English Grammar Boot Camp

Rated 1 out of 5 by from This lecture does not bear the correct title. The title of this course, English Grammar Boot Camp, suggests that the lectures would seek to provide information about grammar. They do not. Rather, the lectures seek to inform the listener of the professor's sociopolitical views. The proper title would be English Professor Virtue Signals and Apologizes for Being Educated.
Date published: 2020-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well done! A thoughtful presentation of many issues in contemporary English grammar.
Date published: 2020-10-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Interesting course, but isn't a boot camp. The presenter is a very good speaker, and it's very interesting to listen to her lectures. She is clearly very passionate and very knowledgeable about the field. However I came here to improve my grammar, and instead learnt about how English evolved and continues to evolve. This course does not live up to its name, and though it's not a bad or boring course, you will not learn proper uses of grammar here. This is more of a history lesson.
Date published: 2020-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best course Actually got the audio over a year ago, but liked it so much, I decided to listen again, this time with video. This is one of my favorites of all the Great Courses, and even the best of all the Anne Curzan courses you have so far. You should get her to do more courses! She is factual, goes into reasonable depth, has a sense of humor, and generally makes all language issues fascinating, even grammer.
Date published: 2020-09-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I bought this a couple of weeks ago and it is not what I expected. I have other courses and they are amazing. I need to return this course.
Date published: 2020-08-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not an actual boot camp It doesn't covers the basic grammar. Little bit intermediate and more about how the language derived
Date published: 2020-08-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not a boot camp but still okay I hate to rate this lecture series down, because the professor seems like a nice person and she is very engaging. However, I have a few problems with the series. It isn't really a boot camp. I was looking for a straightforward review of prescriptive grammar rules (for standard English), not a history lesson on why we shouldn't be too judgmental about somebody's bad grammar. She would talk about relatively advanced grammar concepts without really providing enough context for the audience. I found myself pausing and researching the grammar terms so I understood what she was talking about. For example: she discussed nonrestrictive and restrictive relative clauses when she was unpacking that v. which, but she never explained particularly well the difference between the two types of clauses. The professor's explanations for why some usage is acceptable even if technically incorrect was irritating at times, because it was so random. On the upside, I did enjoy the lectures and learned a few things even if it wasn't quite what I needed. I would love another Great Courses series on grammar rules that might provide the foundational lessons that this series lacked.
Date published: 2020-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Grammar Boot Camp I have learned and felt so much confidence in English grammar since attending English Grammar Boot Camp.
Date published: 2020-07-21
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English Grammar Boot Camp
Course Trailer
Why Do We Care about Grammar?
1: Why Do We Care about Grammar?

First, examine how we judge what is acceptable or unacceptable in English, and how we distinguish "acceptable" from "stylistically preferable." Consider how grammar often takes on larger meanings related to education and culture. Grasp how understanding the differences and diversity within our language allows us to become more nuanced speakers and writers....

33 min
Prescriptivism: Grammar Shoulds and Shouldn'ts
2: Prescriptivism: Grammar Shoulds and Shouldn'ts

Here, investigate prescriptive grammar: the set of rules that tell us what we should and shouldn't do in formal English. Trace the history of specific grammatical rules and of academic usage guides, and note how such guides justify "right" vs. "wrong." Learn about historically famous grammarians, whose opinions about usage still influence us today.

31 min
Descriptivism: How Grammar Really Works
3: Descriptivism: How Grammar Really Works

Now dive into descriptive grammar: the rules that describe actual usage. In examples ranging from contractions to word order and negation, observe the wealth of grammatical knowledge that you know intuitively. Consider how comparing the descriptive with the prescriptive can help you make more informed choices about usage.

32 min
Re Phrasing
4: Re Phrasing

This lecture looks at how we define and categorize words into parts of speech, and considers the fascinating ways in which words expand or move into new categories. Study how we characterize nouns, verbs, adverbs, and their syntax, and delineate the difference between a phrase, a clause, and a sentence.

29 min
Fewer Octopuses or Less Octopi?
5: Fewer Octopuses or Less Octopi?

Investigate countable and uncountable nouns, and learn the details of how we use them with modifiers such as "fewer" and "less." Then delve into irregular plurals in English, observing the variety of ways they are formed. Finally, learn about collective nouns and the question of subject-verb agreement, as in, "there's/there are a few reasons."

31 min
Between You and Your Pronouns
6: Between You and Your Pronouns

Enter the world of pronouns, beginning with personal pronouns and the complications that arise around conjoined constructions (e.g., "you and me"). Then take on interrogative pronouns-including when to use "who" vs. "whom"-and indefinite pronouns (such as "none"), asking questions such as whether "none" can be both singular and plural.

33 min
Which Hunting
7: Which Hunting

Confront the often-confusing question of when to use "that" as opposed to "which." Study the most commonly applied rules governing these relative pronouns, and hear opinions on the subject from notable grammarians. Also learn about clauses in which relative pronouns disappear, and consider the use of relative pronouns with animate beings vs. inanimate objects....

29 min
A(n) Historical Issue
8: A(n) Historical Issue

Determiners are small words (such as "an," "this," "each," or "many") that introduce nouns and create noun phrases. Learn their key functions in English, and see how determiners are different from adjectives and pronouns. Then investigate the history of capitalization in English, current capitalization practice, and the curious history of the capitalized pronoun "I."

30 min
Funnest Lecture Ever
9: Funnest Lecture Ever

Adjectives, in multiple incarnations, form the focus of this lecture. Study the ways we turn adjectives into comparatives and superlatives, and review the much-criticized issue of double comparatives. Look also at adjectives that change meanings depending on where they appear in a sentence, as well as noun phrases in which the adjective, uncharacteristically, appears after the noun....

30 min
Going, Going, Went
10: Going, Going, Went

In the realm of verbs, begin by clarifying past tense vs. past participle, and note how new irregularities creep into the verb spectrum. Explore one of the most eternal of usage errors: that of "lie" vs. "lay." Study verb tenses and aspects (progressive or perfect), and investigate irregular past participles....

32 min
Object Lessons
11: Object Lessons

Examine how we categorize verbs based on how they function within the sentence. Along the way, grapple with thorny usage issues, such as whether you feel "bad" or "badly," and the "it is me/I" conundrum. Explore how verbs work with or without objects (the transitive/intransitive distinction), and learn about complex transitive verbs....

29 min
Shall We?
12: Shall We?

Continue with the category of auxiliary (helping) verbs, beginning with the familiar usage issue of "can" vs. "may." Then study the workings of modal auxiliary verbs (such as "might," "must," and "shall"), the primary helping verbs of "be," "have," and "do," and the ongoing controversy over the most notorious of auxiliary verbs: "ain't."...

35 min
Passive Voice Was Corrected
13: Passive Voice Was Corrected

Explore the use of the often-criticized passive voice, beginning with a clear definition of what distinguishes the passive voice from the active. Consider the benefits of the passive voice for situations in which responsibility for an action is unclear, for maintaining continuity in writing, and for scientific writing in which the narrative requires objectivity....

32 min
Only Adverbs
14: Only Adverbs

Discover the rich world of adverbs, as they modify not only verbs, but also adjectives, other adverbs, clauses, and sentences. Investigate intensifiers (such as "very," "surely," and "possibly"), which can either strengthen or hedge statements, and study the subtleties of "flat" adverbs-adverbs that have the same form as their adjective counterparts....

33 min
No Ifs, Ands, or Buts
15: No Ifs, Ands, or Buts

Begin this immersion in conjunctions with the controversy surrounding sentences that begin with conjunctions (such as "And furthermore..."). Review the functions of coordinating conjunctions ("and," "but," "yet"), subordinating conjunctions ("if," "because," "unless"), and contested uses of the conjunction "plus." Chart the rise of an unusual new coordinator in colloquial use: the word "slash."...

33 min
However to Use However
16: However to Use However

Conjunctive adverbs (such as "thus," "consequently," or "moreover") conjoin two clauses. Identify the range of conjunctive adverbs and their significant benefits in formal writing. Then explore notable usage issues such as those concerning "however," "more important" vs. "more importantly," and forms such as "firstly" and "thusly," which reflect changes in language style and taste....

27 min
Squirrels and Prepositions
17: Squirrels and Prepositions

Among the fine points of prepositions, unpack the issue of "different from" vs. "different than." Grasp how prepositions show relationships between words, often giving information about time or location. With this understanding, grapple with controversies such as "between" vs. "among" and "toward" vs. "towards," and investigate a startling contemporary change with the word "because."...

31 min
Stranded Prepositions
18: Stranded Prepositions

Is it incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition? Trace the origins of this idea, and see how the practice came to be viewed as "bad" usage. Consider the views of 20th-century commentators, and note specific cases where "stranding" the preposition can add elegance and stylistic punch to writing....

27 min
The Dangers of Danglers
19: The Dangers of Danglers

Look closely at dangling modifiers, which are words or phrases that appear to modify something other than what was intended (e.g., "Glancing through the document, the typos jumped off the page."). Investigate a variety of danglers, including some that have become accepted in formal writing, and consider their implications for both spoken and written expression....

31 min
Navigating the Choppy Paragraph
20: Navigating the Choppy Paragraph

Learn how to make your prose writing flow and avoid choppiness through key syntactic choices. Study the known-new contract, a principle for presenting information by placing known information before new information, sentence to sentence. Examine three different ways to use this principle, and look at how to present information clearly in scientific writing....

32 min
What Part of Speech is Um?
21: What Part of Speech is Um?

Within the grammar of conversation, study the distinction between involved discourse, which relates to negotiating relationships, and informational discourse, which involves delivering information. Then grasp the important roles of discourse markers, small words such as "so," "well," and "oh," that help organize discourse and manage our expectations in conversation....

34 min
Duck, Duck, Comma, and Duck
22: Duck, Duck, Comma, and Duck

Punctuation acts as a fundamental component of written usage. It shapes and clarifies meaning, and it organizes language on the page. Review the modern rules regarding the punctuation marks that structure sentences: commas, semicolons, colons, and dashes. Highlight core uses of commas, and consider how punctuation follows different rules in texting....

33 min
Its/It's Confusing
23: Its/It's Confusing

Apostrophes present multiple usage issues. Examine how we use them with contractions and possessives, noting the problems involved with nouns ending in "s". Explore how apostrophe usage can create and alleviate ambiguity. Consider exceptions to "standard" use of the apostrophe, and think about what the future of the apostrophe may be....

31 min
Trending Language
24: Trending Language

Examine some new grammatical expressions that are on the rise, and explore the controversy they ignite within the linguistic community. Remember that English usage is a living process, and language must respond to its audience and context, adapting as necessary to fit new conditions. Conclude by considering changes to watch for in our language....

34 min
Anne Curzan

I love this chance to share my passion for exploring the history of language and the dynamics of everyday talk. It allows us to see and hear the language around us in entirely new ways.


University of Michigan


University of Michigan

About Anne Curzan

Dr. Anne Curzan is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of English at the University of Michigan. She earned a B.A. in Linguistics from Yale University and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan. Professor Curzan has won several awards for teaching, including the University of Michigan's Henry Russel Award, the Faculty Recognition Award, and the John Dewey Award. Her research interests include the history of English, language and gender, corpus linguistics, historical sociolinguistics, pedagogy, and lexicography. In addition to writing numerous articles, reviews, and edited volumes, Professor Curzan is the author of Gender Shifts in the History of English and the coauthor of How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction and First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student's Guide to Teaching. Beyond her teaching and research interests, she is a member of the American Dialect Society and sits on the usage panel for the American Heritage Dictionary. She can also be found talking about language in her column, Talking About Words, in Michigan Today and on the segment, That's What They Say, on Michigan Radio.

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