The first point to establish is that you already know English grammar. Let’s consider some evidence. Please answer the following questions.
1. Which of the following sentences is ordinary English?
(a) Lightning flashed.
(b) Flashed lightning.
2. Which of the following words may fill the gap below without any other word being added?: like, liking, know, knowledge
People __ grammar.
I predict that you rejected out of hand one of the sentences in question 1, and two of the words in question 2. If so, you must know English grammar, at least in the sense in which I am using the term. Remember, for me everyone who can speak English knows English grammar, even if they don’t know a verb from a vowel.
If my prediction was wrong, then you must have misunderstood my questions. That may prove that I’m not communicating very well—one of the themes of this book is that communication is really rather difficult, and miscommunication all too easy. It certainly does not prove that you don’t know any English grammar, less still that you’re stupid. Questions like 1 and 2 are actually very odd, and you might even call them a perversion of ordinary language—language turned in on itself, so to speak. For most people language is primarily a tool for