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Grammar Safari


Students of English who limit their study of grammar to what they find in grammar books are like naturalists who limit their study of nature to an encyclopedia. Once you leave the safe confines of the grammar books, you begin to learn all kinds of interesting things about the way English is used. It isn't easy; in fact, it's a jungle out there.

Grammar books tend to make things fairly simple and there is some value in that. Nevertheless, for the serious student of English, it's worthwhile also to broaden your horizons and explore the jungle out in the real world. The Internet is an excellent place to begin experiencing English as it occurs in its natural surroundings--not only are there millions of English texts readily available, but also most of them can be electronically searched for those elusive yet fascinating English grammar structures.

The "grammar safari" activities here are suggestions for "hunting" and "collecting" EXAMPLES of specific words as they are used in documents accessible to anyone on the Internet -- a vast, ever-growing, always up-to-date "corpus" of language ranging over an inexhaustible range of topics, geographic areas, and users.

Going on a Grammar Safari does NOT:

Going on a Grammar Safari DOES:

Hunting "COMMON" Grammatical Structures using the Find Function

Below is a list of possible starting points for searching for common structures (articles, prepositions, coordinating and subordinating conjunctions, gerunds, infinitives, verb tenses, etc.). This will involve using the find capabilities of your browser program to search a document you are looking at. Here are two examples of how to do this kind of search:

Here is a list of available online texts--there are others, but this can get you started.

Hunting "EXOTIC" Grammatical Structures using Search Engines

On the Grammar Safari search page you will find a list of possible starting points for searching for grammatical structures that can be found by looking for less common key words (use of specific words, transitions, etc.) These searches use search engines available on the WWW. These search engines are designed to locate information based on topics and so typically eliminate common function words from their databases. Nevertheless, with some experimentation, you may find ways to trick them into finding grammatical structures that you're looking for. Here is one examples of how to do this kind of search:

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Suggestions for what to do after your Grammar Safari

In order to benefit from going on a Grammar Safari, you must DO SOMETHING with your examples. What you do with them is up to you.
Here are two approaches we suggest for hunting grammatical structures on the internet. The approach you choose will mostly be determined by the "game" you're after. This is a beginner's guide--as you work on it you will no doubt find new tricks of your own that you prefer. That's fine. These are just some ideas to get you started.

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Common Hunt | Exotic Hunt | Texts |Suggestions