Prescriptive grammar



What is the reference English speakers have when referring to prescriptive grammar? In Spanish we have the Real Academia Española (Spanish Royal Academy), and the French have the Académie Française. What happens in the UK and the USA?

Marcela Testai


The term "prescriptive grammar" does not refer to one particular book or theory. There is no single authority on the English language equivalent to the academies for Spanish and French. So, there are many different approaches to DEscribing English usage (sometimes called "descriptive grammar") and PREscribing its correct application.

"Prescriptive grammar" sets forth rules for how the language should be used (prescriptive) and how it should not be used (proscriptive), based on a particular formal model of grammar. For English, such a grammar might prescribe "I" as in "It is I" and proscribe "me" as in "It's me." It may proscribe "like" used as a conjunction, as in "He acted like he was the king."

Prescriptive grammar is the set of rules that children learn in school. It mainly concerns the written language—punctuation, spelling, word forms, etc. It provides a general standard that guides writers, editors, and speakers of English in formal communications.

Barbara Matthies

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