Does Grammar really have to be so complicated? What if there were an easier way?
When learning English one of the most difficult and overwhelming things every learner is going to face is using and understanding grammar.
But if you would like find a way to practice and learn grammar in a very easy and quick way, a way that is going to ultimately help you internalize all these verb tenses and be able to use them without having to think very much, then you have to read this article.
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The problem with grammar is that it is made up of such strict rules and structures that it tends to leave the student feeling like they aren’t really speaking English, but solving some kind of math equation.
In this article I’m going to present you with a method I use to teach all of my students, a method which has proven to be flawless in making these boring grammar classes nothing more than a daily 10 minute routine.
Make Grammar Easy with the Tour of The Tenses
The “Tour of the Tenses” is an exercise I give to all of my students to do in their spare time as a way to program their brains to be able to use the right verb tense automatically without having to think too much. This is definitely one of the first steps to the path of fluency and should be done by English learners of all levels.
This is an exercise based on the tour of the tenses table (see below). The idea of the exercise is to write down or think of a phrase, generally with just a simple subject – verb – object structure. For example, I eat hamburgers.
Once you have decided on the phrase, you can now go through the tour of the tenses conjugating your chosen phrase into all the different boxes seen on the table.
Let me take you through this process, step by step:
1. Write the phrase you wish to use, try to always use a new verb so you are always improving your vocabulary.
Ex- I eat hamburgers
2. Look up the verb to see if it is regular or regular.
Ex- Eat / Ate / Eaten
3. Go through the table conjugating the verb in the affirmative form.
|I ate hamburgers
|I was eating hamburgers
|I had eaten hamburgers
|I had been eating hamburgers
|I eat hamburgers
|I am eating hamburgers
|I have eaten hamburgers
|I have been eating hamburgers
|I will eat / I’m going to eat hamburgers
|I will be eating hamburgers
|I will have eaten hamburgers
|I will have been eating hamburgers
4. Go through the table making negative phrases.
|I didn’t eat hamburgers
|I wasn’t eating hamburgers
|I had not eaten hamburgers
|I had not been eating hamburgers
|I don’t eat hamburgers
|I am not eating hamburgers
|I have not eaten hamburgers
|I have not been eating hamburgers
|I won’t eat / I’m not going to eat hamburgers
|I will not be eating hamburgers
|I will not have eaten hamburgers
|I will not have been eating hamburgers
5. Go through the table making Interrogative phrases.
|Did you eat hamburgers?
|Were you eating hamburgers?
|Had you eaten hamburgers?
|Had you been eating hamburgers?
|Do you eat hamburgers?
|Are you eating hamburgers?
|Have you eaten hamburgers?
|Have you been eating hamburgers?
|Will you eat / Are you going to eat hamburgers?
|Will you be eating hamburgers?
|Will you have eaten hamburgers?
|Will you have been eating hamburgers?
6. After you have mastered doing the affirmative, negative and interrogative structures, you must now start to associate each box with a time reference.
When speaking, one of the last things you are going to think about is what verb tense you are going to use. The next step to make this flow is to add a correct time reference to each phrase. For example,
I eat hamburgers (present simple) – everyday, sometimes, once a week
I ate a hamburger (simple past) – yesterday, last week, when I was a child
I’m going to eat a hamburger (Future simple)– tomorrow, next month, when I get home
I have eaten a hamburger (present perfect) – today, this week, this month, recently
The easier it is to associate a verb tense with the time expressions you want to use, the more you will start to flow with your spoken English, and not have to think so much when talking.
7. After this has become an automatic process, make it into a daily habit using three NEW verbs every day.
Once you can go through the whole tour of the tenses table without having to look at the worksheet, you have pretty much dissected all the most important verb tense grammar rules that sometimes take people years to learn when studying in traditional schools.
Note: There are many conjugations that aren’t on the list, like conditionals, “used to,” modal verbs, and passive voice. But, this is a really good foundation, and if you can master the whole table, then most of the other things will just come along naturally and make a lot more sense when they do appear.
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