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Cluttered and inadequate
on 15 June 2009
The demand for an advanced grammar to complement the Murphy grammar series, which is established as standard, had been growing for years at the time "Advanced Grammar in Use" appeared. As its copycat name suggests, it set out to continue where Murphy finishes, even continuing with the same format (explanations on the left, two drills and an excercise on the right).
Any attempt to provide an advanced English grammar book will be a daunting task, mainly because a large part of English grammar is not proscriptive (as in der/die/das in German for example) but a matter of shades in meaning, as in the difference between I will have/shall have/will be having/shall be having/going to have/going to be having. This is extremely difficult to "teach" in a book and the key in any exercises is highly problematic, since in English at an advanced level, the right solution is often largerly dependent on a context and intention which requires considerable explanation. The format successfully used in the standard Murphy is inadequate for advanced English exercises and a glance at the book should make it clear that there is too much material for the simple Murpohy format. The book creaks and groans with too much text. That Hewings chose to use the Murphy format (or was he urged to do so by his publisher?) looks suspiciously like laziness-the appearance of this book is very dull and uninviting.
There is not enough space in amazon to cover all that is bad about this book but here are some serious failings:
1) Cluttered, uninviting appearance (see above)
2) A failure to stress the relative frequency of usages. Eg on page 32 the use of will in the relatively unusual and somewhat old fashioned sense of characteristic behaviour, with the example "Dan will come home from work and turn on the tv" and uses of the future continuous on page 22 with no indication of the importance of understanding the very frequent use of the future continuous compared to the relatively unimportant meaning of characteristic behaviour
3) The six future forms are not presented together in one exercise. The writer ducks the difficutlties of such an exercise (which is however exactly what an advanced learner needs)and instead just offers a will/going to exercise and present simple versus continuous in the future and future continuous and future perfect (this hardly offers a challenge to a good intermediate student, let alone advanced student).
4) The "Index of lexical items" lists page numbers with no explanation of what function of a word is being referred to eg under "need" we find page references 38,46,130,194,204,208,221. The index/contents are badly organized and tiresome to use.
5) There is no space given to controversial areas, or areas where popular usage completely replaces what is arguably grammatically correct -eg this is me/this is I
6) The poorly managed index lists neither the word "gerund" nor "infinitive" ! To find gerunds and infinitives we have to go to the Contents ( Verb + ing forms and infinitives) The gerund versus infinitive problem only merits two units-and this one of the most difficult areas of advanced English grammar!
This book does make a number of observations which may make it worth dipping into from time to time, but even where it provides such (eg with some and any) it misses important points (eg the use of "any" in affirmative sentences-"you can call me any time"-"anything you say governor!").
The book is selling well because there is a huge demand for advanced English grammar exercises. I bought this book myself and wish I hadn't-I haven't used the exercises for pracical work once yet with any of my classes. I shall just have to keep using my own exercises. I strongly advise any trainer to continue to make their own exercises and explanations if they can. Only a student without a trainer might find this book useful and I am sure most will and are waiting for something better to come out.