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English Grammar Boot Camp

Narrated by: Anne Curzan
Length: 12 hrs and 26 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 46.98
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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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    4 out of 5 stars

A Strange Boot Camp But Helpful One

I am not the greatest at grammar, partially as I feel that as I've gone along in life all the information given to me can get confusing. I am finding it useful to listen to this and read along with the PDF. This has been a helpful course to listen to and learn from, and understand where some of the basics come from.

#Audible1

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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English Grammar Boot Camp

When I saw the title "English Grammar Boot Camp" I thought this course would be dry and strict. Honestly, I am pleasantly surprised that this course was enjoyable and engaging, something I don't think anyone would have thought courses on grammar would be. This was seriously great and it's all because of Anne Curzan. Her voice was wonderful, it was gentle and also passionate about the subject. She loves grammar and you can tell by her voice (also she mentions it a few times). And it goes without saying but she was extremely knowledgeable about the subject. I didn't know how much history there was about certain grammar and usage rules there are. I wish they taught the history in school, probably would have made a lot more of these rules easier to learn.

I would use the course guide while listening to this.

As an aside, after listening to a few Great Courses courses about linguists, I do bemoan the death of the singular second person in English. I'm also more self conscious on what I use for the plural second person. I stopped mid thought to go, "Did I just use you guys?"

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  • Quaker
  • United States
  • 2016-09-24

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.

247 of 259 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Raglan, New Zealand
  • 2017-04-21

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.

121 of 129 people found this review helpful

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  • Owen T.
  • 2016-12-22

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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  • Mervin Brown
  • 2016-11-15

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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  • David
  • 2017-05-20

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!

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • IowaGreyhound
  • Ogden, IA USA
  • 2016-10-16

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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  • Carolyn knight
  • 2016-12-03

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
  • 2016-11-17

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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  • David
  • Irving, TX, United States
  • 2017-06-30

Good book, bad title

I appreciated the scholarship, historical perspectives, and general tone of the lectures, but they definitely aren't a boot camp. Boot camps are prescriptive. These lectures could have been titled, "Everything is acceptable" or "Grammar rules are really just suggestions."

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter
  • 2017-01-27

Interesting not educational

75% of this class is "interesting". And by that I mean she likes to show how language changed over time. But all of her "interesting" anecdotes just left me more confused. I don't care if that rule about double negatives changed in 1907 I just want to learn how to use it today.
25% of the class is the nuts and bolts of grammar.
I understand she wants to make it interesting, but I bought this to learn how to write.

54 of 71 people found this review helpful

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  • Hi no stress
  • 2018-08-20

BIG BORE

I do love English. I learn it and about it all the time and by all means. This English Grammar Boot Camp disappointed me because of the boring voices and, but not the least, the themes treated: too easy, too well known, ...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful