English Teacher Article Descriptivist Grammar

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The idea behind descriptivist grammar is that forms that are used by a substantial part of the speech community are accepted and recognised, but the truth is often far from this.

People who claim to be describing language as it is really used are often wrong in the ideas. For instance, many say that it is wrong to use 'may' for permission because most people use 'can'. This is the reverse of what was taught twenty years ago. However, both positions are wrong as people use both forms. A true descriptivist grammar would state that both forms are correct and that, in many users' cases, 'may' is used to be more polite.

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8 Comments

Hello
can you hellp to me , please! because I have a some problem in grammar ESL ,in punctuation
I need your help , please . my problem in grammar :the simple past and past progressive,expressing past habit:used to , be going to , complete sentence ,sureness about the future . these are my problem can you help to me ,please ! I need your help
bye
have a good lucks

Here's a glossary explaining these terms:
http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary.html

You can ask questions and practise directly here:
http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/index.php

What would be a good idea would be for you to post up some real examples of sentences where you have made mistakes and then we could look at genuine English.
;-)

Dear Jak,

You obviously are already working on your 'problems' (which actually aren't problems) by posting your questions in English. That's the most effective method to improve your language skills: Expressing your thoughts and not being afraid of making 'mistakes'. The purpose of language is communication and even though your grammar might not be 100% correct (no one's grammar is perfect) you still can say what you want.
So, keep on exchaning emails in English with people you can learn a lot from and your grammar and punctuation will get better as a pleasant 'side effect'.

hi we are students from a school in buenos aires, argentina. we are lerning modals verbs so we founded this exelent web site. sorry if we make a mistake, we are only students! :) best wishes
ani & cande

I am doing a debate for a class in high school and I need ideas for things to argue for being a descriptivist. We will be debating on which side of "american english" is better; being a descriptivist or a prescriptivist. Our class will be voting on which group wins based on the arguements given and how strong they are so I was wondering if I could get some ideas for arguements. Thanks for the help. Look forward to getting some feedback!

The advantages of being a descriptivist include being able to describe language accurately. It must be lonely for those who go around insisting that everybody should say 'It's I' and not 'It's me'. At least a dscriptivist can see that the results of their work are to be found in everyday usage. This particular example is one that strikes me as absurd- I fail to see how 99.9% of the sppeakers can be wrong and they right, no matter how many times they say that a linking verb cannot take an object.

'Can I come in?'
'I don't know if yo can, but you may.'

Even the jokes aren't that funny.

high !
I'm a TEFL teacher & I'm to do a cinamar about teaching grammar next month . It should include def. ,precedures , techniques & drills. I'm searching the net for a time & I coud n't find useful theoritical infos. can you help me ? I'll be greatful .

Hey,

I wanted to know if there is any reliable research regarding the lack of nueral networks when children aren't taught grammar at a certain age. This means that Suzy can't effectively use and learn grammar at 17 because her brain doesn't have those neural networks of grammar formed because she didn't learn grammar in elementary school. (this is just a hypothetical situation but if there is any research that talks about such situations do tell me)

Thank you.

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