Which is the best grammar book for teachers of English? Quite often teachers ask me this question. Very recently, I received an email from a teacher: Which grammar book(s) do you use for reference? Which is your favourite reference book? It will be great if you can discuss the features of a standard reference grammar book for English language trainers? This query made me count the number of English language reference books in my book shelf. It was a difficult task to pick the best or my favourite book from a rich collection of books. But I chose the Cambridge Grammar of English (CGE), which has been my constant companion for quite some time.
CGE is a comprehensive guide to spoken and written English. CGE gives answers to hundreds of grammar and usage questions such as: What is the difference between made of, made from, made with and made out of? Is absolutely more frequent in written or spoken English? The CD-ROM that accompanies the book has audio recordings of all these examples in a searchable format.
The first part of the book, From word to grammar: an A-Z, lists and describes carefully selected words that are used frequently; have more than one meaning; have different grammatical functions and that learners of English find difficult. Here is an example of how the word “mind” and its grammatical functions are explained: The verb mind is most commonly used in two interrogative forms, do you mind and would you mind to ask permission and to make polite requests. Both forms may be followed by if or an –ing form:
• Do you mind if I smoke?
• Would you mind if I opened the window?
• Do you mind putting your dog back on a lead?
• Would you mind checking that for us, please?
Traditionally, the written language was a benchmark for what is standard in the language. This book defies tradition and gives due importance to spoken grammar. In the second part Introduction to grammar and spoken English: the characteristics of spoken English are explained in detail. The example sentences in the book are drawn from Cambridge and Nottingham Corpus of Discourse in English which is a collection of everyday spoken texts. No wonder, this book takes mainly the descriptive approach to grammar.
The chapter ‘Speech acts’ deals with functions such as requests, invitations, promises and undertakings. Here is an example from the book: ‘Would you like to’ is often used for invitations. ‘Do you want to’ is also used for invitations. It is less formal than ‘would you like to’: (A and B are discussing plays which are on at London theatres)
A: And when’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’? Monday?
B: We’re going on Monday.
B: Do you want to come?
A: I can’t because of work.
CGE is a ‘must-have’. The authors are Michael McCarthy and Ronald Carter. The low-priced edition of the book is available for sale in India. firstname.lastname@example.org