The Necessity (and Fun) of Grammar, Part 1

Jana slides the rectangular word cards around on the floor, angling some and placing others in perpendicular positions. “I finished diagramming the sentence,” she said with satisfaction. Tim cuts his paper sentence in chunks with a clause in each section. Both are learning grammar skills that will transfer into their writing and reading.  

When I first began teaching high school English twenty-eight years ago, much of the focus was on grammar. We taught parts of speech and sentence patterns, how to diagram sentences and identify clauses. But in the past few years, the trend has turned more to writing. Students are taught grammar, punctuation, and sentence mechanics only in the context of learning the writing process. As a result, I get students in my college classes who don’t know what an adjective is or don’t know how to write a complete sentence. Thus, I still see the necessity of teaching grammar in all English settings.  

Dole, et. al (2021) interviewed 196 upper elementary and middle school teachers to see their views on teaching grammar. The strong majority said that although they thought students needed to know standard grammar to be able to communicate effectively, they did not like teaching grammar because it was “tedious.” Therefore, these teachers preferred to stick with product-based writing, where the students saw quick outcomes for their work. However, the study also mentioned that student writing performance was not better in the early 2000s than it was in the 1970s, so perhaps the recent trend minimizing the importance of grammar has not really improved writing.  

And these arguments against grammar teaching can be true. Grammar can be tedious: there are so many unconscious grammar rules that even formulating a two-word sentence such as “He smiles” can take up to seven grammar applications.* It can also take time to see the application of grammar in the writing and communicating process, especially since many grammar skills are simply absorbed by the native speakers of a language.  

But there are several strong, specific reasons to continue teaching grammar.  

  1. Using correct grammar improves both verbal and written communication.  Zhang (2009) said, “Communicative competence involves knowing how to use the grammar and vocabulary of the language to achieve communicative goals, and knowing how to do this in a socially appropriate way.” Certainly, teaching clear communication is a major goal in education: students need to be able to express their thoughts coherently to be successful adults. Relationships, occupations, sharing one’s beliefs–these all depend on clear communication. But if the speaker or writer uses incorrect grammar or punctuation, that communication is impeded, as shown by the difference in meaning between “twenty five-dollar bills” ($100) or “twenty-five dollar bills” ($25).
  2. Understanding the grammar of one’s first language is necessary in learning a second language (Dole 2021). In addition, Gülden (2021) found that “in terms of language teaching, individuals’ ability to master their native language and grammar rules directly affects foreign language acquisition processes.” In an increasingly global society, many people want to know a second or even third language; applying grammar understanding to the second greatly facilitates language acquisition. For the Christian, this grammar understanding is especially applicable for a missionary who needs to learn the language of the culture where he is living or works to translate the Bible into a different language.
  3. Identifying different aspects of a sentence’s grammar improves a student’s analytical and organizational skills. In diagramming a sentence, for example, the student has to break the sentence into subject and predicate first, and then determine the phrasing and modification of each word. In creating a sentence with a dependent clause, the student must organize the sentence in the proper order of subordination. Being able to analyze a sentence also transfers to analysis in other subject areas, such as a mathematical equation or scientific formula.
  4. Understanding sentence structure and syntax allows a writer to put words in the best order to construct sentences. Writers who can choose exactly the right word or turn the correct phrase construct memorable stories or articles. A wordsmith such as this needs to know the proper order of adjectives or the correct order of verb tenses in order to create a written masterpiece.
  5. Finally, various studies show that understanding grammar boosts a student’s reading comprehension (“The link between…” 2023). The student who doesn’t spend time deciphering a sentence’s syntax can more easily absorb the sentence’s content. As a reader’s eyes skim over the words, correct grammar improves the speed of comprehension. And when the reader sees how the author has constructed a sentence, she can transfer that construction to her own writing.

So let Jana diagram her sentences and allow Tim to cut sentences into clauses – even urge Lisa to finish the grammar worksheet. Understanding the grammar of a sentence is important for communicating, for learning foreign languages, and even for improving reading comprehension. (And grammar doesn’t have to be tedious – check out the next writing for ideas of making grammar fun.)  

* substituting a pronoun for a noun, choosing the correct pronoun case, choosing the correct pronoun gender, choosing the correct pronoun number, identifying the correct noun/pronoun placement with the verb, choosing the correct verb tense, choosing the correct verb number


Dole, J. A., Nelson, E. T., Pahnke, A. L., & Rush, E. D. (2021). Upper elementary and middle school U.S. teachers’ views of grammar and its instruction. Reading Horizons: A Journal of Literacy and Language Arts, 60 (3). Retrieved from  

Gülden, B. (2021). Comparison of grammar curriculum learning outcomes and teachers’ views in terms of the effect of L1 on L2 learning. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, 17(Special Issue 1), 205-221.  

“The link between grammar skills and reading comprehension. Mometrix Test Preparation. 1 Feb. 2023. Retrieved from,syntax%20assists%20with%20reading%20comprehension.

Zhang, J. (2009). Necessity of grammar teaching. International Educational Studies, 2(2), 184-187. Retrieved from



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