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Which grammar book do I need for CELTA?

Updated: Jan 18

Which grammar book do I need for CELTA?
Having a good grammar book for your CELTA course is strongly recommended

Some people are lucky enough to have a degree in languages or linguistics before their CELTA course, and so they may feel comfortable with grammar already. However, that's not the majority experience. CELTA is open to people from many different educational and professional backgrounds and so it is common to find yourself starting a CELTA course having had no experience of analysing or thinking about how English grammar works at all.

Of course, your CELTA tutors will help you with grammar, but their main focus will be with helping you with teaching skills and you will need to do some grammar research of your own as part of planning your teaching practice lessons and doing assignments during CELTA, and so you will need a good grammar reference book.

There are a lot of grammar reference books on the market. How can you choose the right one? Here are three we recommend at DC Teacher Training, and some of the advantages of each one.

Tony Penston's A Concise Grammar for English Language Teachers - available here

Penston is a classic reference book. If you like to see information represented in tables and lists, with short simple definitions, then Penston should be your first stop. It's designed for English teachers and it doesn't assume you know anything before you start. It's a slim book and is considerably less intimidating than some of the more widely read grammar references, but it has all the information that someone needs as a new teacher and it's light and so will fit in your suitcase when you fly abroad for your first job!

Martin Parrott's Grammar for English Language Teachers - available here

Parrott is famous in the world of CELTA and many centres recommend this book as the primary grammar reference book a new teacher needs. Information is explained very clearly and thoroughly and you'll get a lot more detail and practice exercises than you do in Penston. However, if you do find yourself overwhelmed by grammar, this is a thick book and a novice may find it difficult to find the information they need. That said, once you've found it, it really is very well explained.

Raymond Murphy's English Grammar in Use - available here

Murphy's book is different from the other two we recommend because Murphy's book is aimed at students. Every new grammar point is systematically explained, in a student-friendly manner, often with diagrams, and then a set of exercises for each grammar area for use in the classroom. Just because the explanations aren't aimed at teachers, it doesn't mean that they're not useful and it really is handy to have a set of classroom-ready exercises in the book that you can use with your students.

There are a lot of good grammar books out there. In the end of the day it comes down to personal preference. Do you want all the information possible? Or do you want something more digestible? Do you want something aimed at students or aimed at teachers? Whatever you decide, each of the books above (and many others) are useful resources and we're happy to recommend them all.

Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.

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