Putting vocabulary into flashcards is (relatively) a no-brainer: word -> translation, translation -> word. (Yes, it can be more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it.)

Grammar rules, on the other hand, are a whole different monster: for example, if I wanted to put a grammar rule into a flashcard, I could

  • Just list the rule on one side (... and that's it?)
  • List a correct example and incorrect example of the usage of the grammar rule on the front, and the correct option on the back
  • Not put grammar rules into flashcards at all, just hope I pick them up through using the language

However, none of these options seem very elegant or usable as flashcards. What are some other options for putting grammar rules into flashcards?

Note: I also posted a similar question on Reddit.

  • Using one of Duolingo's question types as a model, perhaps leaving a blank to be filled in on one side, and putting the correct word on the other. In my experience, this works because the target word is unambiguous and only varies in its grammatical quantity/gender/declension. In cases where it is harder to pin down that unambiguity, perhaps including a picture on the front of the card to narrow it down.
    – WAF
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 17:20

3 Answers 3


You could put questions about grammar on the front and the answer on the back.

See for example studystack.com:

  • What tense is "has/have written"?
    Present perfect
  • What is the difference between "I" and "me"? "I" for subject;"me" for object
  • How do you know whether to use "who" or "whom"?
    Use "who" when you would use "he"; use "whom"when you would use "him"

Or use multiple choice questions such as on cram.com:

  • Adverbs can modify (a) nouns and Pronouns, (b) verbs and adjectives and adverbs, (c) nouns and verbs B: verbs, adjectives, adverbs
  • A clause that begins with who, whose, whom, which or that would, in most cases be (an adverb clause, (b) a noun clause, (c) an adjective clause. C: an adjective clause

Which of the three options you choose will depend on your learning goals:

  • If your goal (or one of your goals) is to be able to reproduce grammar rules, learn grammatical terms, etc. (as may be the case if you study linguistics at university!), then putting rules, etc. on flashcards makes sense. Whether this will improve your grammatical accuracy while using the language is a completely different question, though. It is not obvious that formal grammatical knowledge improves accuracy directly, although it can help in figuring out what is going on in language examples that you see. Knowing some grammatical terminology is useful when consulting grammars.
  • If your goal is to learn to use your target language correctly, you can get far without memorising grammar rules. My suggestion (I think I got it from Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner) is to create flashcards that are cloze tests.
    • You find a few sentences that illustrate a specific grammatical feature, and delete the part that requires knowledge of that grammatical feature, or replace it with something that needs to be adapted according to that grammar rule.
      E.g.: Water [to boil] at 100 °C. would be a cloze test for the s in the 3rd person singular of the simple present in English.
      People in the gym work out [hard/hardly]. would be a test for adverbs.
    • While learning Standard Chinese, I even created flash cards that test word order, e.g. 他A 每年 B 去 C 中国。[一次], where you need to choose where to put "一次" (position A, B or C).
    • Optionally, the flashcard's "answer side" can also explain the grammatical rule.
  • If you just list the rule on one side and do nothing else, you can still do spaced repetition, but you will miss the benefits of the testing effect.

You have multiple options here.

You can do the grammar rule on one side and its definition on the other:

Pronoun / a word that can function by itself as a noun phrase

This can be good since you can use the flashcard both ways: you can read the definition and identify the term or vice versa. If you don't have a good definition though, you might be stuck remembering the wrong definitions. Even worse, you might have a lot to type or write with grammar rules with multiple cases/exceptions.

Fill in the blanks:

Use an adverb / The car was ___ shiny because I cleaned it recently.

You are forced to read the sentence, remember the rules related to the term mentioned, and fill in the blank with a term that is, in this case, and adverb that doesn't break any other grammar rules. The variety of answers is also helpful. You might need a lot more examples though to cover all the rules and exceptions.

Multiple choice:

Which word(s) is a pronoun? / a) I, b) his, c) that, d) hers

It's not the best choice since you probably already know the answers, and you will need tons of these to help. If someone does it for you, you get some example questions to help on the flip side.

Verbal Questions:

In the following sentence, {insert sentence here}, this word is a __?

There is no text telling what it is and you have to rely on your knowledge to answer the question. The con is that you only focus on one word at a time and will need a lot of flashcards of this type. You could expand on your knowledge by identifying all the words in the sentence though.

  • What are the pros and cons of doing it each way?
    – Hatchet
    Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 15:34
  • @Hatchet See my edit Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 15:42

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