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Practical English Usage 3rd Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 127 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0194420990
ISBN-10: 019442099X
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael Swan is a writer specializing in English language teaching and reference materials. His interests include pedagogic grammar, mother-tongue influence in second language acquisition, and the relationship between applied linguistic theory and classroom language-teaching practice, and he has published a number of articles on these topics. Michael has had extensive experience with adult learners and has worked with teachers in many countries. He is a Visiting Professor at St Mary's College, University of Surrey.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 658 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 3 edition (November 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019442099X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0194420990
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.5 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #590,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Margaret M. Frye on May 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
As I was preparing to take the TEFL course to teach abroad and inquiring about the different books that the school was suggesting, I was told simply by my son who is also a teacher and the statement was confirmed by both my instructors, "just buy Swan, it's the bible and it's all you need". Practical English Usage is just that. For whatever reason Michael Swan decided to write this book, we are forever grateful.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a native English teacher in a non-English speaking country and Practical English Usage has quickly become my go-to resource for researching grammatical issues. Browsing this easy-to-read grammar guide has also helped to inspire new topics for my ESL lessons. Written in plain English without extensive grammatical jargon, the book is an easy read and the organization makes it simple to browse any given topic. Specific words and phrases are indexed separately, so the reader can research a broad topic like adverb particles or find a specific phrase like "find out" in the index and read about it in an article on the word "know". I imagine Practical English Usage would also be extremely useful to an advanced student of English as a foreign or second language, though the organization and diversity of topics might overwhelm intermediate students.

As a guide to practical usage rather than rules of grammar, incorrect usages that have fallen into common use are typically described as "informal" rather than "incorrect"; likewise, the grammatically correct form is typically described as "formal" or "very formal English". This may annoy militant grammarians but should please writers and teachers less inclined to attack split infinitives or sentences ending with prepositions. (Those who wish to wage war over these usages will find ample rules of engagement, however.) Practical English Usage also includes practical topics such as the truncated grammar of newspaper headlines, the standard form of a business letter and even a brief mention of mobile texting conventions.

My two minor complaints: first, the avoidance of grammar jargon in the organization of the book can take some time to adapt to.
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Format: Hardcover
I used an earlier edition of this book in China about fourteen years ago to learn English. Practical English Usage is written in such simple English that I was able to read and benefit from it with merely a lower-intermediate grasp of the language then. I found it encouraging as a language learner to be able to read and study the English language in English, parting with my native language for the first time. I remember that I was always able to find corresponding entries to words that I found difficult to differentiate. In short, I consider this book indispensable to learners of the English language.

The volume I used fifteen years has since followed me to Singapore and eventually to the United States. Although I, having developed proficiency in the language, no longer use the book, I still hold much respect for it. I have used quite a lot of ESL books and Swan's work easily falls into my top-three list.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What I like about this book:

For anyone learning English as a Second Language, or anyone who has to teach it, this book is indispensable. It covers issues of usage, not grammar (eg: When is the present perfect tense used, not how to form it.) It is designed for international students etc. as can be seen in the entries on 'false friends' like 'sympathetic' with reference to other European languages. I love the way Swan deals with language as it is actually used (he weighs in on the who/whom debate by giving details on what people do say, rather than what they ought. Other good features include a list of swear-words with a rating to help give an indication of their strength. As a native English speaker, I too have found this book very useful (it is slowly teaching me the monstrous spelling rule and irregularities of the English language).

What I dislike about this book:

Can't fault it. Perhaps the SMS abbreviations are quite dated even a couple of years on. But documenting in print youth abbreviations in Email/SMS etc. are a problem with no solution.

Where to from here:

'Practical' 'English' Usage'. It does everything it says on the box, and does it well. If that is what you need, this is the book you need.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am not a native English speaker, and so I admit the book is a little bit advance in some level. However, it reminds me of lots of common mistake I made and how to correct it. It is a big book and not easy to read through. It is not very easy to pinpoint a particular page to read for some of my questions. Yet, I didn't regret buying it!
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Format: Hardcover
Swan's "Practical English Usage" is a staple book that should be in pretty much any resource collection. The book is arranged in sections that give brief introductions to a huge range of grammatical forms, their functions and a host of other information.

The sections are replete with examples to illustrate the point that Swan is making. The language is very accessible and I have used this book as a rescue resource for difficult questions asked by students.

Perhaps one point, as mentioned by another reviewer, is that the information on each element is not extensive. However, considering that the book weighs in at "hefty" and covers a huge range of things, this is not surprising. One could easily justify supplementing it with another grammar book or two in order to get that comprehensiveness.

However, for everyday teaching purposes, "Practical English Usage" is a mainstay and a fantastic resource.
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