Page 1 of 3
"Some people don't use proper grammar!"
"To boldly go..."
Why don't the grammar books talk like us?
"Some people just don't use proper grammar!" True or false? by Philippa Law
Whether this claim is true or not really depends on what you mean by 'proper grammar'.
Grammar books will tell you which forms are considered most prestigious (by the person who has written them). A 'grammatical' sentence follows the rules of a language, as detailed by the grammar book. This is known as prescriptive grammar, because it prescribes what you should and should not do.
Linguists use the word 'grammar' (aka syntax) to describe how speakers of a language put words together to form utterances.
"I am fed up of hearing the use of the word 'an' instead of 'a' on the station. This is inappropriate use of the English language." A 'grammatical' sentence follows the underlying rules of a language, as it is spoken by native speakers. This is known as descriptive grammar, because it describes what is actually said.
- Complaint to BBC
Linguists also sometimes use the word 'grammar' to refer to absolutely everything stored in your brain about your native language, including the syntax, words, pronunciation, information about different accents, and so on.
You don't need to be taught the (descriptive) grammar of your mother tongue. You automatically acquire the ability to form sentences like those spoken by your peers, according to the underlying rules of that language. Importantly, after reaching a certain level of linguistic maturity (in early childhood), apart from occasional slips of the tongue, you do not spontaneously produce sentences that are ungrammatical, i.e. that do not fit the rules you have acquired.
These sentences, for example, are perfectly possible:
"Dan and I are going."
"Me and Dan are going."
"Dan and me are going."
But these are not:
"I and Dan are going."
"Me am going."
In prescriptive grammar only the first option is correct: 'I' is used for the subject of a sentence and 'me' for the object. Where more than one subject is present, 'I' comes last.
The use of Me and Dan/Dan and me is not a mistake, nor does it suggest that this speaker doesn't have rules. It's just that they have two different rules to choose from, depending on the situation they're in.
Some people will have learnt the standard rules, some will have learnt non-standard rules, but the majority of us will have learnt both, and are able to choose which set of rules to employ in particular contexts.
To say that some people don't use grammar is nonsense, since grammar is how you speak. On the other hand, if by using 'proper' grammar you mean always following all the rules laid down in the grammar books, then it would be hard to find anyone who uses 'proper' grammar all the time.