Basic English Curriculum for Teaching ESL

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The following grammar points will provide students with a solid base to build their English speaking and comprehension skills. Specific points are included in notes for the various grammar points.


These are important grammar objectives for basic English courses.

  • Present simple/present continuous (present progressive): Contrast between habits and temporary actions.
  • Past simple
  • Past continuous: Focus on use with the past simple to describe 'interrupted actions' in the past.
  • Present perfect: Focus on the use of present perfect for unfinished time—i.e. the duration form. Focus should also include adverbs commonly used with the present perfect, such as since, for, just, already, and yet.
  • Future with "will:" Contrast this form with future intentions form—i.e. future with "going to."
  • Future with "going to:" Contrast this form with future predictions form—i.e. future with "will."
  • Present continuous (present progressive): Use for future intentions and plans, discuss similarities to future with "going to."
  • First conditional (real conditional): Used for probable or realistic situations.
  • Modal verbs of deduction: Use of must be, might be, and can't be in the present.
  • Some or any: Call to attention the irregular use of some in requests and offers.
  • Quantifiers: too, enough, a lot of, a few, much, many (in question and negative forms), and others.
  • Prepositions of place: in front of, opposite, behind, between, across, and other terms.
  • Prepositions of movement: straight on, on your right, past the house, into, out of, and other prepositions
  • Common phrasal verbs: get on with, look after, fed up with, put off, make up, and other verbs.
  • Verb and gerund: like doing, enjoy doing, go swimming, etc.
  • Verb and infinitive: hope to do, want to do, manage to do, and other examples.
  • Basic verb and preposition combinations: listen to, arrive at, go through, and other combinations.
  • Comparatives and superlatives: taller than, more beautiful than, as tall as, happier than, the tallest, the most difficult, etc.

Listening Skills

Listening skills should include the ability to understand and act on basic information in the following situations:

  • Personal information: name, address, telephone number, nationality, etc.
  • Telling time
  • Numbers: cardinal and ordinal
  • Simple directions and prepositions of place
  • Spelling
  • Simple descriptions of people and places


These are some topics and categories of vocabulary that are important to learn at the beginner stages:

  • Descriptions of people, such as looks, character, and family
  • Food, drink, and restaurants
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Home, rooms, furniture
  • Town and country
  • Shops and shopping
  • Weather
  • Time, the seasons, months, weeks, days, and related terms
  • Films and television
  • Leisure and interests
  • Holidays, travel, and hotels

Language Functions

Language functions concern "chunks of language" which provide essential phrases for everyday use.

Introductions and Greetings:

  • How do you do?
  • Pleased to meet you.
  • How are you?

Asking for Information:

  • How do you spell ____?
  • How do you pronounce?
  • Where is the nearest bank?
  • What does "X" mean?


  • Can I help you?
  • Would you like some ____?


  • May I have a coffee?
  • Could you help me?

Inviting: Would you like to come with me?


  • Shall we go out this evening?
  • Let's have some lunch.
  • Why don't we play some tennis?

Asking for Descriptions:

  • What is he like?
  • What does it look like?

Buying and Selling:

  • Which size are you?
  • How much does it cost?

Asking for Directions:

  • Excuse me, where is the train station?
  • Where is the nearest bank?

Giving Advice:

  • You should see a doctor.
  • I think he should work harder.
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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Basic English Curriculum for Teaching ESL." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 28). Basic English Curriculum for Teaching ESL. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Basic English Curriculum for Teaching ESL." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).