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Counting both native and non-native speakers, English is the most widely spoken language in the world. Being proficient in English can open doors for students around the world, especially those who want to study at top colleges in the U.S.

Our picks for the best English learning books can help all students, including English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers, develop their reading, writing, and speaking skills to native English speakers who want to expand their vocabulary and improve their grammar. In addition to English language basics, the books on our list also cover specialized topics like idioms and writing in English for specific audiences.

Learn how we picked the best English learning books.

The 20 Best English Learning Books

Practical English Usage

Practical English Usage, 4th edition by Michael Swan

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Our top pick for English learning books is the bestseller Practical English Usage, which has sold over 2 million copies worldwide. The book is divided into two easy-to-navigate parts: one on grammar and one on vocabulary. You also get access to 87 diagnostic tests online. The book emphasizes straightforward explanations to common grammar questions and mistakes.

English for Everyone

English for Everyone: Level 1 Course Book - Beginner English by DK

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English for Everyone: Level 1 Course Book is a great resource for beginner ESL learners or ESL instructors. The book is a comprehensive introduction to English and includes audio recordings, visual flashcards, and ideas for personalizing your learning experience. The format is easy to follow and suits both self-study and ESL classroom settings.

English Grammar in Use

English Grammar in Use, 5th Edition by Raymond Murphy

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Raymond Murphy’s English Grammar in Use is geared toward intermediate English learners (B1-B2 level) who want a practical guide to level-appropriate grammar. The book contains lots of practice questions along with answers with clear explanations, so you can use it as a self-study guide or in a classroom setting.

English Made Easy

English Made Easy, Volume One by Jonathan Crichton and Pieter Koster

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English Made Easy, Volume One offers a new approach to ESL learning that centers on pictures and other visuals. If you prefer to see images, diagrams, and visual representations of what you’re learning, this book could be a good fit. It comprises 20 units divided into five groups and focuses mainly on vocabulary, phrases, and pronunciation.

Essential English Grammar

Essential English Grammar by Raymond Murphy

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Essential English Grammar is a prequel to English Grammar in Use. It focuses on elementary-level English students (A2-B1 level) and provides a step-by-step approach to learning English grammar. The book is full of questions and answers with explanations, so you can use it independently or as part of a course.

High School English Grammar

High School English Grammar and Composition by H. Martin and P. C. Wren

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Martin and Wren’s High School English Grammar and Composition is a comprehensive guide to English grammar not only for ESL students but for anyone who struggles to understand the nuts and bolts of English grammar rules and conventions. The book is an accessible reference guide, complete with exercises and answers with explanations.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice Makes Perfect: English Conversation, Premium Third Edition by Jean Yates

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Practice Makes Perfect: English Conversation can help you build the skills and confidence required to hold conversations in English. Along the way, you will learn grammar, syntax, and pronunciation as they relate to real-world situations. You also get access to audio recordings of all the dialogues in the book.

102 Simple English Conversation

102 Simple English Conversation Dialogues For Beginners in American English by Jackie Bolen

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Jackie Bolen’s 102 Simple English Conversation Dialogues for Beginners in American English is an excellent option if you want to learn words, phrases, idioms, and expressions that native speakers use. Having this knowledge will help you speak English more fluently. Each dialogue in the book has an accompanying practice exercise to help you implement what you learn.

30 Days to a More Powerful

30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary by Wilfred Funk and Norman Lewis

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30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary offers a targeted, efficient approach to expanding your vocabulary. In fifteen minutes a day, you can learn new words and the true meaning of words you’ve heard before— words that may have been used incorrectly. Whether you’re an ESL learner, a high school or college student, or a professional, this book can help enhance and refine your vocabulary.

505 Business English Idioms

505 Business English Idioms and Phrasal Verbs by Clare Whitmell

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505 Business English Idioms and Phrasal Verbs is geared toward business professionals who want to strengthen their command of business English and learn to speak like native English speakers. Part of what separates native from non-native English speakers is knowledge of idioms, and this book tries to close that gap.

99 Ways to Speak Better English

99 Ways to Speak Better English Today by Clare Whitmell

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99 Ways to Speak Better English Today is a highly practical and actionable guide to speaking English more like a native speaker. The book teaches you how to more easily understand native speakers, how to keep a conversation going, how to write better emails, and how to avoid common grammar traps.

A Student's Introduction

A Student's Introduction to English Grammar by Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum

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Huddleston and Pullum’s A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar is a go-to grammar textbook for undergraduates. It is designed for college students who have little to no background in grammar or linguistics and provides systematic explanations of the grammar rules and conventions of English. The book is modern, easy to read, and contains numerous exercises and online resources.


An A-Z of English Grammar and Usage, 2nd Edition by Geoffrey N. Leech, Benita Cruickshank, and Roz Ivanic

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Written in a dictionary-like format, An A-Z of English Grammar and Usage is a comprehensive yet accessible English grammar reference book for students and teachers of English. The format makes it easy to find precisely what you’re looking for, and the comprehensive nature of the book makes it a key resource for advanced students and teachers.

Advanced Grammar

Advanced Grammar by Diane Hall and Mark Foley

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Advanced Grammar is a reference book and workbook geared toward advanced English learners, especially those preparing to take the ​​Cambridge ESOL, CAE, and/or CPE exams. The book contains diagnostic tests that show you what you need to work on, and the Included practice questions mimic those you’ll encounter on the CAE and CPE.


All About Words: An Adult Approach to Vocabulary Building by Maxwell Nurnberg and Morris Rosenblum

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Maxwell Nurnberg and Morris Rosenblum’s All About Words: An Adult Approach to Vocabulary Building provides a time-honored framework for adults who want to expand and improve their vocabulary. The book is especially useful for students preparing to take graduate admissions exams such as the GRE, GMAT, or LSAT. Even though the book was published 35 years ago, its insights are evergreen.

Business Writing Essentials

Business Writing Essentials: How to Write Letters, Reports and Emails by Clare Whitmell

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Business Writing Essentials: How to Write Letters, Reports and Emails is a highly practical guide to composing documents commonly found in the business world.. The book includes templates for the most common business situations; guidelines for grammar, style, and layout; and tips on striking the appropriate tone. The templates cover everything from booking a hotel room to asking for clarification.

Cambridge Global English Learner_s Book 1

Cambridge Global English Learner's Book 1 by Elly Schottman and Caroline Linse

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Cambridge Global English Learner’s Book 1 is a classroom resource designed for primary and lower secondary school children. The book is packed with songs, stories, stickers, group projects, and other activities that engage and excite young learners. It is most often used as part of a Cambridge English Curriculum in international schools.

English Collocations

English Collocations in Use Intermediate Book with Answers by Michael McCarthy and Felicity O'Dell

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English Collocations in Use provides intermediate-level students (B1-B2 level) with tools to improve fluency and ease of speaking in English. Collocations are combinations of words that tend to appear together, such as “pay attention” and “a quick shower.” Learning English collocations will help you speak more like a native English speaker.

English Grammar for Busy People

English Grammar for Busy People - Everyday Grammar for Great Writing and Speaking by Clare Whitmell

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English Grammar for Busy People is another of Clare Whitmell’s highly practical guides to the English language. If you are learning English and don’t have the time to sift through dense explanations about the history of English grammar, this is the book for you. Explanations are quick and to the point.

English Grammar Rules 101

English Grammar Rules 101: 10 Essential Rules to Improving Your Writing, Speaking and Literature Skills for Students and Beginners by Melony Jacobs

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English Grammar Rules 101 is a crash course in English grammar that promises you can see a difference in your writing and speaking in as little as one week of study. Written in engaging, concise language, this is a great book for beginners who want to study the structure and oddities of English grammar in an approachable way.

How We Picked the Best Books to Learn English

To create our list of the best English learning books, we researched over 88 English learning books that appeared on bestseller lists published by respected publications such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Using Goodreads reviews and other materials, we narrowed them down to this list of 20. We also based our research on the materials available online, such as other “best of” lists published by educators in the field. Important criteria included a wide intended audience and a general consensus on the book’s utility. We selected books that are geared toward both ESL students and native English speakers.

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