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What Is Considered Correct Grammar?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 23, 2024
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Correct grammar may differ among regions and languages. In general, however, most civilizations have structural rules that govern proper grammar usage. Grammatical considerations may include the following: syntax, punctuation, spelling, phonology, morphology, parts of speech, and capitalization rules. More specifically, proper grammar involves using the proper words and grammatical symbols in the proper order. Each language has its own set of specific rules or customs, but English will be the primary language example for explanatory purposes.

Grammar considers the way individuals use language. As such, the impact of correct grammar is most apparent when one speaks or creates a written text or composition. Proper usage of words is a crucial aspect of both education and professional advancement.

One of the most important aspects of grammar is syntax. This principle considers how one combines words, phrases, and clauses to form a thought. In most languages, words are typically structured into sentences consisting of phrases and clauses, which in turn form into paragraphs in some languages. A paragraph typically constitutes the building of a single idea. When that idea changes, the paragraph changes. The particular ordering of words within a single phrase may vary widely among languages, however.

At a basic level in most languages, the majority of words are classified as either descriptions of persons, places, and things or descriptions of actions. In English, the former are known as nouns while the latter are classified as verbs. Words describing persons, places, or things may be assigned a gender distinction in certain languages like French. Action words, on the other hand, may have different spelling or structural rules depending on whether the word references something that occurred in the past, the present, or the future or whether the word links two other words together rather than performing an actual action.

A large number of languages also have words that enhance and complement either words describing persons, places, or things or action words. The English language calls these words adjectives and adverbs, respectively. Different rules for different languages govern the spelling and placement of these words, although they are generally found either immediately preceding or immediately following the words that they complement.

The basic correct grammar layout for a sentence in many languages is a person or object performing an action. The person or object is known as a subject in English, for example. The action word may come before or after the subject, depending on the language. English typically places the action word — or verb — after the subject.

The rest of a sentence may include another person or object upon which the action is being performed, or it may include an indication of factors such as time or location. This latter part of the sentence has various names in different languages, including predicate in English and the complement d'objet direct or complement circonstanciel in French. In some languages, like Chinese and Spanish, the object of the sentence may precede the action word or even precede the subject.

Sentences are further distinguished by various forms of punctuation, which is another consideration in correct grammar usage. In most languages, for example, there is a symbol — such as a period in English or a punto in Spanish — that signals the end of a sentence or thought. Other symbols, in contrast, indicate a pause in the sentence. These symbols — like commas in English — are usually found when a sentence contains a series of similar words, when a sentence attempts to combine more than one thought, or when additional information lengthens a sentence. Other punctuation types such as parentheses and accents may be used to indicate extraneous information or to stress a certain part of a word.

Various languages also have different types of sentences that perform different functions. Some sentences simply make a statement, while others give a command. In most cases, these types of word clusters have the traditional punctuations of their respective languages. Some languages also distinguish sentences that indicate excitement, ask a question, or quote a person or source by using different forms of punctuation symbols such as question marks.

Capitalization and proper spelling are further important components of writing correct grammar in most languages. The capitalization rule is generally used for the first letter at the beginning of sentences. Names of people or specific locations are also usually capitalized via the first letter in English and some other languages, while more general word descriptions may be capitalized in some languages like German as well. Spelling involves how the individual letters in a word are ordered and structured, and accepted spelling usually derives from word origins and usages passed down over time. Regardless of language, most words have a specific morphology and phonology — or meaning and pronunciation — that must be used in a proper context.

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Discussion Comments
By jessiwan — On Mar 12, 2021

I know what you are talking about, Wise. What you described is especially prevalent in the inner cities, particularly in the States. You only have "street cred" if you talk in a certain way. I don't want to sound like a racist but the above happens especially often among the black populations. And what's worse is that some people actually defend this degradation of language. I saw this video of this woman who actually tried to defend kids who used "there are less people", instead of "there are fewer people". Ok, maybe I don't remember the details that well , but what I do remember is that some people seem to think speaking proper English is "acting white", which of course implies that it's minorities against white people. If you ask me, this is a very unhealthy, divisive mentality. I am a minority myself, however I do not see white people as my enemy (if I have one at all). And when a native speaker of English (usually white but not always) corrects my grammar, I see it as an opportunity for me to improve my English. I do not see it as some sort of cultural imperialism. Speaking good, grammatically correct English is a good thing and should be encouraged.

On a lighter note: some languages have very different grammar from English. Japanese, which I don't speak, seems to be one of them. My understanding is that the Japanese language places words that mean "no" at the end of the sentence. Which means when an English speaker is trying to have some sort of negotiation with a Japanese-speaker, he is usually "kept in suspense" when the latter utters a sentence, he doesn't know whether the other person is answering in the affirmative or negative until the sentence is completed. I thought this was interesting.

By Wisedly33 — On Feb 15, 2014

Correct grammar varies among languages. What is correct in Spanish may not make sense in English.

My grief is that so many people do not seem to care whether their grammar is correct or not. Worse, some seem to see using correct grammar as some kind of weird intellectual snobbery. You can only be "one of the crowd" if your grammar is as horrid as theirs. This disdain for a basic skill really does not augur well for an entire generation of English speakers who have no idea how to properly speak their mother tongue.

Even in the days before English spelling was standardized, there were still grammar rules, and not following them marked a person as a complete idiot.

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