So many years later… I am still linked to this book. I first came in contact with it on its first edition, when my evening class English teacher told my father to buy it for me, in addition to my school book. Back then, I had just started taking classes with her and I was a bit lost – actually completely lost – concerning English. Since my father regreted that my grandmother had not transmitted English to him, he wanted to restart the chain of English speakers in the family.
And indeed he did. I ended up with a degree in English and working both as a teacher and translating into English.
Part of the blame falls on this book. And on the teacher who made me do it, back to back. Twice. When I first finished it, I was given an eraser (a rubber it was called then) and I knew then why I had been suggested not to be to hard on my pencil.
At college I sometimes went back to it. For reference, when more technical books became too dense. By then I had bought a second edition and my first was getting yellow. After college, as the years went by and I started teaching more and more, I noticed that English grammar in use had reproduced. Eventually there were three levels, and then other “cousins” about vocabulary, phrasal verbs, idioms, and even pronunciation.
For a while I became Director of Studies in a couple of consultancies that offered courses at companies and public agencies, I included those books as part of the background material. More than once we received suggestions from students asking to have english grammar in use as class material and not only as support in their office libraries.
The salesman from CUP sometimes just asked me: how many are you going to order this time?
By now you may have concluded that I am a big fan of anything to do with English Grammar in Use. Goes without saying that I continue to recomend it. It is a great, easy to use book. It is wonderful for reference and to reinforce some grammar point that your students need to hammer down. Unless your students are really serious and can do without so much fun in class, they are not classroom material to be followed every day.
However, if you are preparing for any of the Cambridge exams, these books should be your gym, where you lift weights. I always tell my students that grammar and vocabulary have to be like the skeleton. Used all the time with precision, but seldom seen. You must reach a point where you do not think about grammar – or vocabulary – but they will come to you naturally. Instinctively.
And in order to achieve that, in order to be the Rafael Nadal or the Harry Potter of Grammar (or rather Hermione!), the best option is to drill yourself until you achieve mastery.
If you want to achieve that, English Grammar in Use and its offspring are for you!