The world’s best-selling grammar series for learners of English. Essential Grammar in Use Fourth edition is a self-study reference and practice book for elementary-level learners (A1-B1), used by millions of people around the world. With clear examples and easy-to-follow exercises, it is perfect for independent study, covering all the areas of grammar you will need at this level. This edition includes an eBook which has the same grammar explanations and exercises found in the printed book, plus other great features. You can listen to all of the example sentences from the book, record your answers to exercises, highlight text, bookmark pages and add your own personal notes.
Essential Grammar in Use Fourth edition retains all the key features of clarity and ease-of-use that have made the book so popular with learners and teachers alike.
A fresh new design, with revised and updated examples, makes the book even more accessible. For the first time the printed book is also being made available with an eBook version, ideal for learners who want the flexibility of studying with both print and digital content.
Designed to be flexible, the Fourth edition, is available both with and without answers, making it ideal for self-study, but also suitable for reinforcement work in the classroom.
Interview with Raymond Murphy
Raymond Murphy’s English Grammar in Use is the world’s best-selling grammar book (with sales of over 15 million copies), and has provided millions of students with the tools they need to tackle this thorny area of the English language. Raymond taught EFL for 20 years in Germany and the UK and has concentrated on writing full-time since 1988. His books Essential Grammar in Use, English Grammar in Use, Basic Grammar in Use (US English) and Grammar in Use (US English), have all been published by Cambridge University Press.
This interview was conducted by John Lowe for ELT News in Tokyo on November 3rd 2010.
I started teaching English in language schools in Germany in 1971, and taught there for about 3 years. Then I moved back to the UK, and continued teaching in the UK, again, in a language school in Oxford
I was born in Plymouth, in Devon, but have lived in Oxford since 1976 – so for 34 years. I taught there until 1990, so my teaching career lasted approximately 20 years, and that’s where I wrote the books ‘English Grammar in Use’ and ‘Essential Grammar in Use’. They were written while I was teaching at the Swan School of English in Oxford, and were published in 1985 and 1990.
The books developed out of worksheets that I wrote as teaching materials for self-access in the school. Teaching in the UK, of course, you are teaching multilingual classes – people with different language backgrounds, different educational backgrounds and different needs, and I wanted a way of dealing with grammar outside the classroom. So, I started preparing worksheets, covering the topics that students were asking me about. The things that they wanted to know about, which I wasn’t able to cover in the class – so I built up a collection of these worksheets and they were kept in the library at the school – a sort of self-access facility. And so, if a student had a problem with, say, articles or something, they could go to the self-access centre, look up a card index, find an appropriate worksheet, if there was one – and do the exercises attached to it, and then check the answer key which was separate. If there was any problem they didn’t understand – they could get back to the teacher. And as these worksheets proved to be popular, I thought I’d try and get them published.
So I wrote off to three publishers. Two weren’t interested, but Cambridge University Press was, and they published my grammar book. Within a year it began to be pretty successful, and so we decided to produce an elementary version – ‘Essential Grammar in Use,’ which I wrote in the late 80s, while I was still teaching, and that was published in 1990. For various reasons around that time, I gradually withdrew from teaching. This was partly because I could afford to financially, and also for various personal and family reasons that suited me to have the flexibility of working independently from home. And since then, I have been a fulltime writer of new editions and adaptations.
I wrote the books for self-study, but they are also used as classroom texts. They could be used in all sorts of ways, but I would say from my point of view that it’s totally up to the user how they use the books. Because once you write something, it’s out of your hands; it’s up to the person who has bought the book to use it in whatever way that seems right for them. So, I don’t have a view on how other people should use the books, only on how I intended them to be used.
In the books, there are introductions; the main one for the student and an additional one for the teacher. In the teacher’s introduction there are suggestions how the book might be used in connection with classroom work, as homework or as revision.
Well, I’m well known in a very limited world. It’s not like being really well known. It’s a very limited fame. But to be associated with grammar is ironic because I am not particularly interested in grammar. I am interested in presenting it, or helping people to understand it. Actually I think I might have been good at writing instruction manuals for washing machines or something like that – making things clear and simple. That’s what interests me.
Grammar is interesting so far as it is something that you have to acquire when learning a foreign language, if you are teaching in a conventional way somewhere along the line, it has to be studied to some extent, but I am not madly interested in grammar as a subject.
It’s something to do with the fact that grammar is most obvious bit of knowledge within the language, and it’s a system – and there is a lot of knowledge and cleverness involved. It is controversial, and people do get very upset, even angry about it, arguing whether we should teach grammar or not. And how to teach grammar – natural grammar, discovery grammar, fun grammar, you know, all that sort of stuff.
I certainly don’t get angry with people who say, you shouldn’t teach grammar, although I don’t like fanatics, one way or the other – people who see things in absolute black and white, and my instinct is not to be 100% one way or the other.
I just look at a problem area. For example ‘had better’ which is followed by an infinitive without ‘to’ rather than infinitive with ‘to’. Secondly I think what exactly does it mean? Also, how does it overlap with ‘should.’ So, I identify those issues – some to do with ‘form’, some concerned with ‘meaning’ and ‘use’. I am not quite sure what the difference is sometimes, and I think, okay, so, I will show that. Explain is not the right word. So I present the structure, and say ‘look at that’ and ‘notice that’.
I don’t take ‘form’, and ‘meaning’ like some books do. I don’t want to classify things, all the same, anyway. When I focus on the meaning, I ask why is ‘had better’ different from ‘should’, or what exactly does it mean, how can you paraphrase it? For the exercise we practice the form in context, such as “it’s late now, we’d better go”.
I think that’s a valid way to practice as the student can make further examples confirming and adding to the presented examples on the left hand page of the book. And then perhaps add a sentence completion exercise which compares ‘had better’ and ‘should’. Explanations are not always enough, and the example itself is not always enough. Put them together, with exercises to reinforce the structure and the student starts to learn how to use ‘had better’.
My approach is to think ‘what is the student’s problem?’ How can a student use ‘had better?’ Does that make sense?
I think it is. It’s important to know your subject as well as you possibly can. Now, with a language, it’s a bit more complicated, because the aim is not knowing about the language but using the language. It’s about learning the language and acquiring the language. I think a teacher ought to inform him or herself as much as possible, not just about the grammar, but for example, about phonology, which I personally don’t feel 100% confident about at all.
Teachers should know what a past participle is, and yes, they should be aware of terminology, like the third person singular. It gets a bit mad though, I think, once you get into more modern terminology. My favorite hate is things like zero-conditional and zero-article. When do we use the zero-article? What an amazing invention that is! And I think by using terms such as these, that you are just pretending to be an academic and giving yourself a sort of extra mystique.
You only need to know grammar rules if you talk about grammar. So, the first thing is that when you talk about grammar, you reduce terminology usage as much as possible. So, I wouldn’t use terms like ‘continuous’ and ‘simple’, and ‘gerund’ in the classroom if I was teaching – certainly not gerund.
Yes, I mean you could even say it isn’t actually a direct tool either. It’s something essentially on the side of the main learning process because the main learning process has got to be connected with using the language and doing things – so, speaking and listening, primarily, and lots of communicative activity. If you are learning naturally, not in a formal way, you’d be doing that all the time, and that’s for me that is real learning.
I don’t know if anyone has really ever learnt a language just by formal study. They might say they have, but I imagine it’s the informal bit, the natural bits that take over. That’s the real learning part and I see the grammar book, dictionary, reference book as slightly to the side of real learning.
I like to use the analogy of a lay-by. When you are driving, you get off the road for a bit – the main road of learning and onto the lay-by, to do your bit of grammar, whatever it is, and say, “so that how it works!” “I had never quite understood ‘had better’ even though I’d heard it many times”. So, you look at that up, and you add to your natural learning a little drop of formal learning, and that’s how it should work, and how it’s intended to work.
No, it’s an arbitrary grammatical organization – verbs, articles, adjectives, prepositions. So, that’s how it is divided up. It could have been nouns at the beginning and verbs halfway. I chose verbs at beginning because I figured that most people have most problems with verbs, so I put them at the beginning, as it felt the right thing to do.
Secondly, there is no progression in the book. Unit 1 isn’t necessarily easier than unit 58. So, unit 58 might be a very basic thing, for example, comparison of adjectives, or something you would learn quite early. Whereas a unit long before that would be the past perfect continuous – which you probably haven’t learnt at all. So, it’s not at all progressive, and one of the main problems I’ve had when talking to teachers and students – is that they sometimes think the units are progressive. There are little bits of progression, like three or four units together might represent a progression where a couple of subjects are very complicated – a particular topic, like present perfect, or something such as articles. But generally speaking, that isn’t the idea. If the student says, I don’t understand ‘had better,’ they look up the index contents, and go to the ‘had better’ unit.
So, a student should be jumping around the book in a not dissimilar way that you jump around a dictionary, which is organized from A to Z. This is another arbitrary classification of language terms.
They’re not very different really. The differences between British English and American English have very much to do, I think, with pronunciation, vocabulary and style. The nitty-gritty of grammar, if you are talking about standard British and standard American, is not so different. Things like ‘have’ – ‘I have something, ‘I have a car’ rather than ‘I have got a car’, but ‘have got a car’ works in American English – ‘I have a car’ works in British English. So, I think the British are not using ‘have got’ as much as we used to – it’s one of those things – changing a bit probably with American influence – I think I tend to say ‘do you have’ rather than ‘have you got’, for example.
The present perfect is a bit funny and very difficult to explain. The present perfect, ‘I have lost my book,’ or something – single action present perfect. In American English, they tend to use the past simple – whereas in British English we use the present perfect. So, there are some things like that. They tend to be differences of emphasis rather than anything seriously different.
I am much more aware of these differences now, but I certainly wasn’t when the first American edition was done. My first visit to the States was actually when the American edition of the book was being prepared. So it was adapted by an American writer – no, I couldn’t have done it without assistance. I still discover differences, but it’s not so much the grammar, more the vocabulary and the style.
I don’t think so. I am talking here very anecdotally. I like to eavesdrop and listen to people talking, if I am on a bus, or in a café, if I am by myself, I like to listen, especially to younger people because I don’t have that much contact with younger people, and the language has changed. Younger people do speak considerably differently to the older generation. Again, it’s pronunciation that tends to change rather than grammar. I find when I listen to grammar, I think ‘is that in my book?’
And of course, there are things like using ‘them’ rather than ‘those’ or ‘you was’ rather than ‘you were’. But I think that’s always been the case and isn’t just a recent thing.
Yes. I mean – an example of that is the use of ‘like’ as a conjunction. When I first wrote the book, I presented a distinction between ‘as’ and ‘like’. For example, ‘I do it like this’, but ‘do it as I’ve showed you’. So, that’s how I presented. I didn’t say it was wrong to use ‘like’ in the second sentence, but that’s how I presented it. That was in 1980 and people were already using ‘like’ as a conjunction, ‘do it like showed you’. But I felt at that time that you could call that non-standard. I certainly don’t feel that now and certainly this is one of the educating factors of doing the American edition as they were absolutely clear that it wasn’t wrong.
Anyway, in the current editions of my book, that is an alternative. So you can say ‘like I say’ or ‘as I say’; ‘like you said,’ ‘as you said’.
So, that’s an example of how I have changed a particular thing. ‘Less’ and ‘fewer’ is another one. It doesn’t actually feature in the book, so I don’t have to change anything, but that’s something that has changed. I don’t mean the usage has changed, but some people say ‘less cars’, ‘less tables’, ‘less people’.
Yes – using the natural approach. In the last 2 years, I have spent a total of 5 weeks in Bangkok, not all in one go. I am going there next week actually.
I go to AUA – a large language school. They have courses in English teaching, business mainly, but they also have a Thai language program in which they use the natural approach, so we don’t speak for 800 hours.