ENGL 321 (3 cr): English Grammar and Usage

ENGL 321

Course outline

This course is an introduction to the sentence structure of English and to the use of grammar in various communication situations differing in register, dialect or mode. A characteristic of English grammar is that it is flexible – users can and do adapt grammatical structures according to their communicative requirements. This is true of spoken language ranging from, for instance, everyday informal conversation to formal presentations and in written language from informal uses in notes or text messages to formal papers. The dialect of the speaker or writer affects the grammar, too. By studying numerous examples across more than one regional dialect of contemporary (present-day) English usage, the course explores some of the prominent uses to which grammar can be put.

Grammar is often defined as a set of rules for the use of language. The approach followed in the course is descriptive. This implies that the course teaches how grammar is used in real situations, rather than how some or other authority (like a professor of English language, an institution for the regulation of language, or a prescriptive textbook) prescribes that it should be used. This does not mean that there are no rules in this course; rather that the rules reflect how language users actually tend to use the language.

The English 321 course begins by identifying types of grammatical units, describing their internal structure and relating them to larger structures and determining their meaning in the context in which they occur. The grammatical units are presented as a hierarchy in which each unit is composed of one or more of the units below it in the hierarchy. Words consist of one or more morphemes, phrases consist of one or more words and clauses consist of one or more phrases. The course systematically describes the following levels of grammar: morphology, word classes (or parts of speech), phrase classes and the structure of clauses.

Focus of the course: ENGL 321 is not an advanced remedial course on English proficiency. Although it is likely that understanding grammatical structures and their use better will indirectly benefit students, this is not the primary aim of the course. The focus of the ENGL321 course is on the academic study of English grammar and the ways we use it in different communication situations. Students requiring direct help with improving their academic writing are advised to take one of the writing courses offered by the department of English. A good choice is ENGL 304 (Advanced Composition). Alternatively, students may take courses from the UBC Centre for Writing & Scholarly Communication. UBC Continuing Studies also offers several not-for-credit writing courses of which some are specifically directed at graduate students.

The course consists of 12 lessons, a student journal and three tests. These are arranged thematically across four units: Unit I Introduction (lesson 1); Unit II: The structure of words in sentences (lessons 2 & 3, concluded by Test 1); Unit III: The structure of sentences (lessons 4 – 7, concluded by Test 2); Unit IV: Clauses and beyond (lessons 8 – 12). Units II and III are each concluded by a test, whereas the final exam represents the conclusion to Unit IV as well as a review of the entire course. In each lesson, there are self-testing exercises to complete. There are four required points (one per unit) in the course where a journal entry should be posted to the discussion forum (at the end of lesson 1, lesson 5, lesson 9 and lesson 12).

Course textbooks and materials

Required textbook

  • Börjars, Kersti & Kate Burridge. Introducing English Grammar, 3rd edition. Hodder Education, 2019. ISBN: 9781138635319
  • Leech, Geoffrey, Margaret Deuchar and Robert Hoogenraad. English Grammar for Today: A New Introduction. 2nd ed. Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. ISBN: 9781403916426

Recommended reading

  • Leech, Geoffrey, Benita Cruickshank and Roz Ivanič. An A-Z of English Grammar and Usage. 2nd ed. Harlow: Pearson / Longman, 2001. ISBN 0 582 405742.
  • A comprehensive English dictionary is essential throughout the course. As a UBC student, you have access to the Oxford English Dictionary online. Please use this invaluable resource!

Additional reading

  • Biber, Douglas, Susan Conrad and Geoffrey Leech. Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Longman, 2002.


Answers to the exercises in the prescribed reading (B&B) and additional explanations may be found at www.hodderplus.com/linguistics.

ENGL321 Textbook Order Form

Course assessment and requirements

With the exception of the final exam, all assessment and assignments are online. Each student will be required to participate in all online discussions as specified in the course. Evaluation will be as follows:

Exercises 10%
Language journal entries 1-4 (2.5% each) 10%
Tests 1 & 2 (25% each) 50%
Final exam 30%