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Did YOU learn English grammar at school? Me no.

(106 Posts)
giulia Sun 24-Sep-17 13:12:04

I think my State school education covered the period when this was at its best (around 1947 - 1963). My early memories of English Language studies were: spelling, dictation and reading reading reading from an early age.
I have vague memories at grammar school of adverbial adjectives versus adjectival adjectives but it was all Composition "Autumn is here, the Leaves are falling..." blah blah blah - and every mistake in punctuation or vocabulary was rigorously corrected. I remember also we were taught not to use "nice", considered a lazy person's adjective.
Living in a European country, I was constantly bullied by my neighbours to coach their kids in English "because you're mother-tongue". I eventually succumbed and was puzzled and worried by my total inability to explain our grammar "What the hell is present simple or past continuous or present perfect?!" Having to learn these Step-by-Step I thought my memory had gone as I did not recall ever having learned these grammatical structures previously. Several years later (and by now considered a very successful English teacher) I approached an American colleague in a school asking " the way - did you learn grammar when you were at school?" "No!" she replied. "No way!". Am I unique in this discovery that we learned our language in a purely hands-on way? To me this was perfectly adequate. What do you think?

FarNorth Sun 24-Sep-17 13:32:41

I remember splitting sentences into principal clause, subordinate clause, nominative case etc, in primary 4. I think most of the class was totally confused by it.
In secondary school, it was handy to know that stuff when learning other languages.

My DD said she was very confused about English grammar until she learnt Esperanto and then retro-fitted its grammar to her knowledge of English.

CherryHatrick Sun 24-Sep-17 13:41:50

My experience is much the same as yours, giulia. Basic English writing with strict correction of spelling and sentence construction at the Primary level and then English Language as a separate subject at Secondary level. My first Grammar School loved parsing as a teaching aid and had us define each word in the sentence. When I moved areas and schools and was asked to parse a given sentence, I did as I had previously been taught, but was told that all they needed was for me to state subject and predicate.
I think we were taught the names of the tenses, because they are in the text books of the time, but I only remember that in a perfect tense the action has been completed and in a continuous tense it hasn't....maybe...
Like you I have been asked to help neighbours and friends with their English, and working out which tense is which can be tricky, as English text books produced in Spain seem to have their own nomenclature that tallies more with the Spanish names than the English. Just don't ask me to explain the Subjunctive!

giulia Sun 24-Sep-17 13:48:57

cherryhatrick - the subjunctive is a total nightmare in the Italian language but sooo easy in English. It's at this point I can boast about what a simple, logical language ours is on the whole. They say you only need 200 words of English to travel and be understood everywhere!

giulia Sun 24-Sep-17 13:50:39

cherryhatrick PS: WOTZ PARSING?blush

TriciaF Sun 24-Sep-17 14:09:20

giulia - is Italian similar to classical Latin?
I once met a group of young Italians (ages ago) and found I could communicate with them in a mixture of my schoolgirl french and latin.
I learned some english grammar in secondary school - the bit I enjoyed most was précis - (not sure if that's grammar).

CherryHatrick Sun 24-Sep-17 14:34:02

giulia parsing is an analysis of the words of a sentence..."The cat killed the rat."... The is a definite article, cat is a common singular noun that is the subject of the sentence, rat is the common singular noun that is the object of the verb, killed is the third person in the past tense of the verb to kill....and so on.
That is about as far as I can go these days, with the addition of adverbs and adjectives, but it used to be the norm to have to define each and every word in complex sentences.

Welshwife Sun 24-Sep-17 14:48:46

I we did a good bit of parsing too when at Grammar school - verbs were underlined in red and nouns in green - cannot remember the colours used for the ther parts of speech. Lots of things they talk about now when discussing grammar never came up - I think that is why we have trouble learning another language.
DH and I were discussing it the other day on our way home from a French lesson - we mused on whether UK children should do a bit if Latin - a dead language now but one which is the root of many modern day ones.

BlueBelle Sun 24-Sep-17 14:49:24

I learned as you Giulia, spelling, tenses, adverbs pronoun etc etc and that was a grammar school education

giulia Sun 24-Sep-17 14:55:04

Cherryhatrick- then parsing is what Italians call Analisi Logica and make a lot of fuss about in learning their own Language. TriciaF: cannot truthfully answer your question as my memories of Latin are too vague. However, Italian derives directly from Vulgar Latin (I don't mean rude!).

giulia Sun 24-Sep-17 14:56:23

Cherryhatrick- then parsing is what Italians call Analisi Logica and make a lot of fuss about in learning their own Language. TriciaF: cannot truthfully answer your question as my memories of Latin are too vague. However, Italian derives directly from Vulgar Latin (I don't mean rude!).

giulia Sun 24-Sep-17 14:58:16

I do also remember that splitting infinitives was a crime but now I wouldn't recognize one if it hit me in the faceconfused.

grumppa Sun 24-Sep-17 15:08:02

I remember immensely boring English grammar lessons - I think the teacher was as bored as we were. Then there was Latin grammar - ah the joys of the ablative absolute - and French grammar. All before I was a teenager.

lemongrove Sun 24-Sep-17 15:27:09

Isn't split infinitives like the Startrek opening line 'to boldly go' ? Instead of saying 'to go boldly'. May be wrong though, a long time since I even thought about these kind of things.

CherryHatrick Sun 24-Sep-17 15:47:08

Welshwife Latin was compulsory up to O level in my day because you couldn't enter University without it, or so we were told. It was my favourite language as it was WYSIWYG whereas French pronunciation seemed too bear no relation to what was written. Latin came in very handy when I was learning Spanish later in life, not to mention how handy it is when it comes to educated guesses in a quiz!

ninathenana Sun 24-Sep-17 15:48:58

I remember learning noun, verb, adjective and adverb that's about it. Some of the previous posts have left me scratching my head. I know when a sentence dosen't read right but I don't know all that jargon.

Norah Sun 24-Sep-17 15:54:41

Did I learn grammar in school? Obviously not.

TriciaF Sun 24-Sep-17 16:08:28

grumppa - I can still remember the forms of latin nouns.
As well as singular and plural, male female and neutral there was: nominative vocative accusative genitive dative and ablative (by with or from).
I loved latin - I think I was the only one in my class who did.
Much later ( 15 years ago) I tried to learn Russian and found their grammar is similar to latin.
I gave up btw.

Greyduster Sun 24-Sep-17 16:08:49

Yes, but I only went to a secondary school. I have forgotten most of it! We could, nevertheless, all write decent prose with proper punctuation by the time we left, and I pride myself that I still can. Our language is going to hell on a handcart, and no-one seems to worry whether you know any grammar anyway.

lemongrove Sun 24-Sep-17 16:11:26

I found Latin much easier to learn than French.

giulia Sun 24-Sep-17 16:17:07

Greyduster - I do agree with you about the downturn in quality of the language. When my elder daughter moved to England at the turn of the century (she had learnt her English through me and at school as a second language), she spoke beautifully. Now, after 17 years there it's as bad as the next person's and I sometimes do not understand her, especially when she texts. She now says awful things like "me and him" which makes my toes curl, but I can't correct her or else her English husband steps in and says she's right, not me!

Greyduster Sun 24-Sep-17 16:27:06

The only foreign language I ever tried to learn was Welsh, to worm my way into the good books of DH's ancient granny. I failed miserably at both the learning and the worming!

JackyB Sun 24-Sep-17 18:04:59

We had a very good English teacher (although his son was a psychopath, even in Kindergarten) and I had a good grounding in grammar. It's not that hard, really. And I really needed it for learning German later on, especially as I mainly learned it on my own. I also found it interesting at the time to transfer the grammar rules to the French we were learning, as we were using a very "modern" ungrammatical system.

Welshwife Sun 24-Sep-17 18:19:13

I could never understand when it became the norm to ignore spelling errors in children's writing - I always corrected words that they used often so should be able to spell properly or names of particular people they often referred to. I also corrected mistakes such as -the smorning both spelling and pronunciation.

TriciaF Sun 24-Sep-17 18:47:37

JackyB - interesting about french grammar. I learnt french at school until I was 18, and remember very little about the grammar. But I read french literature, and I can gabble on in french now, and write letters in french. So maybe grammar isn't that important.
Never heard of the subjunctive!