As part of my teaching at the University of Salzburg, I am faced with something that comes naturally, but something about which I, and pretty much every other native speaker, know very little about. Grammar. Dun dun daahhh…

After running into a wall a few times in my first semester, I am beginning to feel a little more at home with concepts that I’d only heard of before. Nonetheless, most days I come up against a part of our fab old language that I can’t for the life of me explain. And so most days I find myself scurrying round in my pile of grammar books trying to find the answer. It’s not unheard of for my incredibly learned colleagues to also go scurrying around trying to find the definitive answer as well. But that moment when I find the answer and all the blocks fall into place is astonishing and exciting and pushes me on to work through the next conundrum.

So, in part to help me and in part to help you, I am going to do a little series on English grammar – for those of us who already use grammar properly, but might not know why things happen as they do. This is advanced ESL for native speakers. Or, things about English that non-native speakers know, but native speakers don’t.

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