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‘Doing grammar’ in EAP




Julie Moore, part of the writing team for the new Oxford EAP series, looks at what we mean by ‘grammar’ when we’re teaching on an academic English (EAP) course.  Julie will be hosting a webinar entitled ‘Teaching academic grammar’ on 25th July.

In a recent discussion on Twitter, someone posted the following comment:

“EAP doesn’t use particularly complex grammar, it just uses specific language more frequently than general English.”

This was met by a flurry of responses from other EAP teachers giving examples of grammatical forms that their students regularly struggle with! It does raise an interesting question though about what we define as ‘grammar’ in an academic English context.

It is true that you wouldn’t expect to find an EAP syllabus focused around basic grammatical structures or working its way through the verb tenses in the same way that you might in a general ELT course. Teaching academic English tends to focus more around skills: reading academic texts, writing essays, participating in seminar discussions, etc. There is an assumption that by the time a student has reached the point of specializing in academic English, they should have already grasped the basics of English grammar.  That’s not to say, though, that there aren’t grammatical forms and structures that are specific to academic English and that need to be learnt in order to put those skills, especially writing skills, into practice successfully.

If you look at an analysis of grammatical forms and structures used across genres in English, you will often find everyday conversation at one end of the scale and academic prose at the opposite end. Academic writing has the highest proportion of nouns, the highest frequency of passive verbs, the fewest imperatives, the lowest concentration of personal pronouns. So for a student moving from a general English course, heavily focused around everyday communication, to an academic English class, ‘grammar’ is less about learning completely new structures and more about focusing on the specific differences in usage in the new genre they are hoping to master.

In my webinar, I’ll talk about what some of those differences are, how we can highlight them to our students and how we can ‘do grammar’ within a skills-based EAP syllabus.

Click here to watch a recording of the webinar: Approaches to EAP: Teaching Academic Grammar.


  1. You have two times listed for the webinar. Can you please tell me what these equivalents are for Eastern Standard Time, USA?

    • Hi Thomas, this webinar takes place twice on 25th July: once at 10-11am UK BST time (which is 5am – 6am Eastern Daylight time) and again at 3:30 – 4:30pm UK BST time (which is 10:30 – 11:30 Eastern Daylight time). Hope that helps, but if you have any more queries just email us on [email protected]. Thanks!

  2. I’ve found, as an EAP Writing and Grammar teacher, that students often struggle more with Academic Grammar, especially students coming from an ESL or EFL background.
    I think the hardest concept for students to grasp is nuanced language (perhaps because its one of the hardest to teach!) – -including modals and politically correct language

    I’m looking forward to the upcoming webinar.

    • Absolutely Danielle, ‘grammar’ in EAP is less about learning to form correct constructions and more about knowing what language (grammar and vocabulary) to use to convey those nuances of language so vital in academic writing.

      I spoke a little about ‘politically correct’ language in my last webinar about EAP vocabulary and I’ll be talking about modals and hedging in this one.

      Thanks for your comment and I’ll look forward to ‘seeing’ you in the webinar.

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