The 3 Best Grammar Checkers for English Second Language Learners

Most new English learners experience a major challenge getting their punctuation, grammar, and spelling right. Because of the number and complexity of punctuation and grammar rules and because English has such seemingly chaotic spelling rules, these elements of the written language can contribute to major delays in mastering English. Change is coming, though.

Recent improvements in computing power and narrow artificial intelligence have pushed online grammar checking to new levels of accuracy, reliability, and speed. Consequently, English Second Language learners now have a range of exciting solutions available to them online. The internet hosts a range of grammar checker applications, including proprietary and open source.

Selecting a Grammar Checker

Selecting appropriate software is another challenge. The general goal should be to choose a grammar checker which presents a simple user interface and offers good coverage, catching many common errors and offering helpful suggestions. Since learners tend to be on a tight budget while students, the cost is another consideration.

Needless to say, English is always changing, with new words and expressions added to the language almost daily. An effective grammar checker should be actively developed to keep up with these changes. A well-maintained grammar checker is a grammar checker that is responsive to linguistic changes in the English language.

Some of the most widely used grammar checker applications available online include Virtual Writing Tutor, Grammarly, and Ginger. These grammar checkers are highly recommended for English Second Language Learners due to their accessible and user-friendly interfaces.

Most new English learners experience a major challenge with word pronunciation and spelling mistakes. As a result, these seemingly minor issues contribute to delays in mastering English. To overcome these hurdles, English Second Language Learners often see many reasons to use a grammar checker. Motivated to learn and use a grammar checker, the learner needs only to select the best grammar checker for his or her needs and budget.

The rule of thumb in this context is to choose a grammar checker with a simple grammar checker user interface and good coverage.  Coverage, in this sense, means the ability to detect errors and offer useful corrections. This will be useful in leading the learner to discern the right grammatical formulations in erratic sentences. Similarly, it is also essential that the grammar checker selected should be one that receives regular updates and maintenance by the developers. Well-maintained grammar checkers will ensure that the software incorporates changes in the English language over time.

Virtual Writing Tutor Grammar Checker

The Virtual Writing Tutor is the ideal grammar checker for English Second Language learners. The tool is a free to use, which means that both students and teachers can benefit from its features without having to pay. This grammar checker assists ESL learners by automating aspects of the proofreading and editing processes. In addition to the extensive corrective feedback provided by the tool, learners can benefit from links to additional remedial resources, such as quizzes and more in-depth explanations.

The Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker tool provides grammar, contextual spelling, punctuation, word choice, and wordiness checks when you click on the “Check grammar” button. Learners can avoid plagiarism by using the paraphrase checker and can improve the consistency of their vocabulary by using the vocabulary checker. These features help the writer to improve his or her sentence quality.

Additionally, the Virtual Writing Tutor allows second language learners to recognize common grammar mistakes through an error correction game feature. Further, by using virtual writing tutor, writers can eliminate clichés while encouraging the use of power words. This is also complemented by the ability to make an explicit distinction between academic and conversational English.

Grammarly Grammar Checker

Arguably, Grammarly offers the best online grammar checking and editing solutions.  Further, it has been ranked high as the “world’s most accurate grammar checker”. The application is designed to detect errors in sentences while offering a range of correct options to fix them. In contrast to other grammar checkers online, Grammarly has been observed to experience a relatively lower number of glitches in addition to its attribute of being less invasive. The software is available in free and premium versions with subscribers to the later enjoying more usability functions such as plagiarism check, vocabulary enhancement, sentence structure among others. Additionally, Grammarly includes a browser plugin feature which assists users in checking grammar while surfing online. As a result, the software works well for English Second Language Learners seeking to enhance their level of accuracy in English writing.

Ginger Grammar Checker

The Ginger grammar checker is a productivity software available in both free and paid versions. Its user interface allows the learner to easily navigate through a large chunk of text by automatically detecting grammatical errors and proposing solutions. Further, the software is famous for its ability to detect errors within a word document which may not be captured by the Microsoft word spelling checker. The paid version of the software offers grammar checking solutions such; error analysis, mistakes practice and sentence rephraser. Ginger also offers support for English Second Language Learners while using browsers online. Additionally, learners may enjoy the relatively lower costs for the paid version of the software.



Error Correction Card Game

Research has revealed that some of the strongest influences on student learning include reciprocal teaching, cooperative learning, and computer-assisted instruction (Hattie, 2009). ESL teachers can make excellent use of all three of these powerful pedagogical levers at once by having students play a simple card game, like this one in Actively Engaged Online (Walker, 2015) from Bokomaru Publications with the support of a grammar checker especially designed for English Second Language learners.

(Skip to the how-to,  download link, or printing instructions.)

Good Pedagogy

Savvy teachers will see a range of pedagogical opportunities open up as students play this error correction card game. This serious game provides useful practice correcting avoidable errors, with a number of additional benefits.

(You can skip all the rationale and read the how-to below if you prefer.)

Learning to correct high-frequency errors is only one good reason to have students play this game. Here are four more.

  1. Since only the correct answer can win the card, this game provides opportunities for peer-feedback on grammatical form in a safe and structured way. By providing both the prompt and the correct answer, the cards ensure that the feedback is correct and uncontroversial.
  2. And since the cards do not provide explanations for the corrections, the question “Why?” will arise naturally from time to time during game-play. Uncertainty about the nature of the error and the reason for the correction will create contexts for students to discuss the corrections and the grammatical rules that motivate them, a form of consciousness-raising.
  3. When students disagree with each other about the grammatical rule that motivates a correction, they may find themselves reaching for a reliable reference that they can use to answer their grammar questions–a form of metacognition.
  4. If students use their cell phones to visit an online grammar checker in order to answer questions about an error, they will get to use their cell phones in a new way to further their learning–an opportunity to develop their digital literacy.

Here’s where the game gets really interesting.

Online Grammar Checker Support

As mentioned above, one advantage to having students play this game is that it can be used to promote students’ digital literacy through the judicious use of their cell phones.  Usually, teachers are justifiably cautious about allowing students to access their cell phones in class, but in this case cell phones can be a big ally.  Here’s how.

Ask students to take out their cell phones for the duration of the game so that they can access the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker if they need to. Why? When students feel unsure about a particular error or correction, they will be able to type the sentence into the Virtual Writing Tutor‘s sentence corrector on their mobile device to see the correction, a grammar explanation, and a link to a remedial activity.

Since all of the grammar errors in this card game can be detected and corrected by the VWT online grammar checker (Yes, I’ve checked them all) teachers will indirectly be able to provide answers to questions about grammar without having to memorize all of the explanations beforehand. This computer-assisted pedagogical support dramatically reduces preparation time.

Don’t worry. Students will find it easy to visit the simplified mobile version of the website, type in the sentence containing the error into the text area, hit “Check grammar,” and get the grammar explanation they need. In this way, playing the game will promote digital literacy, autonomy, and lifelong learning skills.

Using an online grammar checker to get corrective feedback on grammar errors contained in the Error Correction Card Game will thereby serve as an easy introduction to the usefulness of free online grammar checkers when it comes time to correct their own writing.

How to Play

The Error Correction Card Game is an easy-to-use, mildly competitive guessing game that is easy to explain.

Have students play this card game in groups of three or four. Shuffle the cards and place the deck in the middle. Player 1 takes a card and reads the sentence containing the error aloud to Player 2 and 3.

Players 2 and 3 try to provide the best oral correction of that sentence. Player 1 gives the card to the player whose correction matches the correction on the card.

If both players answer correctly at the same time, Player 1 returns the card to the bottom of the deck. If neither player answers correctly, Player 1 reads the answer and returns the card to the bottom of the deck. The player to the left takes the next turn. The player with the most cards at the end is the winner.

Download the Card Game

Download this game and use it with your students by clicking on the image of the Error Correction card below, or use the hyperlink below.  I generated the PDF myself from an InDesign file and is to the best of my knowledge virus-free. Scan it yourself to be doubly sure.

Download the Error Correction Card Game here
Click on the image above to download a copy of the Error Correction Card Game that you can use with your ESL students

Download the PDF

Printing Instructions

The first page in the PDF explains how to play. You don’t need to print it. Instead, print pages 2-11 as two-sided copies. Use heavy paper if you have it.  Do not scale the copies to “Fit to page” or you will have to cut around the edges of each page. Here is a screen-shot of the print dialogue generated by Chrome.

Print dialogue
Select these print settings if you print the PDF using Chrome.


Hattie, J. A. C. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London, UK: Routledge.

Walker, N. R. (2015). Actively Engaged Online. Montreal, Canada: Bokomaru Publications.

(Skip to the how-to,  download link, or printing instructions.)