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  1. #1
    englishkid is offline Newbie
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    Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Grammar

    Hi everyone!

    I need to write an account of an everyday activity using descriptive grammar and prescriptive grammar. I know descriptive grammar is writing like I am speaking and prescriptive grammar is a more formal type of writing. I am just stuck on how to write it. Can you guys give me a paragraph example of an activity in descriptive grammar and that same paragraph in prescriptive grammar.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Grammar

    A prescriptive grammar gives rules for usage that it believes should used and deviation from the rules is wrong. As an example, a prescriptive rule for the second conditional would call form the use of the past subjunctive, so 'If I were' is the correct form and 'If I was' is an error.

    A descriptive grammar looks at the way people speak and write and works out its rules from usage, rather than trying to tell people how to speak and write. Therefore, a descriptive grammar would not say that 'If I was' is wrong because it is commonly used.

    I don't really understand your task, but I suppose you're being asked to write something in formal language and something in informal. However, this has little to do with descriptive and prescriptive grammar- descriptive grammar does not only look at informal and colloquial language, but it does not seek to judge informal language by the rules of formal language.

  3. #3
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by englishkid View Post
    Hi everyone!

    I need to write an account of an everyday activity using descriptive grammar and prescriptive grammar. I know descriptive grammar is writing like I am speaking and prescriptive grammar is a more formal type of writing. I am just stuck on how to write it. Can you guys give me a paragraph example of an activity in descriptive grammar and that same paragraph in prescriptive grammar.

    Thanks!
    The task you've been given has been mis-labelled. You also have the wrong idea of what descriptive and prescriptive grammars are.
    A descriptive grammar is one which describes and explains the patterns of speech and writing that people actually use. A prescriptive grammar is one which tells you what form you must use - usually based on tradition.
    (You can find more complete definitions anywhere on the web).

    A paragraph "written in descriptive grammar" would seem to mean one which does not follow the traditional grammatical rules. I assume that it has to be something that people would normally say, that is, the grammar is natural, but not standard.
    "I didn't do nothing" is an example of a sentence which is grammatically wrong according to most prescriptive grammars of English, because it uses a double negative. But it is a sentence which some people use naturally, and therefore would occur in a descriptive grammar.
    A paragraph "written in prescriptive grammar" would be one which uses only those constructions that are given as correct in whatever prescriptive grammar you are using. Therefore the above sentence would not be allowable.

  4. #4
    Tuco is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    The task you've been given has been mis-labelled. You also have the wrong idea of what descriptive and prescriptive grammars are.
    A descriptive grammar is one which describes and explains the patterns of speech and writing that people actually use. A prescriptive grammar is one which tells you what form you must use - usually based on tradition.
    (You can find more complete definitions anywhere on the web).

    A paragraph "written in descriptive grammar" would seem to mean one which does not follow the traditional grammatical rules. I assume that it has to be something that people would normally say, that is, the grammar is natural, but not standard.
    "I didn't do nothing" is an example of a sentence which is grammatically wrong according to most prescriptive grammars of English, because it uses a double negative. But it is a sentence which some people use naturally, and therefore would occur in a descriptive grammar.
    A paragraph "written in prescriptive grammar" would be one which uses only those constructions that are given as correct in whatever prescriptive grammar you are using. Therefore the above sentence would not be allowable.
    When you say "Therefore the above sentence would not be allowable," what is wrong the the sentence?

  5. #5
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Tuco View Post
    When you say "Therefore the above sentence would not be allowable," what is wrong the the sentence?
    Are you asking, What is wrong with "I didn't do nothing"?
    It's not grammatically correct under prescriptive grammars which forbid the use of double negatives to mean a single negative.

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    Tuco is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Are you asking, What is wrong with "I didn't do nothing"?
    It's not grammatically correct under prescriptive grammars which forbid the use of double negatives to mean a single negative.
    Yes, of course. I was looking at the wrong sentence.

    Thank you.

  7. #7
    kl004535 is offline Junior Member
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    Smile Re: Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    A prescriptive grammar gives rules for usage that it believes should used and deviation from the rules is wrong. As an example, a prescriptive rule for the second conditional would call form the use of the past subjunctive, so 'If I were' is the correct form and 'If I was' is an error.

    A descriptive grammar looks at the way people speak and write and works out its rules from usage, rather than trying to tell people how to speak and write. Therefore, a descriptive grammar would not say that 'If I was' is wrong because it is commonly used.

    I don't really understand your task, but I suppose you're being asked to write something in formal language and something in informal. However, this has little to do with descriptive and prescriptive grammar- descriptive grammar does not only look at informal and colloquial language, but it does not seek to judge informal language by the rules of formal language.
    Does prescriptive grammar admit of Informal language ?
    Is language formality related to descriptive and prescriptive grammar ?

    Thanks for your guidance.

  8. #8
    kl004535 is offline Junior Member
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    Smile Re: Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    The task you've been given has been mis-labelled. You also have the wrong idea of what descriptive and prescriptive grammars are.
    A descriptive grammar is one which describes and explains the patterns of speech and writing that people actually use. A prescriptive grammar is one which tells you what form you must use - usually based on tradition.
    (You can find more complete definitions anywhere on the web).

    A paragraph "written in descriptive grammar" would seem to mean one which does not follow the traditional grammatical rules. I assume that it has to be something that people would normally say, that is, the grammar is natural, but not standard.
    "I didn't do nothing" is an example of a sentence which is grammatically wrong according to most prescriptive grammars of English, because it uses a double negative. But it is a sentence which some people use naturally, and therefore would occur in a descriptive grammar.
    A paragraph "written in prescriptive grammar" would be one which uses only those constructions that are given as correct in whatever prescriptive grammar you are using. Therefore the above sentence would not be allowable.
    Does it mean descriptive grammar admits of informal language, while prescriptive grammar does not ?

    Thanks for your guidance.

  9. #9
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by kl004535 View Post
    Does it mean descriptive grammar admits of informal language, while prescriptive grammar does not ?

    Thanks for your guidance.
    No, the formality of the language is not the issue. Informal language can still follow the rules of a prescriptive grammar.
    Descriptive grammar admits of anything a person says, and describes it. It describes how do people talk, rather than prescribing how people should talk.

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