Reader Q&A: On Grammar

I’ve been getting some really great questions via the contact form, and I thought some of the answers might be helpful for others, so I’m taking some of the questions and answers and putting them here! Today we’ll cover a few questions regarding grammar.


Q: How do you use Anki to work on grammar?

A: Most of the time, I use fill-in-the-blank style cards - the sort of stuff you’d see in any grammar workbook (in fact, I usually just copy a few examples from whatever grammar workbook I end up buying):

Front: Right now, he (to walk) to school.
Back: Right now, he is walking to school.

Front: Right now, he is walking ___ school.
Back: Right now, he is walking to school.

Q: What about verb conjugations?  Do you do conjugation tables?

A: You can see up above that I use some fill-in-the-blanks, but that’s not ideal for every conjugation of every verb (It’d make an awfully large number of cards).  It depends on the complexity of the verbs as to how many I pack into one card - at this point, I aim to have one new fact per card whenever possible.  So for regular verbs, I’ll have one example verb, say, “donner” French, to give, where I’ll really lay it out:

6 cards: (I, you, he, we, you(pl), they):

je (donner) -> je donne
tu (donner) -> tu donnes
il (donner) -> il donne
nous (donner) -> nous donnons
vous (donner) -> vous donnez
ils (donner) -> ils donnent

I may even go backwards to really solidify it:

(donne) -> je, il donne
(donnes) -> tu donnes

Then for future verbs that fit the donner pattern, I’ll just use 1-2 cards per verb.  I might split the singular and plural conjugations just to reinforce it a bit more, but my brain’s just connecting the new verb with the pattern I’ve learned already, so it counts as 1 fact.

For irregular verbs, I’ll split it apart depending on how much I think I can easily remember in a card.  Depends on just how irregular it is.  I get more convinced every day that the more you can split facts apart into simpler chunks, the better.

Q: Russian grammar is a complete animal.  What kind of approach are you using so you don’t have to constantly calculate case endings? 
A:  I drill case endings individually using example words of various genders and endings (all forms of работа, стол, чай, время, окно, море), and then I use fill in the blank cards to help drill which case goes where in normal sentences.

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3 Responses to Reader Q&A: On Grammar

  1. cordovez says:

    Regarding verb conjugations and flashcards: I have found that it is very helpful to write out the conjugations instead of saying them, as in French, for example, they are often pronounced the same but spelled differently.

    So what I do is I use the card to prompt the verb and tense, then I write down the conjugations, then “flip” the flashcard to confirm if I’ve got it right. Example:
    Card 1 prompts me:
    Subjonctive present (Avoir)

    I write on a page already labelled
    Je tu on* nous vous elles
    aie aies ait ayons ayez aient

    Then I flip the card and verify, and I rate my response depending on how many mistakes I made. With concentration, you can memorise an irregular verb a day.

    * I use “on” for the 3rd person singular, because it is used often instead of Nous, and it is a bigger leap in memory to remember On, than it is to remember Il/Elle.

  2. Lando says:

    Great post, I had just been thinking how to use Anki for grammar/conjugation. Thanks! :)

  3. Pingback: How to learn (German) grammar with Anki | Tower of Babelfish

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