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Exploring English grammar

This module looks at how we choose to represent ourselves and our world through choices of wording and grammar and will appeal to people who enjoy an analytical approach. You will explore applications of language analysis in different work contexts and address questions such as: What makes particular texts effective? How is English used differently in different contexts? You’ll also learn how to use computer software to deepen your understanding of the grammatical differences between texts. This module is not specifically aimed at speakers of English as a second language, but will enhance all students’ linguistic awareness.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

The module has four blocks, each of which includes study of a print book. Alongside these, you'll study a range of online, audiovisual material: each week you’ll have grammar activities and usually also corpus activities and sometimes grammar applications material. Occasionally you’ll also look at digital literacy material, assessment preparation and work with other students in your tutor group forum. One week at the end of each block is devoted to an area of grammar in applications, ranging from the use of computers to analysing texts in an English for Academic Purposes classroom, to how journalists write differently in tabloid and broadsheet and online newspapers, to doctor-patient interactions and how these can be made more effective. A further week per block is devoted to writing tutor-marked assignments with four weeks at the end of the module spent on a small-scale end-of-module assessment project in which you will be able to select your own area of interest to explore.

Block 1 aims to provide a gentle introduction to grammar – what is it and why is it worth studying? We will move from a review of structural terms in the early units, to unpacking the basics of the systemic functional linguistic approach adopted in this module. This is particularly useful if you have not studied a level 2 module, such as Worlds of English (U214) or its replacement, English in the world (L201).

Block 2 focuses on the way in which we use language to experience and have ideas about the world. Known as ideational meaning, this relates to who does what to whom, how, when, where and why. 

In Block 3 we look at how texts are formed. What makes a text cohesive and coherent? Have you ever felt that some of the text that you have produced could have been organised more effectively? This is known as textual meaning.

In the first part of Block 4 we will explore how interpersonal meaning is formed in texts. How do some people manage to persuade you to change your mind on an issue, while others have little influence? Why do some people – in works of fiction or news stories or in your own lives – appear dynamic, while others seem more passive? The rest of this block pulls together the three aspects of meaning making covered in the module: ideational, textual and interpersonal – and looks at how they work together.

Throughout all four blocks you will develop your capacity to analyse, interpret and evaluate texts from the perspective of their lexicogrammatical choices and patterns – within and beyond the clause. Similarly you will develop your capacity to apply your evolving knowledge and understanding of lexicogrammar to texts and contexts relevant to you. For example you will learn how to use the corpus tool to provide robust insights in text analysis.

You will learn

By studying this module you will develop:
  • an understanding of the major characteristics of English grammar;
  • skills in language analysis and interpretation;
  • skills in applying linguistic understanding in order to evaluate and improve the quality of your written texts.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Your tutor will support you in online tutor group forums, face-to-face tutorials and synchronous online sessions.

We aim to provide face-to-face tutorials in a range of locations students can travel to, though we cannot guarantee availability close to where you live. Online alternatives may also be provided, and recordings of these will typically be made available to students.

Student numbers on the module, and where tutors are based, will affect the locations of where tutorials are held, and what online alternatives are provided. We cannot guarantee that face-to-face tutorials will be hosted in specific locations, or locations that have been used previously. While you’re not obliged to attend any of these tutorial events, you are strongly encouraged to take part.

For each tutorial session on E304, a recorded tutorial comprising audio and Powerpoint slides will be made available for all students.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Exploring English grammar starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2022, when we expect it to start for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    Most students will have already studied a level 2 module before beginning their OU level 3 study. If you have not, we recommend that you allow sufficient time at the start of E304 to thoroughly study the online Grammar Activities provided and also to work through the Linguistic Toolkit (this will be provided as an online resource).

    A reasonable level of computer literacy is expected and a willingness to engage with a new learning tool, though you will be given step-by-step guidance on how to install software, unzip files, and so on.

    This module provides a thorough grounding in the analysis of texts using traditional grammatical terms and a clear introduction to the influential approach to grammar known as Systemic Functional Linguistics. It is practically orientated, and will give you many opportunities to reflect on your own writing and how it can be improved.

    The module is skills-based so it’s important that you keep up with your studies as the module content is cumulative.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    We’ve developed some optional activities and resources to help you prepare for studying Exploring English grammar (E304). They're not required reading, but are useful as additional preparation for this module.

    If you have studied Worlds of English (U214), it may also be useful to refresh your memory of the concepts taught in the Linguistic Toolkit. This is provided for you as an online resource once you begin studying Exploring English grammar.

    Activity 1
    Grammar matters – Our free OpenLearn course explores how grammar and vocabulary choice create meaning.

    Activity 2
    English grammar in context – This free OpenLearn course looks at the way grammar can be used as a tool for adapting our written and spoken communications.

    Activity 3
    The following online resources examine structural grammar, and are useful background for this module. They illustrate how grammar analysis is useful in real-world contexts such as education.

    • Macmillan dictionary – This dictionaries site on 'Real Grammar' shows how corpora can be used to explore grammar and contains short quizzes and videos.
    • Englicious – Contains resources for English language teachers at primary and secondary level and is useful for anyone who needs to work with the UK National Curriculum.
    • International Systemic Functional Linguistics Association – Provides a clear overview of systemic functional grammar – the approach to grammar adopted in E304. Don’t worry if this seems a lot to understand – the module begins with the basics of grammar and builds up gradually.

    Optional reading

    You may also like to explore an introductory guide to systemic functional linguistics (SFL), such as one of the titles below:

    • Bartlett, T (2014) Analysing Power in Language: A practical guide, Routledge: London & New York.
    • Butt, D., Fahey,R., Feez,S., Spinks,S. Yallop,C. (2000) Using Functional Grammar - An explorer's guide, NCELTR, Maquarie University (Australia).
    • Coffin, C., Donohue, J. and North, S. (2009) Exploring English grammar: from formal to functional, Routledge: London & New York.
    • Eppler, E.D. (2012) English Words and Sentences: An Introduction, Cambridge Introductions to the English Language, Cambridge University Press.
    • Fontaine, L. M. (2012) Analysing English Grammar: A Systemic-Functional Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Thompson, G. (2014) Introducing Functional Grammar (3rd edition), Routledge: London & New York.

    The reference book on structural grammar, Biber, D., Conrad, S., and Leech, G. (1999) Longmans Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English, Pearson: Harlow, is also recommended.


    Start End England fee Register
    01 Oct 2022 Jun 2023 £3228.00

    Registration closes 08/09/22 (places subject to availability)

    October 2022 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2023. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 16/05/2022.

    What's included

    You'll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • course-specific module materials
    • audio and video content
    • access to Corpus tool software
    • assignment details and submission section
    • online tutorial access

    You’ll also be provided with four printed module books, each covering one block of study, and a printed anthology.

    Computing requirements

    You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS (10.15 or higher).

    Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

    It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying E304 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.