English Grammar In Use by Raymond Murphy

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English Grammar In Use by Raymond Murphy

Category: Reference
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: An invaluable EFL resource for intermediate students and their teachers, this have beautifully clear explanations and helpful exercises to illustrate just about every grammar point you'll ever need.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 390 Date: April 2004
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 978-0521532891

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I'll let you in on a little secret. It's a myth that all or even most EFL or ESL teachers love grammar. A lot of them don't even understand most of it when they first begin teaching. As someone said to me when I was starting out, The trick is to stay one exercise ahead of the students. Now decent lesson planning does take a bit more preparation than that, but I regularly learn grammar rules just a day or two before I teach them for the first time. The problem isn't that I don't know what you say in English, but that I don't know how to explain why it's correct in a simple way my students will understand. Enter Murphy.

Technically, Murphy's book is A self-study reference and practice book for intermediate students of English but I would estimate that at least 50% of its users are actually EFL teachers looking for guidance, or for exercises for their classes, and this is acknowledged in the preface where there is a letter addressed to teachers right after the one to students.

The book is aimed at Intermediate students (lesser known elementary and advanced versions are also available) and it is written entirely in English meaning you do need that pre-existing basic knowledge of the language to benefit from it. It is laid out in numbered units and the contents refers to these rather than page numbers, which is a bit confusing at first. Each unit covers a two page spread, with a page of language focus and explanation, followed by a page of exercises that practice the recently introduced language. A typical unit might look like this:

· Name of structure and example e.g. Past continuous (I was doing)

· An example situation, often with an illustration

· The formula for forming this structure, e.g I + was + playing

· An explanation of the circumstances when the structure is used

· A timeline, useful for showing when something happened and any other actions mentioned in reference to it

· A comparison with other similar structures e.g. the difference between I was playing tennis and I played tennis

· Exercises with controlled and/or semi-controlled practice of the structure. Answers for these, either definite or suggested, are available at the back of the book.

The whole thing is remarkably well put together. The instructions and explanations are simple, and since every unit follows the same structure, you become familiar with the layout easily. The book is aimed at intermediate students but also goes back to basics: it starts with the present tense and works through past, future, perfect and continuous forms in the order a student is most likely to learn them, i.e. you have simple present and past before you have the perfect present and past tenses. There are also sections on modals, conditionals, passives, articles, nouns, pronouns, adjectives and adverbs – pretty much everything you need to speak a language to a reasonable level, making it suitable for more advanced students too.

Following the units and their exercises there are various useful appendices with reference tables of regular and irregular verbs, spellings and further comparisons between tenses that were first introduced individually in different units. Next come a set of additional exercises which combine different structures. These are especially useful for more advanced students who know the different forms but need to know which are used in which circumstances. It is a more authentic language practice with everything mixed in together rather than a set of exercises on, say, the present perfect, which you could complete without really understanding how and when the structure is used. Each of these exercises covers the learning from between two and 17 different units, so there's a lot to remember, but it's good practice.

Perhaps unusually, the self-assessment guide comes near the end of the book, but it is sign-posted from the first few pages. This is useful for individual students working alone with the book who are not sure which areas they most need to revise. It takes the form of a multiple choice quiz with answers at the end, and each question has a unit reference so you can work out which pages you need to look at from the answers you get wrong. It's not the best placement test I've ever seen, because in order for a student to self-mark, it understandably needs to have a selection of answers to choose from allowing for an if-in-doubt-guess approach, but it's probably the most practical way to self-administer a level assessment, and anyway it's only for guidance.

I have used this book in many ways – for teaching myself the grammar before I teach my students, for using in class for a clear explanation of structures, and for providing my students with further practice of a structure beyond what their text books offer. I also use it for inspiration for speaking exercises when I need a lot of examples of the same structure and am not feeling especially imaginative. The book itself is not a classroom textbook as it focuses on only grammar and not on receptive or productive skills, but it is a great additional resource to call upon as needed when you're trying to improve grammatical accuracy rather than communicative fluency.

I only have a few niggles with it. One is that it sometimes doesn't mention some of the widely-used structure names, e.g first conditional. I can look up conditionals and if statements in either the contents or index, but not the actual terminology first conditional or second conditional. I could tell my students to revise these for homework, but if they were using this book they might not be able to find the relevant units to study. Additionally, the book has a British English focus, with only a couple of pages dedicated to the differences between American and British varieties. These pull together various points that perhaps would be more useful if they were included in the units to which they refer. It's not a problem as long as you know this section is at the back, but I imagine some students could miss it. Finally, some of the exercises do not require much thinking and are a bit repetitive, so as a teacher you pick and choose which ones to use and maybe don't take a whole page of exercises without chopping a bit.

I'm just being picky though, because I think this is an excellent book and invaluable to me for teaching and to my students for self-directed learning. You don't need to be a grammar whiz to be an EFL teacher - you just need a good reference book, and this is as good as they come. Add in a book on technique such as Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener and you'll be all set.

Buy English Grammar In Use by Raymond Murphy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy English Grammar In Use by Raymond Murphy at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy English Grammar In Use by Raymond Murphy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy English Grammar In Use by Raymond Murphy at Amazon.com.


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Magda said:

Oh, I so agree! it's the best grammar book I have ever used, both when learning English and when attempting to teach it too.