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Publisher's Summary

Grammar! For many of us, the word triggers memories of finger-wagging schoolteachers, and of wrestling with the ambiguous and complicated rules of using formal language. But what is grammar? In fact, it's the integral basis of how we speak and write.

As such, a refined awareness of grammar opens a world of possibilities for both your pleasure in the English language and your skill in using it, in both speech and the written word. As a foundation for writing, a detailed grounding in grammar and usage will hugely expand your resources for meaningful verbal expression, for navigating the subtleties of the language, and for achieving clarity of communication and stylistic power.

In English Grammar Boot Camp, linguist and popular Great Courses instructor Professor Curzan takes you on an enjoyable exploration of the essential aspects of English grammar. These 24 spirited and accessible lectures offer you a comprehensive core training - a linguistic "boot camp," by which we mean a thorough immersion in all of the key elements of English grammar and usage, in their most immediate, practical application.

Here you get a breadth of perspective and context you won't find elsewhere, leaving you with a more choices and rich verbal resources for your own use of the language. In discussing the different parts of speech, Professor Curzan directs your attention to how the element at hand evolved. Highlighting reflections from 18th- and 19th-century usage guides as well as from multiple modern commentators, she guides you in examining real-world language use in a variety of contexts, helping you develop a sophisticated frame of reference and a deep awareness of the idiosyncrasies of English.

This delightful and superbly insightful course offers you a unique opportunity to explore the linguistic riches of the English language, and to significantly deepen your mastery of grammar, usage, and style.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC

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  • Quaker
  • United States
  • 09-24-16

Spectacular

Where does English Grammar Boot Camp rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Among The Great Courses series on language, which are all excellent, I rate this one in the middle of the pack. It depends on what type of learning you want.

What other book might you compare English Grammar Boot Camp to and why?

Anne Curzan's first audio series "The Secret Life of Words" is one of my favorites titles on Audible, so I was both excited to listen this new course, and curious: How would this descriptivist linguist, who's quick to point out that English has many grammars, teach a English Grammar Boot Camp?

I am pleased to report that Professor Curzan navigates the territory with great ease. Yes, she reminds us, the English language is not static. No, there is not one authoritative grammar. But there is a concept of "standard English," and while much of that has changed over time and debate persists over certain rules, you're listening to this series because you want to understand those rules and potential pitfalls, and Curzan brilliantly covers it all with humor, humility, and insight.

You will learn the rules of usage, and you will also learn the origins of those rules, the logic behind them (if there is any), and how the rules of what's considered proper may be changing over time.

It should also surprise no one familiar with Curzan's other courses that you will learn the differences between spoken English and written English, and how what's considered proper in one form may be unacceptable in the other.

Which scene was your favorite?

I love Curzan's descriptions of the things she learns from her students. She describes how she frequently calls on them, as young users of the language, to help her document changes in usage as those changes enter the mainstream.

She describes, among other things, how texting has its own grammar and punctuation, and makes the point that while some of us might view this as simply "bad english," there are in fact meaningful rules that are unique to the medium.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Absolutely not. It's quite long, and dense with information. I typically listened to two chapters a day.

Any additional comments?

For those who are prescriptivists looking to hone your sense of "proper" usage, you will no doubt find everything you're looking for, but prepare to also be humbled. It is inevitable that some rule you were taught in school and remembered all these years will be questioned.
This very review, up through the previous sentence, is filled with grammar and punctuation that defies some conventional rules, yet falls into the category of modern acceptable usage. Curzan explains those distinctions, with particular focus on those words and rules that tend to trip us up the most, such as:
That rule about never ending a sentence with a proposition
Apostrophes, dashes, semicolons, and the oxford comma
Who, whom, pronoun agreement, and all the other prounoun issues that trip us up
Which vs. that, and relative pronouns
Octopuses or octopi, and all the ways plurals trip us up
Lie vs. lay, past tense vs. past participle
Helping verbs, shall, can, may etc.
Passive voice
Adverbs
Conjunctives
Dangling modifiers
etc.

She will often stop short of declaring that a common usage is correct or incorrect, but will point out that if you make certain choices -- particularly in writing -- prepare to be judged.

It's a unique, refreshing, and entertaining approach to grammar study. Highly recommended for the usage nerd in us all.

222 of 231 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Raglan, New Zealand
  • 04-21-17

The best lecture series what I have ever heard

Firstly, this isn’t really a grammar boot camp – a boot camp would be the ‘basic training’ undertaken by people who join the army. This course is beyond basic. It only spends a very little time explaining the different components of grammar – Most of the lecture series is about acceptable usage of English, and assumes a reasonable amount of prior familiarity with grammatical terminology, rather than being a basic description of how grammar works.

It deals with all the old chestnuts - like split infinitives, prepositions at the end of a sentence, dangling modifiers, double negatives and apostrophes, but the take-home message from this book is that these issues are rarely black-and-white.

For example, is it always wrong to split an infinitive, such as in Captain Kirk’s ‘to boldly go’? No – it isn’t always wrong – usually it’s fine, but don’t pack too many words in between the ‘to’ and the ‘go’. Is it always wrong to put a preposition at the end of a sentence? E.g. ‘The strange woman he was dancing with.’ No - it isn’t always wrong. Putting the preposition at the end can sound a bit clumsy and is often considered to be bad writing stylistically, but it isn’t necessarily wrong and it sometimes sounds better than the alternative: ‘The strange woman with whom he was dancing.’

So how can we find out if something is bad grammar, or bad usage, or perfectly OK? There are at least four ways: Firstly, we can look at the history of the language and see how it has been used over time; secondly, we can consult key grammar texts (such as Fowler’s ‘Modern English Usage’ and Strunk and White’s ‘Elements of Style’); thirdly, there are databases of the current English usage of established writers. We can search these to see if a particular construction is acceptable. If a large body of educated writers are splitting their infinitives, it must be OK. Finally, we can consult the online Usage Panel, a group of 200 experts who are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The result of all this searching is that it is rare to find a clear-cut case of ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ usage. Usually it will only provide a guide to what would be better stylistically, and this will depend on the context. Obviously you can get away with a lot more in casual conversation than you could in formal writing.

It was fascinating to explore these different issues and get a better insight into how the language works. From now on, this will give me more confidence to write with.

107 of 111 people found this review helpful

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This audiobook is extremely helpful! I recommend it to everyone I knowS

This book was absolutely outstanding and still incredibly relevant for me. After so many years studying English as a second language, I tend to feel that most materials out there are very descriptive, repetitive, and not really helpful. I couldn't develop a deep connection with the language like I've experimented after I was introduced to Anne Curzan. I began searching for other materials by the mid-part of the audiobook! Her voice is perfect for this audio materials: lively, energetic, and dynamic, all of which you can see by her dedication and brilliance as a linguist.
Don't forget to download the PDF material for reference.
I hope she publishes other audiobooks like this!

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

more than I expected

instead of just a dry guide or handbook she went into the history and stories behind it.

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

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I learned so much! Great job Anne!

It was as if I had gone back to my primary school days. I will be listening again and again.

30 of 34 people found this review helpful

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great review with new insight

I really enjoyed this course. I listened on my commute, while gardening, doing laundry, etc. Now I want to take time to go through it again with the guidebook and concentrate on areas that are problems for me such as that and which, and dig deeper into new information she gave on both grammar and language change. I highly recommend this course. I hope she offers another one in the future.

27 of 31 people found this review helpful

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Enjoyable and informative

If you could sum up English Grammar Boot Camp in three words, what would they be?

Informative, stimulating, delightful (but you do have to be interested in the English language to feel delighted).

What did you like best about this story?

I thoroughly enjoyed this update to my knowledge of English grammar and usage.

What does Professor Anne Curzan bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Lectures are very different from a book. I recommend listening at a faster speed.

Any additional comments?

There are a couple of places where I do not follow Prof.Curzan:

1. I have a less charitable interpretation of the now common "between you and I": I am convinced that this became (in the last few years) common usage through misguided inversion of the common 'uncouth' nominative use of "you and me" (or "Jim and me", etc). In compensating for their uncertainty regarding correct usage, people overcorrected and ended up using "you and I" even when it is not nominative and should be "you and me".

2. I don't think the use of 'at' in "where we're at" should be understood in the same way as in "where's the library at?". In the "where X is at" construction, X is a person not a thing, and 'at' conveys a sense of movement (X having at a certain place that generally is non-material as opposed to a physical location). Hence, "where's the library at" is poor usage because redundant, whereas "that's where we're at" is justified and hard to rephrase differently.

(3). One of my pet peeves is not mentioned (rightly so, as it is not a grammatical issue): that is the totally illogical phrase "I could care less" in place of "I couldn't care less". This started as a joke (I forget who the instigator was who parodied academic explanation with a tongue in cheek argument that "I couldn't care less" really should be "I COULD care less"), and somehow it caught on with people who were really taken in by fallacious reasoning. The phrase means to express total indifference, but "I could care less" implies a certain degree of caring, which is precisely what the speaker wants to negate.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Great course! Informative, clear, and enjoyable!

I learned a lot from this course and am sorry there aren't more lectures. Anne Curzan is a wonderful lecturer.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • J.B.
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States
  • 11-17-16

The Discombobulation Made Learnable

English Grammar Boot Camp by the Great Courses, authored and read by Professor Anne Curzan. The sequence of lectures is a study of each and every little piece of grammar you knew existed but could not put into a neat and organized cabinet from which you may un-shelf writing issues as you write the next great American novel. Like, when do it use to who or to whom, what are dangling participles and should I not dangle, are they acceptable or ungrammatical and what is a spit infinitive (aren’t those adjectives in any case) and why should I care what Henry Alfort says about my infinitives?

Well, first off, grammar is unmanageable and no one really “discombobulates” it in any case. It is a mish-mash and will always be. (Oops. Can I leave a hanging “be” out there like that or is that just for participles?) Professor Curzan though does put it together into 24 logical categories and tells some very interesting stories about how words play with each other to assist in human communication. What she does very well though is give you a leg up on understanding what is acceptable and what might nevertheless be very communicative.

Each lecture takes on a new area of problem defining, giving its historical origins and what she feels is the developing trend in grammatical propriety. I do not believe you will find anyone who loves her profession more. She thrills at talking about words and sentences. Her joy is concordant with her delivery. So the lectures are just plain fun to read. (By the way, Professor Curzan also has a wonderful section on why people respond to an inquiry by leading with the word, “so” as I just did.)

Have fun. Read the course.

40 of 48 people found this review helpful

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Informative

Definitely shed light on how to write better and identify tendencies in daily writing and speaking.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • gill
  • 04-14-17

Very interesting and engaging

Although the lecturer is American, this didn't detract from the usefulness. Clarified some areas of English grammar and exposed a lot of myths. It was particularly interesting to see how popularity of words changes over time and new words enter the language.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • AnnieB
  • 04-05-17

Brilliant

This book has contextualised and explained grammar to me in a more effective way than any teacher I've ever had. I recommend this course to anyone who dreaded grammar lessons as a child, or anyone who wishes to explore grammar in more depth.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • IanW
  • 01-23-18

Not really a grammar boot camp

What did you like best about English Grammar Boot Camp? What did you like least?

There is much to like in this course. Professor Curzan speaks well and has an obvious passion for novel words and usage, primarily from the US. Unfortunately that passion is where most of the course's emphasis lies. The first two hours felt like an extended introduction saying "Don't be too prescriptive." The course would be better described as a series on writing style covering US grammatical novelties and common controversies, all held together with grammatical tags: traditional grammar is there, but my impression is that it is used to provide the lecture headings and often only a modest proportion of a lecture's content.

What was most disappointing about The Great Courses’s story?

The overall content, and Professor Curzan's tendency to labour a point for far too long (the lengthy section on double negatives comes to mind).

Have you listened to any of Professor Anne Curzan’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No

Could you see English Grammar Boot Camp being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

No

Any additional comments?

The course is understandably focused on US English. Given the heavy emphasis on new words and usage, a British English speaker could find the content disappointing.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Gray
  • 04-02-18

Excellent

Another brilliant course from Anne Curzon. Some of the grammar explains we're complex and possibly better understood if readvabout. She has such a great attitude to getting grammar right.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Alastair
  • 05-04-18

Insomniac?

I didn't find this course particularly interesting and pales to her previous effort which was enriched with history snd more etymology. Quite basic.

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  • AGNIESZKA
  • 06-07-17

Like!

It is good to hear about grammar ! Would be great to remember .

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jacob
  • 12-07-16

A good grammar book

Since English is my second language, I find English grammar audiobooks a great help in making me sound better when talking to native speakers.

What's more, this one managed not to annoy me even once ( which is not always the case with audiobooks ).

A good book, and a good performance overall

3 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Eddie
  • 12-15-16

Anything goes

Any additional comments?

I must admit I am disappointed by this book. I was hoping for a revision on English grammar but the theme all through the book was that if enough people approve a particular grammatical construct, then it should be legitimised even though it may not be logical or elegant. In contrast, I see English as a logical language. There is a certain symmetry and logic in how sentences are constructed, similar to the language of numbers, which is why we have conventional rules on grammar. By being too permissive and loose, we are effectively allowing colloquialism to dilute the elegance of written English. In summary, this book treats grammar as a popularity contest.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-24-17

Pretty useful

This book is pretty useful and interesting for an English learner. I really like it.

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  • Bradley
  • 05-18-17

Great grammar

Really easy to understand, really interesting presentation and learned a lot of new information. Recommend

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-02-18

Ugliest grammar book ever made

It’s a waste of money. It talks differently from other grammar books and in the end nonsense.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful