Why Is English Grammar So Hard To Learn? (Explained!)

The majority of people can speak fluent English, but not all of them use proper English grammar. There is a difference between spoken and written English, with the latter focusing more on using proper grammar. This has led to many people asking a question: what is it about English grammar that makes it hard to learn?

For starters, English grammar relies on theory, and it can be taught in a class. The learning process becomes complicated due to complex and contradicting grammar rules. The learner’s native language and background could get in the way of learning proper English grammar. There is also a lot to learn regarding English grammar. 

English students often have a hard time learning English grammar. This article will look at why it’s hard for English students to learn proper grammar, such as complex and contradicting grammar rules, the direct translation from native languages to English, improper use of tenses, improper word order in the sentences, and ignoring common grammar mistakes.

Why is it so Hard to Learn English Grammar?

It’s clear that English students often have a hard time learning proper grammar. While proper grammar might come naturally to native English speakers, non-natives often struggle to grasp the concept of grammar and how they can use it in a formal environment. Here are the reasons why most English students struggle to learn grammar:

1. The Complex and Contradicting Grammar Rules

If learning English wasn’t challenging enough, try going through the complex and contradicting grammar rules. 

Rules are put in place to safeguard and ensure the proper use of grammar. As learners find out later on in their studies, some grammar rules are somewhat inconsistent. 

Among the contradicting grammar rules are:

2. To Use or Not to Use the Oxford Comma.

When listing things down in one sentence, it’s grammatically correct to separate them with commas. An Oxford comma is when you include a comma between the penultimate item on the list and the word ‘and.’ 

Chicago Manual of Style, which is adopted by trade publications, publishers, and academics, uses Oxford commas.

Example:

Jane decided to buy a dress, two pairs of shoes, a handbag, and sunglasses.”

However, according to AP style, the Oxford comma is not as essential as we thought. In fact, AP style allows the use of the Oxford comma only if its omission would create confusion. 

Example: 

“She admires her parents, Gandhi and Mother Teresa.”

By reading the sentence out loud, the sentence implies that her parents are Gandhi and Mother Teresa. If we’re to include the Oxford comma, we can re-write the sentence as follows;

“She admires her parents, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa.”

As much as AP style is widely used today, the example above has shown that missing out one comma could alter the entire meaning of a sentence. 

Here is a sentence example that follows the AP style:

“My hobbies include reading books, dancing, swimming and traveling.”

The sentence above is grammatically correct and could also be re-written as follows;

“My hobbies include reading books, dancing, swimming, and travelling.”

Such differences and contradictions in grammar rules are the reasons why English grammar is considered difficult to learn. 

3. ‘I’ Before ‘E’ Except After ‘C’

It’s an old English rule taught in classes. As much as it might sound right, but it doesn’t quite cover the spectrum. 

The rule states that the letter ‘I’ should always come before the letter ‘E’ in the sentence, except when the letter ‘C’ comes before. 

Here are examples:

Cashier, believe, field, etc. 

We have a long list of words that don’t follow this rule, but they’re still recognized as grammatically correct. 

Examples:

Science, leisure, vermeil, etc.

This rule has confused many people learning English. 

4. Can You Start a Sentence with ‘Because?’

Grammar enthusiasts would crucify you for starting a sentence with the word ‘because.’ However, this rule is not absolute as there are cases where it can be breached. 

While it cannot be used in formal writing, it comes into play when dealing with dialogue. 

Let’s look at some examples:

“We couldn’t attend the match because it was raining.”

This sentence is grammatically correct. However, we cannot re-write it as follows;

“Because it was raining, we couldn’t attend the match.”

The second example is correct, but it doesn’t sound formal.

However, the rule changes when we’re dealing with dialogue. Here is an example:

“Why didn’t you attend the match?”

“Because it was raining.”

These examples are among the many contradictions experienced with the grammar rules. 

(Source: Pro Writing AidReader’s Digest)

5. Direct Translation from Native Language to English

It’s common for non-native English speakers to speak English that is directly translated from their native language. 

During this process, the proper use of grammar is lost, and sadly, this English is passed down through generations. 

Even though these people communicate in English, it misses out on all elements of proper grammar and cannot be used in formal settings. 

6. Improper Use of Tenses

Verb tenses are very important in English grammar. Improper use of verb tense could confuse and irritate readers. 

Native and non-native English speakers struggle with verb tenses, which is a clear indication of how vast and confusing this topic can get. 

The struggle with verb tenses is experienced when narrating past events. Many students tend to struggle with the use of would,’ ‘could,’ and ‘should.’

Others have a difficult time knowing when and where to use ‘has’ and ‘have.’

Let’s look at some examples:

‘She told him that he can drop by any time and she will be happy to help him.’

Even though this sentence might sound right, the writer has used improper verb tense. 

Let’s re-write it and include proper verb tense:

‘She told him that he could drop by any time and she would be happy to help him.’

The second sentence is grammatically correct due to the proper use of the past tense. The majority of grammar experts agree that past tenses are very difficult to maintain, and many writers get confused along the way. 

Let’s look at the example use of ‘has’ and ‘have’:

‘The manufactures has included the Android Operating System technology.’

The sentence is incorrect, and we can re-write it as follows;

‘The manufacturers have included the Android Operating System technology.’

Or;

‘The manufacturer has included the Android Operating System technology.’

The word ‘has’ is used when a sentence is in a singular form, while the word ‘have’ is used in a sentence that is in plural form. 

(Source: University of Minnesota)

7. Improper Word Ordering in a Sentence

How you order your words to form a sentence shows your grasp of grammar. Unfortunately, many people have a hard time with this section. 

Words can be in whichever order when English is spoken, but they should follow a proper order when written. 

Examples:

‘He reads books often.’

The correct format would be:

‘He often reads books’

The second example makes sense compared to the first. 

The secret to understanding word order in a sentence is to observe the following;

The Main verb always comes before a place.

A place will come before an expression of time.

(Source: English Hilfen)

8. Ignoring Common Grammar Mistakes

Grammar mistakes are common, but ignoring them renders your text unreadable and unprofessional. 

Let’s look at some grammar mistakes that people tend to ignore:

Run-on Sentences:

When two complete sentences are fused together without proper punctuation or the use of coordinating conjunctions, it always results in run-on sentences. 

Example:

‘I bought her tulips for her graduation however she prefers roses.’

It’s correct to say:

‘I bought her tulips for her graduation, however, she prefers roses.’

Skipping Articles:

Articles are very important when constructing sentences. Skipping them would make your text awkward to read, and it would appear unprofessional. 

Examples:

‘After meeting her for lunch, I decided to take bus back home.’

This sentence has skipped the use of an article. We could include the following articles, ‘a’ and ‘the’ depending on how we wish to communicate the message;

By saying:

‘After meeting her for lunch, I decided to take a bus back home,’ we do not specify which bus. But when we say;

‘After meeting her for lunch, I decided to take the bus back home,’ species a certain bus was taken. 

Overusing Adverbs in a Sentence:

Adverbs are used to modify a verb. These are words that often end with –ly-. Overusing them would render the sentence weak, making it appear unprofessional.

 Here is an example:

‘I ran really fast to catch up with her.’

By removing the adverb ‘really fast,’ our sentence would read like this:

‘I ran fast to catch up with her.’

Or 

‘I sprinted to catch up with her.’

Using Squinting Modifiers in Sentences:

A misplaced modifier in a sentence gives a different meaning to a sentence that follows it or comes before it. 

Example:

‘Drinking a lot of water slowly gives me a stomach upset.’

The sentence is ambiguous since the modifier ‘slowly’ is misplaced in the sentence. Does it mean that drinking the water slowly results in a stomach upset, or is the stomach upset taking place slowly?

(Source: Grammarly, Wood Pecker Writing)

In Conclusion

English grammar is confusing and very hard to learn. The rules themselves are contradicting and are never consistent. The improper use of tenses, wrong word orders in a sentence, translating directly from native language to English, and ignoring grammar mistakes complicate everything. However, with regular practice, you could learn grammar very fast. 

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