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  1. Johnny's Avatar

    • Join Date: Nov 2006
    • Posts: 74

    Is grammar important or not in spoken english?

    This is a question which has been perplexing me for a long while.

    A lot of people around me are saying that grammar is no that important in developing spoken english because the native speakers can understand us. What's worse, a lot of them have very serious accent. It could be accepted if they made a lot of grammatical mistakes?

  2. rewboss's Avatar

    • Join Date: Feb 2006
    • Posts: 1,552

    Re: Is grammar important or not in spoken english?

    It depends what you mean by "grammatical mistake".

    Native speakers are less likely to conform to standard grammar when they are speaking. The main reason for this is that, except for very short sentences, we don't formulate the whole sentence before we start to say it. Often, we begin a sentence not knowing how it will end, and by the time we have got to the end of the sentence, we may have forgotten exactly how we started it. When we write, however, we have time to plan our sentences and edit them if necessary, before letting anyone else see them.

    It is true that if you stopped somebody in the middle of London and said, "Big Ben is you know where?" you would be understood and nobody would comment. But if you wrote a letter to your supplier and said, "Our order is you know where?" that would make a bad impression.

    And also, what is considered a "grammatical mistake" in formal English may be perfectly acceptable in informal English. So we learn the rule that we say "I am" and "Am I?", but "Aren't I?"; but in Scotland it is perfectly acceptable to say, "Amn't I?" -- at least in informal situations. And in many other dialects, in informal situations it is acceptable to say "Ain't I?"

    I would definitely say that when you are writing, especially formal letters, you should try to get your grammar right; but when you are speaking, the most important thing is to get your message across, and people will be more tolerant if, for example, your verb doesn't agree with the subject.

    But that doesn't mean you never have to worry about grammar. If you were to refer to your female boss as "he", that could be confusing or even slightly offensive.

  3. Johnny's Avatar

    • Join Date: Nov 2006
    • Posts: 74

    Re: Is grammar important or not in spoken english?

    You are making sense. But actually you'll be stucked and likely to make mistakes when you're less careful about the problems you had in spoken english, just like past tenses or singular forms, etc. I'm afraid you will find it hard to make sure that if that's a problematic sentence or not.

    It's OK to make something informal, but other people(non-native speakers) may think that you're speaking english with your own mother togue, like Chinglish here in China, meaning the mix of Chinese thought with english words. It sounds really strange sometimes. It's hard to say if this is going to get across or not.

    Some tiny problems are acceptable, but what about a strange style? Maybe no good

  4. Editor,
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 59,832

    Re: Is grammar important or not in spoken english?

    Variations and dialects are fine, but the more they diverge from the common core, the less comprehensible they become to the wider speech community, so if the goal is to communicate to the wider community, then a very strong regional variation, whether it's Chinglish or a very regional English from the UK, will make communication more difficult. However, features of Chinglish may well pass into the wider community too. However, I think the general trend will be towards greater homogenisation simply to facilate global communication.

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