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Practical English Usage

Michael Swan’s guide to problems in English

Fourth Edition

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Michael Swan: ELTons 2014 British Council lifetime achievement award winner

Fully revised and updated, and now available online, in an app, and in print.

Practical English Usage has sold over 2 million copies worldwide. Now revised and updated for the fourth edition, it answers the questions that teachers and learners ask about English grammar and vocabulary with clear, corpus-informed explanations and examples.

  • Hardback with online access
  • Paperback with online access
  • Paperback
  • Online (1 year's access)

Key features

  • Completely revised and updated to reflect changes in language use.
  • NEW Organisation into two easy-to-use parts, making it quicker to find the information you want: 1. A complete topic-by-topic student's grammar, with section introductions highlighting common mistakes. 2 A guide to key vocabulary topics, including an A–Z list of common word problems.
  • NEW Also available online, including 87 diagnostic tests.
  • NEW Fourth Edition App for quick access to 600+ entries.


Practical English Usage is recommended for any teacher, trainee teacher, or advanced-level student looking for answers to questions about the English language. The material is now organised in two parts (grammar and vocabulary), making it easier than ever to find the answers, either online, in the app, or in print.

Part 1 is a complete practical learner's grammar with 28 sections, covering all the structural points that cause problems for learners.

Part 2 is a guide to vocabulary problems covering:

  • rules for word formation and spelling
  • a survey of high-priority vocabulary areas
  • an A–Z guide to over 250 common word problems

The 600+ entries provide answers to the questions that learners typically ask, for example:

  • use of tenses
  • the truth about conditionals
  • article problems
  • singular they
  • get as a passive auxiliary
  • bring or take?
  • can, could, may or might?
  • classic or classical?
  • the language of emails


  • the grammar of speech and formal writing
  • British–American differences
  • questions of style and idiom
  • changes in English
  • politeness
  • avoiding offensive language
  • lists of learners' most common mistakes


The entries in Practical English Usage are not only informed by Swan’s authoritative knowledge of English grammar, but by a sure sense of which aspects of the grammar are likely to be problematic, and how these can be most effectively explained.

- Henry Widdowson, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of London

For Practical English Usage (6)



Your indispensable guide to problems in English

Paperback with online access


Your indispensable guide to problems in English

Practical English Usage Online (1 year's access) cover
Online (1 year's access)


Your indispensable guide to problems in English - now online

ISBN Title
978-0-19-420243-5 Practical English Usage, 4th edition Paperback
978-0-19-420241-1 Practical English Usage Paperback with online access
978-0-19-420251-0 Practical English Usage Online (1 year's access)
978-0-19-420242-8 Practical English Usage, 4th edition (Hardback with online access)
978-0-19-420249-7 Practical English Usage Android app
978-0-19-420248-0 Practical English Usage iOS app