Cambridge ESL embarrasses itself once again with the recent publication of Ron Cowan's The Teacher's Grammar of English. I've already pointed out what a mess Carter and McCarthy's Cambridge Grammar of English: A comprehensive guide is. If you missed it, you can get a summary here.
I received my copy of TGE on Monday, and having gone through 8 of the 26 chapters, plus skimming many of the others, I am very disappointed to say that it is simply terrible.
Over the next little while, I'll be posting specific critiques, so if you're interested in all the morbid details, you can watch the carnage from the sidelines. You can even participate by adding comments if you ask Cambridge to send you an inspection copy. Don't bother buying a copy though.
I'll just present a few examples here of the problems:
The first three chapters are introductory and the author suggests that many teacher training courses might wish to skip them. Chapter four, then, is entitled 'Questions'. Before reading it, I wondered how you could talk about a complicated syntactic structure like questions (of which there are many kinds) without first considering relevant issues such as tense, auxiliary verbs, and differences between pronouns (who, what), determiners (what, which), prepositions (where, when), and adverbs (why, how). After reading it, I still had the same questions. I understand that in grammar many things are interconnected and you will run into problems whatever you start with, but beginning with questions seems to me to be a particularly odd choice.
Not that it gets better. Here's the remaining table of contents by chapter
6 Imperative sentences
7 Nonreferential it and there
9 Multiword Verbs
12 Adjectives and Adverbs
14 Modal verbs
15 Indirect Objects
16 Tense and Aspect
17 Passive sentences
18 Relative Clauses
19 Conditional Sentences
20 Subject clauses and related structures
22 Focus Structures
23 Adverbial Subordinate Clauses
24 Comparatives and Superlatives
26 Discourse Connectors and Discourse Markers
This makes no sense to me, but if you can divine any logical order from it, I'll be pleased to hear it.
I'll leave you with one more tidbit: The glossary includes entries for achievement verbs and accomplishment verbs, for telic and atelic verbs, and for ergative verbs, none of which strikes me as being particularly helpful distinctions. On the other hand, it has no entries for more basic terms such as part of speech or linking verb. Nor does it have an entry for an equivalent term. In fact, as far as I can tell, it doesn't even discuss the fact that some verbs take adjectives as predicate complements and some don't.
I really wanted this to be a good book. I'm not taking any pleasure in ripping it apart. None at all. I'd much rather find that a book has been the result of a good deal of careful thought, planning, and research. If you look at my review of the new Oxford Learner's Thesaurus, you'll see that I happily give praise where praise is due. Unfortunately, now all sorts of future teachers are going to be indoctrinated into this very confused grammar and then they're going to go out and try to convey it to their poor learners.