Recommended Grammar Books for ESL Teachers & Learners

1. Practical English Usage by Michael Swan (Oxford University Press, 2009) 

Practical English Usage by Michael SwanIt might be true that perfect command of English as a Second Language is not necessary to communicate successfully. However, it will be difficult to understand and be understood if we make too many mistakes while we speak and write in English.

Michael Swan wrote Practical English Usage to help ESL learners avoid serious grammar mistakes. Swan promised to give teachers and learners just the most important information they need in order to deal with common English language flaws.

The book's approach is effective because it highlights one language problem at a time and solves it using simple explanations and realistic examples. It works great as a quick grammar reference in times of confusion.

2. English Grammar (Understanding the Basics) by  Evelyn P. Altenberg and Robert M. Vago (Cambridge University Press), 2010

English Grammar Understand the BasicsWell-structured and straightforward, English Grammar (Understanding the Basics) is a reassuring workbook for grammar-phobic ESL learners.

The authors, Evelyn Altenberg and Robert Vago believe that knowledge and practice of English Grammar will replace learners' worry with confidence. The traditional lesson structure was used: readers are presented with grammar points, followed by a simple test as an application of the new rule or concept and ending with more complex exercises.

This book will be useful for beginners  who had little knowledge of English Grammar. It is also a convenient course workbook ESL tutors can use to teach English Grammar to Beginning learners. 

3. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik (Longman Group Ltd., 1985) 

A Comprehensive Grammar of the English LanguageEvery English educator eager to grasp the complex nature of English Grammar needs to have this book on his study table.

The authors' ambition to provide a unified, complete and extensive discussion of the rules and concepts of the English language was achieved through their collaborative project, A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language.

If you have seen this book mottled with age and yellow with paper acid in your college professor's bookshelf, you've surely found a Classic. ESL teachers bored with the usual English learning concepts found in  condensed and stilted English Grammar textbooks will renew their delight and love for teaching English if they spend some time and effort studying this text. Even proficient users of English will be amused by these authors' detailed approach and exploration of the English Language.

There are online teaching certificate programs available, which aspiring English teachers can earn from the comfort of their home.

4. English Grammar in Use, Third Edition by Raymond Murphy (Cambridge University Press, 2004)

English Grammar in UseEnglish Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy is a mainstay and a popular grammar reference and practice book among ESL students in language centers.

Many teachers and students find the book simple, fun, and accurate with its brief rule explanation, entertaining illustrations and several exercises for mastery of salient grammar points. The book comes in many series; the levels of which range from elementary to advanced.

I have used this book with beginning and intermediate ESL students. Murphy chose to begin with the problematic areas of Grammar, Verbs and Tenses, then proceeded with other topics that commonly give trouble to ESL students.

 5. The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher's Course, 2nd Ed by Marianne Celce-Murcia and Diane Larsen-Freeman (Heinie ELT, 1998)

The Grammar BookGrammar affects the students' performance in all four skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing so a good grasp of it is a necessary qualification for every ESL instructor.

The Grammar Book by Murcia and Freeman is indeed an indispensable guide book for every non-native ESL teacher who needs to improve her spoken and written English.

The authors are respected researchers in the field of Second Language teaching and Applied Linguistics, hence they do not only share grammar lessons but also language teaching methodologies, techniques, and resources. This book has been consistently recommended for newbie (and seasoned) ESL instructors, as well students taking Intensive English and ESOL courses. 

6. How to Teach Grammar by Scott Thornburry (Pearson Education Ltd, 1999)

How To Teach GrammarTeaching Grammar may not be enough to turn ESL learners into fluent English users, however guiding students to notice Grammar may eventually help them acquire English as a second language easily.

There is not a single method to teach grammar; it has to be taught through many ways such as explicit rule instructions, real-life examples, and authentic or adapted texts. Throughout "How to Teach Grammar", Scott Thornburry discussed the foundations, rationales, and principles of teaching English Grammar.

You may think the book is too sleek to cover the essential points in Grammar teaching but Thornburry managed to squeeze in 189 pages ample ESL lesson plan samples, teaching tips and advice, and grammar testing techniques every new or experienced ESL teacher needs.

7. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style, 2nd Edition by Laurie Rozakis Ph. D. (Alpha, 2003)

Grammar and StyleLearning grammar and style can be enjoyable. Dr. Laurie Rozakis has proven that grammar and composition can be taught in memorable and entertaining ways, without neglecting system in presenting grammar items relevant to the needs of its readers.

The purpose of this grammar book was to give every person the power to communicate confidently and error-free by drawing attention to the nuts and bolts of English grammar, punctuation rules, and appropriate style. Rozakis has charms that make readers chuckle at about every story, scenario, and example presented as part of a lesson.

Apparently, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style is a must have for every ESL learner who needs to have a good laugh every study session and of course, to communicate effectively in school and in the workplace. 

8. Essentials of English, Sixth Edition by Vincent Hopper, Cedric Gale, Ronald Foote, and Benjamin W. Griffith (Barron's Educational Series Inc., 2010)

Essentials of EnglishGrammar instruction leads to better writing skills.

Notice that students who know the essentials of English are better writers, too. The authors of the series picked just the essential grammar points required for effective writing. English language rules and concepts were arranged from simple to complex; each grammar item was briefly discussed. Essentials of English is a handy, compact, almost pocket-sized reference book every novice or expert writer needs.

The book goes beyond the common topics treated in grammar books; most of its pages talk about logic, style, and form that brings out the finest writer in every ESL learner.

9. English Plain and Simple by Jose A. Carillo (The Manila Times Publishing Corp., 2008)

English Plain and SimpleEnglish Plain and Simple started as a daily column at The Manila Times newspaper when Jose Carillo, editor and corporate communications executive, had accepted the invitation of Times editor in chief to write English language instructional articles.

Writing for intelligent, not to mention skeptical, readers does not creep him out; what bothered him was that he did not have the doctorate degree in English to reprimand nonnative speakers of their misuse and abuse of the English language. It was a great gift to us, readers, that he did not refuse the project and decided to share his expertise in English in the context of business and mass communication.

Now we have a compilation of all his best articles in a single book delighting us with English instruction, humor and empathy. This book perfectly fits the hands of journalists as well as non-journalists. 

10. When Bad Grammar Happens to Good People (How to Avoid Common Errors in English) by Ann Batko (Career Press, 2004)

When Bad Grammar Happens to Good PeopleWhen someone points out your bad habit and correct it, you should be thankful. Ann Batko tried to help readers unlearn their bad language habits and replace them new good language habits.

The book addressed only the language errors that matter in social and work situations. It is not like a compilation of errors and corrections made. The goal of the book, if its program is followed orderly and regularly, is to help ESL learners avoid all common language pitfalls and break fewer language rules. It deserves a space in your bookshelf.

Designed by Neil Yamit