Okay, a little background information to start: I'm an English-speaker who has been born and raised in the southern United States and has picked up the western accent of my father. It is the only language I know, and I'm often studying more of it to become familiar with how it works.

I had joined a chat group a long while ago that specializes in teaching foreign-learners English, and I had done so in the hopes that I may be able to help others who need it and learn things myself while I'm at it, but as a native speaker, I'm often seen as a reliable person in which whom I can be asked questions to, but that's where a lot of my trouble begins.

Anything that can be considered a correct-the-mistake question is easy for me; They present to me a sentence that's grammatically incorrect, and I correct it for them, but I'm often asked WHY it has to be constructed the way I've corrected it, but I'm not able to give them a proper explanation, especially with the advanced topics. If I try, I'm often not giving the correct information or have forgotten exceptions.

It can get to the point where the validity of my native speaker title comes into question, and it just confuses me as to how I am able to correct these mistakes without knowing the proper reasons as to why they're like this. Does it have something to do with picking up the language during childhood? Do any other English-speakers have this issue? And if I'm not properly educated about syntax and grammar, where can I go in order to better understand how my language works and functions?

closed as too broad by lbf, Jason Bassford, TaliesinMerlin, TrevorD, Skooba Mar 9 at 13:34

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  • No one can explain the "rules" of English, because ultimately there are no rules. – Hot Licks Mar 5 at 1:27
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    This is often true for native speakers of any language ... they know the rules at some level, but they can't explain them because they don't know them on a conscious level. – Peter Shor Mar 5 at 2:51
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    I'm not 100% certain, so I'm not posting this as an answer, but I suspect that it's because you learned the language naturally as a child via exposure, rather than being consciously taught the rules. Basically, the equivalent of training a neural network vs explicitly programming a set of rules. I suspect a subject-matter expert would be able to give you a more definitive answer. – nick012000 Mar 5 at 2:52
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    Invest in a grammar book, Michael Swan PEU is a good start. It explains the rules simply and it helps learners who have a basic knowledge or understanding of grammar. If they have none, you have little choice but to also "teach" them the basics, e.g the difference between an adjective, a verb and a noun. – Mari-Lou A Mar 5 at 10:36
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    Fluency does not entail knowing how to explain that language. Fluent speakers use language intuitively; we don't have to think about it to use it. In contrast, both grammar and second languages are learned through study. My recommendation is to look at a number of books that break down basic concepts (parts of speech) and then work towards sentence diagramming and other tools of analysis. An introductory linguistics book or learning another language would also help - I wasn't good at explaining tenses until I took French, and didn't understand subjects and objects fully until I took Latin. – TaliesinMerlin Mar 7 at 14:58