Over the years, I’ve created a number of grammar summary sheets, and started thinking seriously about this when I was in Korea for the second time in 2015-16. Through my time as an ESL teacher, I’ve noticed that some grammar points keep coming up over and over. The challenge, then, is to get these onto one piece of paper in a comprehensive but concise and coherent way. I kept on tinkering, and a few months ago, I thought I had it, and posted what I’d done, here. Then earlier this week, I thought of another way, and have done a lot more work during the week. Here they are, and may I never tinker again. [PS that wish lasted about two days!]
By any understanding, English grammar is based on nouns and verbs, with nouns starting with people, things, places and times, and verbs starting with being, having and doing. Extra information relating to nouns covers which, whose, how many, how much and describing, and extra information relating to verbs includes how and why (and more).
So, my first sheet looks like this:
Theoretically, all (or most) of these can be translated into other languages. I started with Korean, with help from my co-teacher at the time. Some things don’t quite match up – 이다, 있다 and 하다 cover most of same ground as be, have and do, but divide up the territory differently, and modal verbs work very differently – for example, Korean has two different constructions equivalent to English can for ability and can for permission.
Note that while Korean doesn’t use countable and uncountable nouns like English does, there are still ways of saying thing(s)/stuff, how many and how much. Back in Australia, I consulted with a Chinese-speaking colleague, who was generally defeated by these concepts, as they’re just not used in Chinese.
Of course, we’ve got more words relating to each concept, so the challenge then is, how few or how many words cover the maximum possible ground, and how many words can I fit into the available space?
A standard English sentence consists of a subject (usually a noun phrase) and a predicate (always a verb phrase). The first division of nouns is countable and uncountable, and the second is countable singular and countable plural. The first division of verbs is plain present form (are, V) and 3rd person form (is, V-s), and the second is present simple (those two) and past simple (were, was, V-ps).
A standard English sentence then adds zero, one or two pieces of obligatory information (objects and/or a complement), and any number of pieces of extra information (adjuncts).
After that, it is basically a matter of adding as many words as page size, grid and type size will allow. There is, of course, a lot more to it than that, but this is a good start.