this site to be a useful starting point.

Terminology: I have decided to stick with traditional terminology in these web pages, particularly in the case of verb grammar and the designation of the tenses†. I believe it is helpful for students to have a label for the various verb constructions (he goes: present simple / she'd been playing in the snow: past perfect continuous) - particularly as these are likely to be labelled as such in most materials for English language learners.

However, it is essential that students learn that there is not necessarily a correspondence between tense designation and time reference. For example, the past simple in the first of the following sentences does indeed refer to past time, but in the second of the sentences it refers to the future:

- I won €100 on the lottery last week.
- If I won the lottery, I'd buy a new house.

I recommend the following work for any teacher interested in pursuing this issue:

The English Verb. Lewis, M. 1986. Language Teaching Publications.


* It is helpful for beginning ESL students to learn that the indefinite article is used when referring for the first time to a count noun and the definite article is used to refer to it thereafter. There's a cat in the cafeteria!. Later: The cat's trying to get into the trash can.

They do not need to learn at this early point in their English development that the definite article can indeed be used the first time we refer to a count noun. Example: The cat is a solitary animal.

† In modern linguistics English is regarded as having only two tenses: present (or nonpast) and past. More on Wikipedia.


Frankfurt International School: Art and artists. (Click to see at full size.)