Monday Grammar/ Teacher Journal

In Grammar on September 28, 2009 at 10:00 am

stack of books


Often, the first grammatical issue for international students is the issue of verbs. Not all grammatical problems are created equal. Usually, the first grammar issue on the list of most English teachers is subject/verb agreement. If your verbs don’t agree with your subjects, your teachers will notice. The first step is to learn about the verb forms and subject agreement. Usually, when students come to my classes, that’s already done, but if you’re still unsure of how to decide, crack those grammar books and do a bit of a review.

The second step is to get your ear to hear the right verbs. This is the most important step. Even if you understand how to choose the right verb, it’s easy to accidentally slip in your writing and pick the wrong one. The goal is not to have to think about the complexities of subject/verb agreement but to be able to pick what sounds best. You can train your brain to do this. It’s just a matter of getting yourself to hear the right verbs.

One of my mentors, who also teaches English, taught me a trick that can help you with this. As you’re reading textbooks, articles, and other things for class, go through and underline the verbs in a paragraph or two. Then, try reading those paragraphs out loud to yourself — but read every underlined verb louder than the rest of what you read. Here’s how it might look:

Verbs *ARE* important parts of speech in writing, and *USING* the correct verb in you speech and writing *WILL HELP* quite a bit in your classes. Teachers *PAY* special attention to verbs in sentences, so you *WILL WANT* to use the correct verbs.

It won’t happen overnight, but if you practice this type of reading regularly, your ear will begin to hear the correct verb in your sentences. That’s what we want! Once your ear hears the right verb, you won’t have to think about verb forms so much. You’ll just know what sounds right. Then, you can tackle another grammatical problem.


Our summer quarter ends in September, and I have three weeks to wrap up work and prepare for next quarter. The start of a new quarter is a busy time, so I’m pulling out all the organizational tricks I have. Although I usually keep my life organized online, I’ve revitalized my paper planner again (my mother, an organizational genius, bought it for me for my first year of college). I’m making lists and checking things off.  For some reason, it’s harder to ignore reminders written in ink than those kept only online. So far, so good.

I’m doing a good deal of writing this week too. Revision is the longest part of the process for me. I need complete quiet to revise, so I can hear the words in my ears as I read each paragraph over and over. If I’m interrupted (by other people, the cat, the phone), I have to stop and start all over again. I know it sounds tedious, but for me, this is the most important part of the process and (believe it or not) also the most exciting.


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