English Grammar in Use – This review is a must read on the worlds best selling grammar book.


Title: English Grammar In Use Fourth Edition

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Author: Raymond Murphy

Reviewed by: Alex Warren, Academic Director from British Study Centres, Bournemouth

© Copyright BEBC REVIEW PANEL 2014 – this review may be reproduced but only with this acknowledgement 

For most English language students English Grammar In Use is the bible and Raymond Murphy is the Master. It is, after all, the world’s best-selling grammar book, as proudly stated on the same recognisable navy blue cover that it’s always had. However, not only is it the book that students the world over take to bed at night in the hope that the contents will somehow magic their way into their brains as they sleep, but it’s also the book that all novice teachers kneel at as they feverishly get their heads around the grammar they have to teach the following day. So, just as it’s a must-buy for students, so too is it for all those embarking on their EFL teaching careers. In this respect English Grammar in Use is the mother of all comfort blankets, with teachers the world over having one tucked safely inside their bag, the secret behind their all-knowing powers of grammar. Indeed, it could easily be argued that behind every EFL teacher is a well-thumbed copy of Murphy. So, just how has an English grammar book taken over the world and what does this latest edition add to the pot?

Put very simply it makes grammar, well, simple. Each spread covers one grammatical area, the left hand page presents it, analyses it, dissects it and then the right hand page practises it. It’s not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s done in such a clear, well-structured way that it makes the mysteries and vagaries of English grammar, if not easy for the practitioner, then certainly understandable. And it covers a lot. Spread across a massive 145 units, it takes the user on a journey through all aspects of English grammar, conveniently organised into manageable sections. So for example, units 19 to 25 deal with various future forms, 26 to 37 with modal verbs, 53 to 68 with gerunds and infinitives, 121 to 136 with prepositions while 137 to 145 focusses on phrasal verbs – so all of students’ favourite things then. As well as the practice on each spread there are additional practice tasks for each grammatical area at the back of the book. However, from a students’ point of view when faced with this overwhelming wall of grammar the real question is where to start – which is where the handy study guide comes in. Essentially acting as a diagnostic it allows students to check their understanding and points them in the right direction (i.e. which unit) should they need help. This way the book is adaptable and therefore specific to a student’s individual needs – by no means is it a case of starting at unit one and ploughing your way through. For those who are gluttons for punishment, there are also seven appendices focussing on a variety of areas, including irregular verbs, short forms, spelling and American English.

The book is well supported and supplemented too. There’s an online version of the course (englishgrammarinuse.cambridge.org), which while identical to the print version, gives the user flexibility. There is also a supplementary exercises book with a further 200 practice exercises for students to get their teeth stuck into. As with the main book they are organised into grammatical areas and reference the main book too in case help is needed. What’s good about this is it offers a range of well-contextualised activities, which makes it far less monotonous than it could easily have been. These range from matching tasks, gapfills, sentence completions, multiple choice questions, jumbled sentences, sentence correction tasks, summaries and transformations. These are set in a variety of contexts, from emails and articles, to dialogues and cartoons. Essentially it does its very best to ensure that the student is not bored by repetitive practice tasks and is successful in doing so. After all, just how exciting can controlled, written grammar practice tasks actually be? In its bid for continued world domination (and for a quick last minute reference as you walk slowly down the stairs to the classroom) there are also two mobile apps (Tests and Activities) for learning on the go.

So, wherever you go, wherever you are, ‘blue’ Murphy is always with you to help you out of a tricky grammar situation.  As such, it is a real must for students and teachers of English alike.

Overall rating    5

© Copyright BEBC REVIEW PANEL 2014 – this review may be reproduced but only with this acknowledgement 


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