Do you know your grammar? Can you only vaguely remember your English teacher droning on about it, but you don’t even know what the word means? Well, we’ll tell you: it’s the set of rules that tells us how our language is structured. You know, words and how they combine to make sentences and phrases. There’s a whole host of mistakes that TEFL students AND teachers often make. These are some of the most common:
Its and it’s
Ah, the apostrophe. Did you know that there’s an actual Apostrophe Protection Society? You examples of its misuse everywhere, but this is one of the most common. “It’s” is only ever a contraction of “it is” or “it has”, as in “It’s a beautiful day”. If you’re talking about possession, you should use “its”, as in “That car has lost its number plate”. The easy way to test if you’ve got it right is to repeat your sentence with “it is” or “it has” instead. If it sounds weird, use “its”.
A recruitment company not quite at ITS best!
Simple past and present perfect
Huh? The what what? Like many grammatical rules, this is one that your TEFL students will get wrong because it doesn’t appear in their own language. The culprit this time is the present perfect, which refers to something that happened at an unspecified time in the past, like “I have visited Paris”. As soon as you start talking about a specific time, you must use the simple past, as in “I visited Paris last week”.
Their, there and they’re
You could be cooler than a polar bear’s toenails, but deciding which of the three to choose might still get you flustered. Thankfully, working it out is easy. “They’re” is just a contraction of “they are”, whereas “their” is always possessive, as in “It’s their pet monkey”. For everything else, use “there”. Simple!
If you’re teaching anywhere where a non-roman alphabet is used – think Arab countries, Japan, China and Korea – or you have students from those countries, they’ll probably have trouble with punctuation. Why? Because they either don’t use punctuation, or use it in a completely different way from English. All of those problems that native English speakers have with “it’s”, “they’re” and “you’re” will be even worse! So to be able to teach them effectively, you’ll have to understand the differences really well.
English verbs are a bit like French philosophy – difficult to understand and even harder to explain. And the first thing that trips learners up is the difference between the third person singular (he/she/it lives) and other forms of the present tense (I/we/you/they live). Many a teacher has tried and failed to get their students to tack that elusive ‘third person s’ onto the end of verbs. This is made even more confusing when you introduce the idea of plurals. In simple terms an ‘s’ equals a plural, but ‘he lives’ is singular. Oh, it’s a minefield…
This is just a tiny selection of the grammatical problems that will flummox even the most capable TEFL students (and teachers!). If you think you need some extra help in this area, make sure you choose a TEFL course that includes the Grammar Awareness Module to boost your confidence before you step in front of your first class.
Do you have any grammar gripes? Share them below!