Centre for Continuing Education

Understanding English Grammar Course: Level 1

English. Develop your command of the English language with us.

Learn English the smart way with English courses at CCE, the University of Sydney.

Those who speak English fluently know the grammar of the language – or most of it anyway – but they may not know much about the grammar, how to talk about it or how to analyse their own use of it.

This course aims to establish an understanding of the ways in which the ‘rules’ of our grammar work as they allow us and guide us to construct sentences that are comprehensible and acceptable to other speakers of the language. Such an exploration involves consideration too of the context and purpose of any language use, along with questions of appropriateness, formality and informality, written and spoken use and function. When there are uncertainties in the ways the rules are supposed to work and even disputes about how some grammar items should be used (do we say 'between you and I' or 'between you and me' ?), these questions will be settled.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • identify the essential ways in which words are used to form sentences and so to articulate the basic workings of English syntax
  • distinguish and use the grammatical features of different categories of words, phrases, clauses and sentence types
  • utilise a working knowledge of the terminology employed to describe the patterns of syntax and morphology in the language
  • relate knowledge of English grammar to language use in context, and taking into account register and function, and articulate a coherent and sensible approach to disputed usage.


Meeting one

  • Definition: ‘grammar’, ‘syntax’, 'morphology'
  • Overview sentence structure: words, phrases, clauses
  • Word classes: noun, pronoun, determiner, verb
  • Essentials for a sentence – fragments and ellipsis – spoken and written
  • Form and syntax

Meeting two

  • Word classes: adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction
  • Formality and informality – in written and spoken language; initial discussion of context, function and purpose
  • Language that informs, persuades, entertains, describes, expresses impressions and feelings

Meeting three

More about the word classes:

  • Count and non-count nouns – usage issues
  • Nouns in the possessive: the apostrophe
  • The apostrophe in contractions – the question of formality
  • Choice of adjective or adverb – modification function

Meeting four

  • Phrase structure: noun, prepositional and verb phrases
  • Noun phrase functioning as subject and object
  • Subject-verb concord
  • Pronouns as subject and object – concord – degrees of formality

Meeting five

  • Verb tenses – form – auxiliary verbs
  • Regular and irregular verbs
  • Use of the tenses – tense and time – relation to situation, context, function

Meeting six

  • Modal verbs
  • The infinitive – the split infinitive
  • Sentence types: interrogative, imperative
  • Copular verbs
  • Phrasal verbs – formal/informal use and function
  • Transitive and intransitive verbs – the passive – a context for the passive

Meeting seven

  • Introduction to clause structure – main, coordinate, subordinate
  • Relative clauses and the relative pronouns – formal/informal use – written/spoken contexts
  • Defining and non-defining relative clauses

Meeting eight

  • Grammar and structure in extended prose – fiction, journalism, academic prose
  • Review of issues explored in previous classes
  • Exercises in clause structure, issues of formality and register according to context and function
  • The relationship between context, function and language use
  • The ‘prescriptive’ and ‘descriptive’ approaches to grammar and language use
  • The concept of a 'standard language'
  • Variation and dialect

Intended audience

Designed for native English speakers or those with a very good grasp of the language who would like to understand how grammar works. This course is not suitable for English language learners.

Delivery style

Eight weekly three-hour sessions.


Extensive handouts are provided in class, including exercises at each stage.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion

What others say.

  • The teacher was extremely knowledgeable on the subject matter and was able to deliver the learning in an effective and informative manner. I would be more encouraged to undertake other courses by this tutor.

  • I really enjoyed the course and think the tutor was fantastic. A great style of teaching and also expressed a great attitude toward the subject matter and how it is interpreted in the wider community. I highly recommend this course as long as people understand what they are signing up for. It is not specifically designed to make you a better writer or speaker of the language, but to understand the technical explanations for the structure of the language.

  • Interesting, enjoyable and satisfying to review aspects of one’s language.

  • I really loved the course. The tutor was always very pleased to answer the questions and also has a deep knowledge of the language, which is essential for the good quality of the course.

  • The presenter is an engaging educator. I learnt more than the listed outcomes and have solidified my career plans as a result of this course. I will be enrolling in the continuation of this stream.

  • Not only did I learn much more than anticipated, but the course was really fun, non-threatening and inspiring. I now intend to go further with these studies.

  • An excellent instructor. They are extremely knowledgeable and have an exceptional ability to engage the class. The content covered was comprehensive, and the examples used to demonstrate the concepts were topical and entertaining. I highly recommend the course to anyone interested in understanding English grammar.

What others say.

  • Great course. Great presenter.
  • The teacher was extremely knowledgeable on the subject matter and was able to deliver the learning in an effective and informative manner. I would be more encouraged to undertake other courses by this tutor.