English Grammar Can Be Fun… No, Really!

One of my favorite things to teach was English grammar. It was always a challenge and it seemingly always led to some amazing discoveries in the classroom, as students thought they knew it well, but always learned something new. One of my favorite things to do was to show them that they may know how to use English grammar, but point out that they didn’t know why they knew how to use it. I would do this to make a point that the (native-speaking) teachers in their foreign language classes may not be able to explain succinctly the reasons behind “why.” That is, it would (hopefully) explain the “that’s just the way it is” response a student may receive from a teacher.

So, the example I would give to my students (in this example a lesson on adjectives) would be something like this:

Why do these sound weird to you?

She has on a cotton white lovely sweater.

He made a round big serving nice Spanish dish.

Nearly 100% of the time, after asking that question, I would get the response “that’s just the way it is,” and they would tell me the correct English grammar order of the adjectives. I would agree with them, but then tell them that there is actually a rule to be applied with adjectives – a rule of adjectival order. And that order is:

 Opinion – Size – Shape – Color – Origin – Material – Use – Noun

 lovely                                  white                     cotton

nice            big       round                  Spanish                      serving

The students would get a big kick out of that, and I would tell them that they could now impress friends and family with their knowledge.

I guess the point I am really trying to make (and attempt to make all the time), is that learning can be fun. And when it is fun, learning happens.

Steve Holsonback
Instructional Media Design Specialist
Center for Academic & Professional Excellence
Ext. 3425



One comment

  1. That’s neat! I wonder how that order came to be “the right one.” It makes a kind of sense to me that material adjectives would be closer to the noun than opinion-adjectives…something about the level of connectedness to the object, what’s inherent in it and what’s not. Hmm.


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