The New York City train system has a new unofficial stop – for people who love grammar…or even just have questions about it.

English language expert Ellen Jovin has put together an unusual “classroom.” There is a foldable table, books, a smile and a deep knowledge of grammar. She calls it Grammar Table. Jovin sits at the table in the subway and on city streets.

She smiles and waits for people to come by with grammar questions. Usually, she catches the interest of a lot of people.

More than one billion people in the world speak English. Another two billion are in the process of learning it – or trying to.

But English grammar rules frighten many – even native English speakers. Jovin’s mission is to help people who find themselves afraid of or confused by the world of English.

Jovin is a linguist. She has worked to spread her love for the English language for a long time. She has taught grammar to business professionals and writing at universities. She is also a published writer.

Jovin also owns a business communication training company with her husband. Online and traditional classes are her life. But she decided to make things interesting and take her knowledge to the streets and subways of New York.

Though that is more of a political question, Jovin believes understanding language structure rules will help people around the world understand each other better.

The Grammar Table appeals to all kinds of people for whom English is filled with mysteries: students and older people, engineers and house cleaners, actors and even other language experts.

Some of the most popular questions, Jovin says, are about commas.

"For example, if I say, ‘He ordered salad, spaghetti and soda,’ right before the ‘and,’ you can put a comma if you want in English. And it’s called the Oxford comma or sometimes the serial comma."

New York subway riders have accepted Jovin with warmth and interest. Musicians, policemen and even English teachers often stop by for a friendly chat.

Walter Skrepnick is a teacher of English literature. He recently shared his thoughts about Grammar Table.

"Things like that – that deal with language, that deal with culture – it’s refreshingfrom some of the other things that go on."

But not all questions are about English – or even in English. Jovin can speak and understand several languages: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, French, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. And she is trying to learn a few others, too.

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.


grammar (n.) - the set of rules that explain how words are used in a language


subway (n.) - a system of underground trains in a city


mission (n.) - ​a task that you consider to be a very important duty​


confused (adj.) - unable to understand or think clearly


linguist (n.) - a person who studies the way languages work


comma (n.) - a punctuation mark that is used to separate words or groups of words in a sentence


chat (n.) - a light and friendly conversation


literature (n.) - ​written works (such as poems, plays, and novels) that are considered to be very good and to have lasting importance​


refreshing (adj.) - pleasantly new, different or interesting



Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.


  1. What for is this unofficial subway stop?
  2. What is Jovin’s  mission?
  3. What are some of the most popular questions?
  4. Are there any questions in and about other languages?



Exercise 3

Make a sentence.

Make sentences using these words.


subway, mission, confused, chat




Exercise 4


Have a discussion on following questions.


  1. Is this a good way to learn a language?
  2. Would you participate, teaching other people your language?
  3. Do you speak any foreign languages?
  4. Would you like to learn any new ones?



This lesson is based on a news article originally published by learningenglish.voanews.