Grammar: The Conundrum We Love and Hate

As many of our contributors point out, they have had a difficult relationship with English grammar. Don’t we all? Grammar is mysterious. It has a simple definition: “the set of rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in a natural language” [source]. And yet, for most of us, especially native speakers, it is the dark matter of the English teaching universe. It is hard to understand, hard to teach, and impossible to teach with certainty. We have all had that moment when, just after you smugly explain one of the few rules you have confidence in, a student says something that shakes your Jenga tower. “So, you see, Rafael, when you say you are going to a place, you have to put to and an article between the to go verb and the place, as in I’m going to a concert.” Rafael: “Then why do you say going to school?” Down the blocks fall.