About the Study of Grammar
I have been told by more than one bookseller that, here in China, so far as books on English are concerned1, grammars sell better than other kinds of books except readers2 and dictionaries. And it seems to me that nearly every Chinese who learns English at all reads a grammar. I myself am a serious student of grammar; I have read I cannot tell how many English grammar books, by Chinese, English, American, Japanese, Danish and Dutch authors, and am always on the look-out for new ones3.
The object of this article, however, is to advise you not to devote too much time to the study of grammar. I study grammar for grammar’s sake4, but I do not think every student of English should do so. You study English in order to be able to make practical use of it. This object is not to be attained by mere study of grammar. I do not even think I should now be able to write such simple English as that of this book if I had read nothing but grammars.
Grammar tells you some general rules, some exceptions to rules, and perhaps some idioms. But the correct use of English is not a mere matter of such5. For example, grammar has what is called the double object, as in “He gave her a pen”; but it would be wrong to say “He introduced her a friend”, in which “her” and “friend” seem to form the double object. The fact is that “introduce” cannot take the double object; but this point is not to be learnt from grammar but only from careful reading. Many Chinese students write sentences that might be justified6 by one grammatical rule or another but are certainly wrong.
语法告诉你一些规则、一些例外，也许还有一些习语。可是英语的正确使用不仅仅关于这些东西。举例来说，语法中有叫作双宾语的东西，例如在“He gave her a pen.”这句中；但是如果说“He introduced her a friend.”（这句中“her”和“friend”好像构成双宾语）就错了。事实是这样的：“introduce”不能带双宾语；但是这一点不能从语法中学到，只能从仔细的阅读中学到。许多中国的学习者写出可能被某条语法规则证明为对的，但事实上肯定是错的句子。
I believe you have already read a few grammars, and probably have spent a great deal of time on the subject, though you may not now be able to write anything—say7 a short letter—grammatically perfect. Grammar may help you to use English, but only to a certain extent8. Do not look on the study of grammar as9 all or nearly all that you have to do in order to master English. Careful reading and constant practice are far more important.
- as far as books on English are concerned 就论述英语的书而论
- readers 读本
- new ones=new grammar books
- study grammar for grammar’s sake 为语法而读语法
- such=general rules, exceptions, and idioms.
- justified 视为正当
- say 例如
- to a certain extent 到某种程度
- look on … as … 把……看作……