Murphy is Still the Answer to a Teacher’s Prayer

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We do not call ‘the Doctor Johnson’.

Wayne Trotman looks at the latest English Grammar in Use

ENGLISH GRAMMAR IN USE 5TH EDITION Edited by Raymond Murphy Cambridge University Press 978-1-108-45768-2

Now into its fifth edition (the first was back in 1985), the only language teachers who have never heard of or used this bestselling grammar book are probably those in their very early years in our profession. As either an extension to a central coursebook, in use on summer schools or for mid-term exam-related grammar study, it generally goes under the sobriquet of ‘EGU’, spoken of either as an acronym or spelt out. I’ve even heard it referred to in staff rooms as ‘The Murphy’. So now you know!

In essence, EGU is a self-study reference and practice book for intermediate level learners; it can be purchased with or without an answer-key (my copy was without). It can be used for immediate consolidation, for later review or even remedial work. And, as it may also be used either by the whole class or individual students, if it’s not the answer to the busy language teachers’ prayers, it must be pretty high on the list.

EGU contains 145 units, each concentrating on a particular grammar point, although problematic items, such as the present perfect and articles, are covered in more than one unit. Units are helpfully organised in grammatical categories, such as Present and past, and Articles and nouns. Each is concisely spread over two facing pages; explanations and examples appear on the left, exercises on the right. It’s important to note that the layout of EGU is not based on increasing levels of difficulty, thus users need to be flexible and selective, basing their choices on immediate needs.

“… if it’s not the answer to the busy language teachers’ prayers, it must 
be pretty high on the list.”

Taking just one unit as an example, unit 77 on Names with and without the, on pages 154-155, is where we learn firstly how we say ‘Africa’, but ‘the Czech Republic’, and how we call ‘the doctor’, but we do not call ‘the Doctor Johnson’. We also learn that seas and oceans, groups of islands and mountain ranges take the. On the facing page, three lengthy true/false, error-correction and world geography tasks help to consolidate these points.

EGU is by no means a brief grammar guide, either. Following the 145 units are seven Appendices (pages 292-301) which include a list of over 150 irregular verbs, and further work on items such as modals, short forms and spelling, plus a list of explanations of the grammatical differences between British and American English. (Did you know that in American English the use of shall in question form is unusual? The tendency is to use should). Following this are over twenty pages of additional exercises, many of which are enhanced by colour drawings that provide context for work on various tenses. Each would be ideal as homework or for keeping early finishers on task.

The differences between this fifth edition and the fourth are that much of the material has been revised and reorganised; keen-eyed users in your staffroom will, I’m sure, be only too happy to indicate the updates. An ebook is also now available, with all the contents of the EGU, along with audio files and dictionary access. To be frank, what more could we wish for!Library

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