One problem with English grammar is that the rules are complicated.
Often, there are exceptions, which makes the rule confusing.
Or there are so many different things to remember, that you aren’t sure if you’re using the correct grammar. This can make you hesitate when you speak.
But, in some cases, you can ignore grammar rules! Here are three rules you can break, so that you can speak more confidently and fluently.
1. The “One Tense Back” Rule (Reported Speech)
In some situations it can be helpful to go one tense back so that other people know the sequence of “who said what and when”, but most of the time, we don’t report the exact words. Often we’ll report the idea of the conversation, or even use the same tense when we report it. Here are some examples:
Sue: “I swear I didn’t eat the last biscuit!”
Reported Speech: Sue completely denied eating the last biscuit. (reporting the idea)
John: “I love the funfair.”
Reported Speech: John says he loves the funfair. (using the same tense)
The other “rule” you can break is the need to transform “here” to “there”, “tomorrow” to “the day after”, etc. Instead, in many cases, you can keep these words as they are. Here are some examples:
Sue: “I’ve been here before.”
Reported Speech: Sue said she’s been here before.
John: I’m going tomorrow.”
Reported Speech: John said he’s going tomorrow.
2. The “State Verbs” Rule (In Continuous Tenses)
State verbs are groups of verbs that suggest a state – something permanent, rather than temporary. The state verbs are verbs of the mind (think, know, etc); verbs of the senses (see, smell); verbs of emotions (like, love) and verbs of belonging (own, have).
Most of the time, we avoid using state verbs in continuous tenses. For example, “I own a house”, rather than “I’m owning a house”, or “She knows him”, rather than “She’s knowing him”.
But – there are many occasions when you can use a state verb in a continuous tense. Sometimes there’s a difference in meaning. For example, “I see” (present simple) means “I understand” while “She’s seeing a new guy” (present continuous) means “She has a new boyfriend”.)
But sometimes, there’s no change in meaning. For example:
“I’m lovin it” (McDonalds slogan). English teachers might hate the use of the present continuous for emotions, but it’s becoming a lot more common in spoken English.
Here are two more examples that I’ve heard recently:
“I’m not feeling it.”
“I’m not liking my new house.”
3. The “Adjective Order” Rule
In general, adjectives which define the noun go nearest the noun. We say “white wedding dress” rather than “wedding white dress”, for example.
The general rule for the order of adjectives is: opinion, size, shape, age, colour, origin, material, defining
But not all adjectives fit into the categories above. For example, we can say both “She has long, straight, red hair” and “She has long, red, straight hair.”
My advice: don’t try to remember the adjective order rule. In most sentences there will only be a couple of adjectives, giving you just one decision to make: Which adjective is the most “defining”? (That’s the one that goes next to the noun.)
If you have more than two, you can “cheat” and put the adjectives after the noun. “Her hair is long, straight and red”, or “Her hair is red, straight, and very long.”
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