We all studied it at school, but can you still remember your adverb from your adjective when your children ask for help with their homework or you’re struggling with the phrase book you bought for your latest holiday?

If your recollection of the basic grammar building blocks for learning language is a bit on the rusty side, then it is worthwhile taking another look at it if you’re serious about learning foreign languages yourself or helping your child.

Being familiar with the basics is not going to make you fluent in your choice of language overnight but, it will help you enormously when it comes to understanding what needs to be learnt and being aware of the various elements of sentences when you’re trying to build them in unfamiliar sequences.

It’s also useful to bear in mind that you don’t need to remember absolutely everything or have a PHD in Languages to get by. There are the basics and then a few “must have” basics and once you have a grasp of them the majority of mankind can “get by” without the rest.

The table below outlines these “must have” basics that you are almost certain to need when it comes to learning foreign languages. There are also some simple definitions and examples to jog school day memories.





A noun names a person, place or a thing be it tangible, i.e., the moon, or intangible, i.e., anger

London, Dave, Anger, Pen


Substitutes a noun in a sentence

I, You, He, She, It, They, We


A “doing” or “action” word, verbs are things we do.

Run, Jump, Pay, Hide


Describes a Noun

Beautiful, Creative, Funny


Describes a verb, adjective or fellow adverb

Hurriedly, quickly, arguably


Relates a noun or pronoun to other words in the sentence

In, or, at, against, over, under


Connects clauses, words or phrases

And, Or, But, Nor, However


Specifies nouns

A, An, The

Now this list is very english. Once you branch out into other languages, you’re also looking a horrid things such as “cases” and “declension” which you will need to get to grips with on a language by language basis.

As well as understanding these basics, it’s also practical to stay conscious of the fact that we use many words in many ways. To be specific, let’s look at the word love. It is a noun in the sentence “what is love?”, a verb in “love thy neighbour” or an adjective that modifies the noun affair in “her love affair with her assistant didn’t last long”. In each of these cases, the word is the same but its role has changed dependent on how it's used. Given this, it’s important to remember, that you can’t just put a label on a new word you’re learning and leave it at that, you have to aware of how to use it.

It is impossible to summarise all the elements of language grammar in one go however, arming yourself with the ones on the table above will help considerably in the initial stages of learning foreign languages and more are available if you need them. The important thing is to stay focused on what you really need to communicate effectively and leave the rest to the Language Professors.