Centre for Continuing Education

A Course in Understanding English Grammar

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

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

Join us for an exploration of English grammar and learn the intricacies of the English grammar system.

This course aims to establish an understanding of how the ‘rules’ of our grammar works. Specifically, how it allows us to construct sentences that are comprehensible and acceptable to other speakers. This involves consideration of the context and purpose of language use, along with questions of appropriateness, formality and informality, written and spoken use, and function. There are sometimes uncertainties in the ways rules are supposed to work and disputes about how grammar items should be used, ie do we say 'between you and I' or 'between you and me'). Such questions will be addressed throughout the course.


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

  • identify the ways in which words are used to form sentences and so to articulate the basic workings of English syntax
  • 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 language
  • relate knowledge of English grammar to language use in context, and by taking into account register and function, articulate a coherent and sensible approach to disputed usage.


Lesson 1

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

Lesson 2

  • The concept of a “standard” language – dialect
  • A language authority?
  • Correctness and appropriateness in grammar
  • Acquisition and development of language
  • Situation, context, function
  • Word classes: adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction
  • Formality and informality – in written and spoken language; context, function and purpose
  • Nouns in the possessive: the apostrophe – contractions
  • Choice of adjective or adverb – modification function

Lesson 3

  • Function classes: subject and object
  • Subject-verb concord
  • Pronouns as subject and object – degrees of formality
  • Verb tenses – form – auxiliary verbs
  • Modal verbs
  • Use of the tenses – tense and time

Lesson 4

  • The infinitive – the “split” infinitive
  • Sentence types: declarative, interrogative, imperative
  • Transitive and intransitive verbs – the passive – a context for the passive

Lesson 5

  • Introduction to clause structure – main, coordinate, subordinate
  • Relative clauses and the relative pronouns – written/spoken contexts
  • Defining and non-defining relative clauses
  • Non-finite clauses – as subordinate; in informal context

Lesson 6

  • Grammar and structure in extended prose – fiction, journalism
  • 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

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

Delivered over six, three-hour sessions.


Handouts and exercises are provided in class.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE 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.

A Course in Understanding English Grammar

<p>{block name:“Course Tagline - English”}</p><p>{block name:“Block - COVID 19 updates”}</p><p>Join us for an exploration of English grammar and learn the intricacies of the English grammar system.</p


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.
We acknowledge the tradition of custodianship and law of the Country on which the University of Sydney campuses stand. We pay our respects to those who have cared and continue to care for the Country.