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VINE VOICEon 30 November 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a substantial book at nearly 650 pages in length. It contains numerous sections, listed alphabetically, followed by a glossary, an index (for those of us who like to search the old-fashioned way) and a searchable CD-ROM containing the entire book and audio files matching many of the given examples.

Written specifically for students learning English as a second language, the book aims to match itself to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF) levels B1 (limited expression in familiar situations & general information processing) and B2 (competency across a range of topics & goals). It would certainly seem to fulfil the B2 requirement, but the layout and organisation of the book may prove more difficult for students below this level.

The main reason for this is the A-Z layout: whilst being a very sensible method of organising so much information, unless you actually know the term you're looking for, you'll have to flick through the book in the hopes of stumbling across it (or start at the beginning and hope it crops up in one of the early entries). For students being taught formally who already have a decent grasp of the language, this shouldn't be so much of a problem, but for someone at a lower level or trying to teach / re-teach themselves the rules of English grammar, it makes it quite tricky to use. Whilst the CD-ROM addresses this to some extent, it can still be hard to find exactly what you're looking for.

Despite its comprehensive nature, there are also some interesting omissions. Antonyms are mentioned, but synonyms and homonyms are not (something that I personally would have thought to be important for all-round competency). Whilst an audio example is available on the CD-ROM to explain the phonetic symbols used to describe when to use "a" and "an", no example is given for how to pronounce the word "the" in similar circumstances. There is also an amusing error that crops up when discussing how italics can be used to replace single quotation marks, when all of the examples are in italics already.

In their favour, the book and CD contain hundreds of practical examples as well as a very interesting section on the differences between English and American grammar and spelling. The tables discussing verb structure, prefixes, suffixes and tenses are all very helpful (even if there is no one umbrella section called "Tenses", leading back to the problem of having to know what the tense is referred to before you can find further details on it). The inclusion of incorrect examples is also useful, particularly when explaining some of the more abstract points of English grammar.

If you can come to terms with the arrangement of the information in it, this will text will provide detailed support for a variety of courses, both for native and non-native speakers alike. Without the CD-ROM to speed up searching and improve portability, I would have been forced to give it a three. With them, for all its faults, this is definitely worth a four star rating.
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VINE VOICEon 7 December 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a good reference book (and CD-Rom) for students and teachers of the English language. However, while the alphabetical format is usually successful, a proper contents page would be helpful. The alphabetical layout depends on the user knowing the technical terms for specific constructions e.g. "conditionals" or "modality". A contents page with a structured layout would allow topics such as "Tense" to be covered in a complete section.
There also appears to be some key ommissions like split infinitives and other anomalies such as redundant words for example, "for free"!
Overall, a good book with useful CD-Rom, but it is certainly not as user friendly as I had hoped.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I teach English and my son teaches ESOL / EFL so I thought that between us we would find this book very useful; and we have. The book will prove very useful to students and teachers alike. The authors are well know and long-standing English teachers with a wealth of useful experience - all reflected in their work. This book will not let you down and if bought alongside the equally excellent and perhaps even more useful - Oxford's "Practical English Usage" by Michael Swan - you would have to hand a truly comprehensive and useful pair of books that will cover most questions relating to English in use. Your bookshelf needs these two books if you teach English to first language or second language users. Definitely recommended and the excellent CD-ROM is icing on the cake.
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VINE VOICEon 22 February 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I did not have the benefit of a grammar school education. The books we used in secondary modern school were from Victorian times and, apart from a few basic rules, such as a noun being a person, place or thing, a verb being a doing word and an adjective a describing word, knew virtually next to nothing about English grammar when I left school in my mid-teens. I know precious little now and most of what I know was learned by reference to points of grammar as they occured rather than by studying grammar itself. At evening classes I was introduced to the writing of English by Fowler's "Dictionary of Modern English Usage", Sir Ernest Gower's "The Complete Plain Words" and reading third leaders in The Times. The latter was supplemented by Roget's Thesaurus which, half a century later, is tattered and torn but still indispensible. I'm far from convinced that this book will be used as much in the next fifty years but it is an excellent addition to the reference section of any library.

The book is primarily for those learning English as a second language and native speakers who wish to progress from the dumbing down of language by modern television usage such as "Youf" and "init?" Such dumbing down has a pervasive influence. A work colleague and I analysed graffiti which read, "Get back where you came from" and concluded it should have read, "Get back from whence you came." Both are understandable but, as the book makes clear, there is a difference between formal and informal use of English. English can confuse non-English speakers when two words which are spelled differently sound the same when spoken, as in "bough" and "bow". Unlike many other languages English does not have a future tense, which must be as confusing for non-English students for whom this reference book is written as learning a foreign language is for the English (which is why so many English people don't bother).

Most language acquisition is achieved verbally. The rules governing the use of words are secondary to that primary purpose. Many people see no need to reconcile the two as is evident from websites and emails which still write the possessive pronoun "its" with an apostrophe between the t and the s. Those who write off such errors as incidental do not consider the implications of their ignorance. Rather like the nervous ensign in "The Bedford Incident" who heard the ship's captain say, "if he fires one, I'll fire one" and responded with "fire one", failure to communicate correctly can have catastrophic results. Similarly in the First World War a message passed through several stages by which time the original, "send reinforcements we're going to advance" had become "send three and fourpence we're going to a dance." The correct use of language is crucial whether spoken or written.

Once the A to Z format has been mastered it's relatively easy to find what is needed with the index providing additional assistance and the CD-ROM the icing on the cake. It's by no means perfect or comprehensive and should be supplemented by a relevant dictionary and thesaurus. Those challenged by grammar could benefit from reading a junior school textbook before delving into this tome. As an introduction to definitions and usages it is certainly good value. The comparison of English and American usage is useful as both countries are divided by a common language. I remember being asked by an American why I loved meat. She had taken the word "dear" to mean "love" whereas I had meant "expensive". The same applied when I told the children to walk on the pavement!!!!

This publication will serve as a standard reference book for a long time although for native speakers it is likely to be used sparingly and specifically. They are more likely to rely on their understanding of the verbal language than its grammatical presentation. As it is aimed at those learning English as a second language this should not present a problem. I get the impression some reviewers would have preferred"English for Dummies" rather than this excellent volume for those learning English as a second language. "English for Dummies" is more suited to native speakers, especially those who have never heard of Fowler, Gowers or read third leaders in the Times. Five Stars.
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VINE VOICEon 29 November 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This grammar guide by Cambridge University Press is squarely aimed at speakers of English as a second language; belonging to this category myself, I thought it would be a useful addiction to my reference library.

This is a very comprehensive, yet accessible grammar book. It's in alphabetical order, so there are sections for `Verbs' under V, but also `Look' under `L' to clarify the use of this particular verb. There are useful sections for `Do or Make?' under `D', `Get or Go?' under `G', as well as definitions and examples of clauses and sub-clauses neatly filed under `C'. The serious grammar lovers will not be disappointed - this book does not dumb things down.

When the header (found on top of each page) might be too obscure for some - for instance, `Future Perfect Continuos', it is followed by an example, such as `I will have been working here ten years'. This is a particularly useful feature which makes this guide more accessible to someone with a limited knowledge of grammar terminology. I have just learnt that `It was in June we got married' is a `Cleft Sentence' thanks to this layout.

I would definitely recommend English Grammar Today to advanced students of English as a second language and teachers who need a really clear and easy to use reference guide. It would probably prove useful to a lot of native speakers too...!
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on 29 January 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This was a surprise read because even as a teacher of English to students who are aged 11-16, I found some of it slightly challenging to understand in places. I had hoped to have this a reference in my classroom, instead I know I'll have to use it to refer to rather than share as such. If I had to pass or teach a language course then I'd find a much better use for this. I haven't yet found a use for the CD Rom but it I have that installed for use at work (should I require it). It is a comprehensive gathering of information and extremely useful. I sadly didn't receive teaching in the specifics of how we construct our sentences verablly and in writing but I imagine adults of an older generation would know instantly what some of the terms referred to as they would have been taught it (how I wish I had!). What this means therefore is that I find it difficult at times to locate the explantation of what I'm looking for because I don't know the terminology.
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VINE VOICEon 16 December 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I ordered this as the office pedant and arbiter of grammatical elegance. it's been added to a pile of frequently consulted style guides and indices of modern writing styles and it's yet another thorough source to settle grammatical arguments. It's more of a teaching/teach yourself book and more basic in its instruction ( or rather for the less fluent writer) than most of our pile but useful nonetheless. Our office Canadians and Americans were particularly enthusuastic and the section on British vs US English inspired heated nationalistic argument (and amazement on both sides). TH CD rom is seachable which makes it useful and it's handy to have it on your desk top for quick checking and for people who are increasingly more comfortable searching on screen than thumbing through the book.

I'd still couple this with some contemporary style guides (the economist, the times or Simon heffer's brilliant "Strictly Engish") but this is the all round primer.
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on 12 December 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a great reference book, containing the A-Z of English grammar, including unusual phrases and the right contexts to place them in, as well as common misusage of language. Very useful tool for anyone looking to polish their spoken and written English.
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VINE VOICEon 16 February 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have had Fowler's Modern English Usage on my shelf for years and struggled with it. This book is like a breath of fresh air. Exhaustive in its coverage, this book is aimed primarily at people learning English as a foreign language, but also extremely useful to those of whose mother tongue is English.

As a writer, I have been able to access explanations of what I have understood instinctively, as a native speaker and, importantly, to correct what has become fudged. It is a brilliant book for anyone wanting to write, understand and speak good English.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves
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VINE VOICEon 14 December 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I found this door-stop of a book disappointing, mainly because of the A-Z structure, which is a bit of a hit and miss affair (e.g. nothing on 'split infinitives' , not even as one of the sub-headings under 'Infinitive') and it rather throws the reader in at the deep end. Where to go first? A progressive, themed approach would have been much better. Also, the book is totally devoid of any wit or character, with the 'real examples' tending to be rather boring.
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