I have rewritten my article on grammar rules. The new article shares almost no text with the old version (except the introduction). Overall, the advice hasn’t changed that much (spoiler: it’s okay to use grammar rules, but only a little). However, the reasoning is improved and there are many more examples. The new version also answers the following questions:
- Where do grammar rules come from? How do they differ from the rules of formal systems like programming languages?
- Can grammar rules describe a language completely?
- Are there any good ways to use grammar rules?
Why you shouldn’t rely on grammar rules
In a new page, “Using English correctly requires a massive amount of knowledge”, I carpet-bomb you with examples showing why speaking English without mistakes is so damn hard, and why vocabulary and so-called “grammar” are just a small part of the stuff that you have to put in your head.
Why is it so difficult to learn a language? The main reason is that speaking a language correctly requires a vast amount of knowledge – far greater than is necessary to be a competent doctor or lawyer. A large chunk of this knowledge is, of course, vocabulary. To speak English fluently, you have to know the meanings and pronunciations of at least 10,000 words and phrases (for comparison, the average college student in the US knows about 20,000 words).
But while most learners realize vocabulary is a major area that requires a lot of attention, fewer are aware that there is an equally large body of facts that is described with the word usage.