grammar!

I tutor an eighth grader once a week. Last week she needed me to help her with identifying whether an infinitive phrase functions as an adverb, adjective, or noun. I was having a difficult time helping her with this! I was so frustrated and humiliated; I mean, for goodness sake, I’m a writer. Do I need to know this stuff? I mean, really! Does a writer need to know all the grammar rules? That’s exactly what I googled: does a writer need to know all the grammar rules?

I came across several blogs that addressed this question and the responses were diverse. Some people said “Yes, absolutely!” But there were others that felt the same way I do, that knowing the basics is essential,  but beyond that it is not necessary. An interesting response on a blog site came from a woman who holds a degree in English Lit and had a successful career in marketing and advertising. Her name is Annie, and her response to the question ” Do writers need to know all the grammar rules?” went like this. “Yes and no. I think you need to know the basics. Not so much beyond that. Gerunds and future-paraphastic-whatever things? I have a degree in English Lit, had a successful career in marketing/advertising, and never needed any of that.”

A site “Learn English Grammar Intuitively” says: “Most native speakers do not know grammar rules. Ask an American, “what is the past perfect tense” and most will not know. But, of course, they use the past perfect tense correctly every day.”

I know I am a strong writer and when I struggle with identifying whether an infinitive phrase functions as an adverb, adjective, or noun, I feel diminished and embarrassed. But then again,  do I need to know this? I was an English teacher for goodness sake! And I was, after all, a lit. major and not an English major.

What do you think? Do writers really need to know all the grammar rules?

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