I heard once that the way English grammar was taught as school was rooted in Latin and it wasn't a correct approach for a number of reason ?

This was a long time ago, so I cannot remember the details.

  • Could someone tell me if this is correct ?
  • Are there any references or books I can read ?
  • Are there English learning resources following this approach ?

EDIT: I think I heard about it in this forum. By the way, I found a quote:

It is one thing to adopt the grammatical labels (e.g. “noun,” “verb”) to categorize words in English sentences; it is quite another thing to go on to claim that the structure of English sentences should be like the structure of sentences in Latin. That was an approach taken by a number of influential grammarians, mainly in eighteenth-century England, who set out rules for the “proper” use of English. This view of grammar as a set of rules for the proper use of a language is still to be found today

Source: George Yule. "The Study of Language"

  • Views on what counts as a "correct approach" to teaching a language vary wildly; is there a particular criterion you're interested in here?
    – Draconis
    Oct 8, 2020 at 21:19
  • Thank you, @Draconis, I would like to know what teaching approach/es are more "natural" or perhaps closer to English structure.
    – F. Zer
    Oct 8, 2020 at 21:22
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    It is certainly true that the traditional approach to grammar in Western Europe is based on Latin grammar, and that recent approaches are very different, for example in the parts of speech that they acknowledge, or what they count as tenses.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 8, 2020 at 21:24
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    While not the main focus of the book, the issue is discussed very readably in later chapters of David Crystal's The Fight for English.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 8, 2020 at 21:28
  • 4
    One example (out of my head): Words like on, at, from, behind, are called "prepositions" (from Latin praepositus, "placed before"). They normally precede the noun or noun phrase they govern, in English or Latin, eg in mensa = "on the table". But English allows them to be dislocated in some contexts, eg Which is the table you put it on? That Latin doesn't allow this is the justification (if not the reason) for grammarians two hundred years ago declaring that such constructions are "bad grammar".
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 8, 2020 at 21:35

1 Answer 1


First, teaching practices vary wildly in the English speaking world. In the US, there is generally very little instruction in English grammar (for native speakers). Practices change: in the 60's there was some grammar instruction. 100+ years ago, there was more (and different grammar instruction). But it is true that grammar was part of the traditional trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric), within the classical education approach. The "classical" approach to grammar lasted over 500 years, but of course in the really olden days, they would not have taught English at all, they would have taught Latin. This page gives an outline of the history of teaching English grammar. Samuel Johnson's 1812 A Grammar of the English Tongue is an example of the Latin approach, where the categories of Latin grammar are laid out, and given the semantically corresponding English forms. Although he puts English equivalents of Latin labels like nominative, ablative, dative, vocative off to the side, he clearly is not claiming that English has the Latin case system, instead we have prepositions, except perhaps a genitive case (apostrophe-s). Despite exploiting existing familiar Latin structural concepts, Johnson's work is really "English grammar", not "Latin grammar pressed on top of English language". You might compare this to John Wallis' Grammatica linguae Anglicanae, which more follows the scholastic model and is more Latinish (apart from actually being in Latin).

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