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23 September 2014
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Talking proper
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'Twirlies' is the name given to pensioners by Liverpool bus crews. Their free bus passes become effective at 9am but if they arrive before this, they enquire 'Are we too early?'
Liverpool Voices

"Some people don't use proper grammar!"
"To boldly go..."
Why don't the grammar books talk like us?

Your comments

Chris from Wrexham
Shakespeare and the people of his day didn't all go round speaking in the same style as his plays - they were for the theatre, and not really how people spoke at that time...

bouazza machkour Morocco
open thnks go to the BBC for their help and support to help overseaes to speak correct English. thank you again.

Tellisha from Australia
Australia is an extremely multicultural country, and although I agree that we should accept and celebrate our differences- both through culture, accents, dialects ect. I also believe that the public school system is to blame.

Raf Bham
Does it reli mata how people talk as long as u can understand nd we ent bein rude wats goin agenst it?? evry1 can talk properly if they wnt 2 dey jus personalise it!!!

Emily from Manchester
I am a student and am currently studying accents and dialects in the British Isle. Studying this topic has given me an insight into how different people in the British Isle speak. I believe that speaking with your accent gives you a sense of identity. Accents and dialects should not be looked down on by others and we should be proud of them and that we may not speak "proper".

Scott from Glasgow
I would say it is hypocritical to complain about the way standard English is changed by regional and social varieties of the language when the language the complainers are speaking is a corruption of a great number of older languages. If one is to be consistent about these things, the complainers should communicate exclusively in Proto-Indo-European, as English is merely a ungramatical and poorly pronounced corruption of that. It doesn't even have proper case endings! How barbaric and uncivilised is that? I'll admit that I have a certain prejudice against other accents, and will make value judgements about the speakers based on their speech, but I do not hold this prejudice on the misconcieved notion that the way I speak is the "correct" form. And if any form of English is a textbook example of poor pronunciation, spelling, and grammar, it would undoubtably be Standard English with an RP accent, with its unbelieveable number of irregular verbs, insane conjugations, and pronunciations that have next to nothing to do with the way the word is spelled. Seriously, what's a better, more logical basis for a language? I am, you are, he/she/it is? Or I is, you is, he/she/it is? I think, you think, he/she/it thinks, or I thinks, you thinks, he/she/it thinks? And who but an illiterate would think that plow and ruff could actually be spelled the same?

Lisa, Manchester
Are some of you so sad that the incorrect use of grammar winds you up so much? I agree with all those that say as long as you can understand what someone is saying isn't that all that matters? Variety is the spice of life and dialects have been the topic of many a conversation with my many friends from around the country!

Tim, Norfolk
The misuse of 'myself' is one of my pet hates. I, me and myself are pronouns that have different uses - hence three different forms. Using 'myself' for every purpose is ridiculous. To help Jason from California, it is important to remember that 'myself' is a reflexive pronoun. Some verbs naturally require a reflexive pronoun; for instance, to kill onself. An easy way to test whether you've got the right pronoun is to take out the other names in the sentence. So "Who's going? Myself" just sounds silly (unless you're Irish, perhaps) - whereas "Who's going? I am" makes sense. Put the other names back in and you get a grammatically correct sentences: "Who's going? Jim, Sarah and I". You can't say 'myself is going'.

Anna, Kent
I agree that dialects are fascinating and love listening to them, but I draw the line at the use of poor grammar in adult conversation. Many people have commented that it doesn't matter how 'bad' one's grammar is as long as the content can be understood. The point seems to be that many of us simply can't understand what these people are saying. Poor grammar leads to imprecision. People should have more consideration for their listeners. Surely all this slang isn't acceptable at work or university.

jason from California
Is it proper/acceptable to use "myself" in the following way?: Who's going? Jim, Sarah and myself.

Runny from Hong Kong
I am a student from Hong Kong. Impoper conversation is a problum for me. I wonder that what the meaning of 'What do you doing here?' is... I usually listen that on tv. Why do people say that?

Will from London
Regional accents and dialects are fantastic and should be encouraged. Lazy speech, such as substituting "th" for "f", missing out consonants, such as saying "twenny" mot "twenty" and ending every sentence with "innit" is just awful and ugly. My other pet hate, one that makes my hackles rise is when people mispronounce the eighth letter of the alphabet: It's "aitch" not "haitch".

Kyle, London (native Scot)
I used to be a grammar purist, but having studied linguistics, I have come to realise that English is a living language and as such it will evolve. However, I deplore the Esturian habit of saying: "I were.

Charles Calthorpe Manchester
Bad pronounciation annoys me immensley - as in missing out letters in words and also using the apostrophe incorrectly - One faux pas that grates with me - is when you are watching a football match and the commentator says =The teams are asking questions of each other - I find myself screaming at the tv saying - What questions are these that they are asking - It is not the players in a litteral sense - or the teams in a litteral sense - It is bad use of Englsh - And as someone said - "unexpected surprise -" you cannot have an expeced surprise - Also double negatives and doulbe superlatives annoy me - I wasn't doing nothng implies that you were doing something - I like cheesecake me - Why the double affirmative - aggghh.

Fiona from Edinburgh
Firstly, I would like to point out that dialects do follow grammatical rules- they are just different rules from the standard form. However, these rules are seldom taught as rules, as they are often of low prestige. A speaker of Scots English consistently says things like "It needs fixed", this is entirely predictable and regular, just a different rule from the standard. However, a standard form can be useful for a language as it can act as a lingua franca- enabling communication between two different groups. However, this is not to say that either form is better or worse than the other, they are just appropriate in different situations. Using a dialect form in a legal document is rather like wearing a ball dress to climb a mountain, however, a ball dress is appropriate at a ball! We could also consider what is meant by a "language" and a "dialect"- Dutch is closer to the variety of German spoken on the Dutch border than Bavarian German, yet for political reasons we group the languages spoken in Germany as German, and those spoken in Holland as Dutch. Mutual intelligibility has very little to do with it, as many German speakers find when they go to Bavaria. However, since we use language for communication, we should teach people to be able to communicate with other groups effectively in different situations, by teaching children which forms should be used when. Nonetheless, we all have our pet hates in language ( I dislike rising intonation at the end of declarative sentences, for example) which we find irritating, but that is just personal taste, just like fashion.

Stu from Brighton
Please remember that some "rules" we use today were once new and frowned upon by purists. Our modern form of the progressive passive (e.g. the house is being painted) was attacked by many people in the 17th century as abhorrent, illogical, and just plain wrong, but to say that now about this construction would just get you laughed at. All this proves is that language changes and it is a gradual process - the changes may annoy people at the time but eventually those individuals will have departed from this earth but the changes would have become orthodoxy. C'est la vie!

Stuart of London
To A Morris of London who stated that he particularly abhors the "verbing" of words and to say it is abysmally lazy abuse of a language with such an extensive lexicon. How do you think English came to have such a big lexicon? One way is to take existing words and to use it in a different way - Shakespeare was turning verbs into nouns or adjectives, turning nouns into verbs, and using similar processes 500 years ago. No one thinks he was "wrong". All people are doing by "verbing" is using the great adaptability of the language to express themselves - in other words a normal natural process in language change. Incidently, isn't the word "verbing" an example of this - turning a noun into a present participle...?

Olive Home from Hackney
Formal grammar teaching went out the window in the 70s. There are teachers in classrooms now who are worried about their poor understanding of how the English language works. The wheel is turning slowly, and grammar is coming back into school classrooms. But it is hard for learners with little understanding of grammatical structure, even as elementary as "what is an adjective" to cope with languages which conjugate their verbs and decline their nouns, adjectives and pronouns. Foreign language learning is suffering in Britain, not only because English is the main world language, but surely because learners can't cope with understanding grammatical systems.

A Morris, London
I've been a proofreader/editor for ten years. My job is an increasingly heartbreaking one. At the moment I work for a law firm, where I have developed a keen antipathy for commercial or business English. I particularly abhor the "verbing" of words: "to incentivise" instead of "to encourage"; "to dialogue" instead of "to converse" and "to action" instead of "to do". It is an abysmally lazy abuse of a language with such an extensive lexicon, almost as upsetting as the number of people who have written "grammer" instead of "grammar" on this page.

kim from liverpool
I hate the way people nowaydays are saying dat, da, and den instead of pronouncing their t's. I also hate the way people are completely oblivious to plurals and say 'there is for people' or 'there's loads.' People are also starting to say i have eat or i have ate, instead of i ate or i have eaten. my sister is also guilty of saying 'i am going town', instead of 'i am going TO town'. It is just laziness, ignorance and also the fault of the television.

Pam from Southport
A return to teaching English grammar in schools, would give immense benefits to many young people. I believe that we would be able to improve on our poor track record regarding learning foreign languages. Correct grammar and pronunciation give clarity to communication. How can it be possible that in the 21st century we have grave concerns about the literacy of our school-leavers? Young people seeking work are badly let down by this laissez-faire attitude.

liz from Cleveland
I get annoyed when I hear someone say " he learned me how to drive" instead of 'taught' I am not sure if this is reagional or not , but where I live it is "common".

Ray from Leeds
Soz 2 u all squares and snobs out there, but its the content of what you say that really matters! Doing all that proper posh grammar is completely unnecesary and pointless as long as we can communicate with each other.

Fran from Herts
Like Luce, I find tautologies infuriating, but "large majority" isn't one. Majorities come in all sizes, as is much discussed around election time! Some very common ones that annoy me are: "revert back", "during periods of time when", "exit out" and tautologous non-words such as "irregardless" and "recompensate".

David from Cumbria
I think it is important to realise that the conclusions in the article are just as much personal opinions as those from purists, traditionalists, etc., and carry, therefore, the same weight. My personal view of the use of language inclines to the formal, even in speech. I find myself quickly checking each utterance before I make it, to ensure that the grammar and construction is consistent with my mode of speech (that is, my accent, which is RP.) To speak with poor grammar would be inconsistent with that accent, I believe. I am not concerned whether that makes me seem 'standoffish'.

Alice from Kent
I don't look down on accents. Theres an accent or a dialect, and then there's just getting the words plain wrong. like a girl i took english with in school said "renember" instead of "remember" and a woman i work with asked me "wos wrong wiv yawn?" what the hell does that mean??? I am a stickler for grammer and the proper use of words and phrases, but at least you should get the words right, before you even look at the grammer.

Mike Demack Rhyl
There is no reason why speech should be uttered in a sloppy way, intrusive r's, nucular etc. Whilst BBC english is probably dead ( no bad thing) clearly enunciated speech will help learners to spell correctly. A living language is literally living, it moves on or back, but please not sloppy speech

Glenda from Scotland
(Though English, by the way...) I have to say that I agree most wholeheartedly with the premise - made by David from Glasgow- that the reading of many books is the best way to absorb good grammar practice. It's not the lack of good "book-grammar" that annoys me these days (though certain constructions, or the lack of them certainly jar with my fairly classical education), it's the inarticulacy (or should that be inarticulateness?) of so many. We learn our native language by copying the example of others so the broader exposure via books is something that can only be valuable. It's also a way of discovering other vocabulary, realising that certain ways of speaking or writing are appropriate for different situations and doing so in an atmosphere of enjoyment. How better to learn?

Luce, Nottingham
I particularly hate it when people use the wrong verbs, such as 'Could I lend your pencil?', but my special ire is reserved for tautology - my blood BOILS when I hear not just people on the street, but newsreaders, commentators and even 'experts' (all of whom should have the inteligence to know better) using phrases such as 'vast majority', 'added bonus' and 'unexpected surprise'! aargh! You can't have an expected surprise, a bonus that isn't additional or a majority that's small, can you?!

Mike Collings from North Wales
The habit for a rising intonation at the end of a statement causes mild annoyance and confusion? How annoying was that? Which of these sentences is a true question?

David from Glasgow
In response to Barry Gower...I, like him, was taught to parse sentences at school. However, I wasn't taught this in English lessons, but in German and (especially!) Latin. Yes, all this stuff is fascinating - linguistics remains a pet topic for me - and it comes in handy when picking up a foreign language. But it's far from the best way to teach good English. Myself, I was taught the basics at home. Most toddlers are. Then I was let loose on books. That's the way to teach 'good' English: expose children to lots of examples of what we consider to be a good standard, in addition to the native dialects which we all - irrespective of region, class or culture - use amongst our peers.

Lesley from Chester
Unlike maths, for example, the debate surrounding what is good English, or good grammar, or the correct pronunciation, seems to open the flood gates. I may say "barth" (to quote an example from another comment) but that doesn't prevent me understanding "bath". If my barth can't be understood, isn't that the listener's problem? Language, and its perceived correctness, seems to be used as a surrogate social marker. Others are judged by whether they speak or use language like we do. It is this weak attempt at inventing social barriers that could hinder the natural evolution of language. Who cares if the odd word is spelt incorrectly, or if an apostrophe is omitted. It's fantastic that most of us get such a complex skill such a language right about 99.9% of the time. An error rate of one in a thousand surely isn't that bad!

Jeff Grandfield from Bristol
Language came first, then rules. Rules are written by those with power so 'dialect', 'slovenly speech' etc reflect the prejudices of those in positions of power.

Ellen from Leicester
I have two pet hates at the moment, the first illustrated by - "What are you doing Tuesday?" No no no, it should be, "What are you doing on Tuesday?". Even my father who prides himself on his "good English" uses this form as standard. He blames it on the four years he spent in Canada 25 years ago. Can he really blame Canada? Do you go swimming Fridays or on Fridays? The second is, "I'm going to write mother", or, "I need to write the bank manager". This second error is not so common in Britain as America but it's creeping in. I ask people to please think what they're really saying when they use these two grammatical errors.

Colin Kendall from Florida
I take issue with the statement 'Change is normal - there's no point in trying to hold on to the past.' I am English, but was educated in America. I remember reading Shakespeare in high school, and seeing a footnote, explaining the meaning of a word, on almost every line. I personally did not need most of the footnotes, but others did. Shakespeare wrote beautifully, and it seems a shame that many people will not read him because they do not know the meanings of many of the words. The point in trying to hold on to the past is to avoid the loss of a thing of beauty.

Chris Fairs
There must be rules and standards of English to which we should all adhere when submitting written work for examination. Without such rules, the unscrupulous could claim that anything they might write would make sense and be of worth, irrespective of word order or spelling. There is still place for regional variation in speech which adds to the richness of the language. When written in a context that makes obvious the fact that it is only dialect being used, it is equally acceptable. A new word to describe something, which, itself, is new, should be welcomed. Loss of adjectives by some ('sort code' - by banks)is a most unwelcome introduction.

Chris McAllan from stanwell
I am a primary school trainee teacher, specialising in English. I'm currently studying linguistics, and resardhing a topic on perception of the English language. I personally feel that we have an ever changing language but as I've found so far, different people have very different views on the subject. Thank you all for your useful comments!

Greg from USA
I have heard that the term "bad grammar" is actually grammatically incorrect.

Emily from California
Language is ever-changing. That's one of its primary features. It's fairly evident that we don't talk anything like we did 400 years ago when Shakespeare was around, both in accent and in word usage. Try comparing modern English to Chaucer's English - the differences are astonishing. We can't be such sticklers about grammar and talking the way our grandparents did, because how will the language ever change then? The influx of slang, the use of 'txt msg' abbreviations are all part of the growing and mutating lexicon of the English language. Don't you want people in 2400 to complain about having to listen to old tv or radio shows? ("It's so *boring*! And it doesn't make any sense!")

Michael Kearley from St Albans
Knowledge of,and the ability to communicate in correct English is essential for formal occasions both written and spoken. We also need to accept that there are variable vocabularies/accents/dialects, textspeak/rap/slang, and that language is constantly changing and developing. I am fascinated by the mix of accents/dialects. What bothers me is the matching carelessness of pronunciation and spelling. At best, one needs to combine the abilities of an actor/comedian/scriptwriter with those of texters/salespersons and teacher. Listen and learn. Leaving aside the traumas of huge grammatical change, should I really flinch at 'we was'? Why not have a common 'was' throuughout? How is it some languages still insist on agreement between gender and object, to name but a few? Long may radios' WORD OF MOUTH, NEWS QUIZ, I'M SORRY I HAVEN'T A CLUE, etc continue. If asked 'Aren't you coming', and assuming I will not, my answer is 'Correct'. This is contrary to most of us, so I am told! 'What do you want to eat Susan? to me should be, 'Susan, what do you want to eat? Any other niggles? Yes, 'it went badly wrong', one of John Humphrys' favourite phrases.

Derek Williams of Chorley
Why do southerners say barth for bath, or plarnt for plant Why do Eastenders and those from Coronation Street perpetually omit "t" or "tt" from the middle of words. Isn't it easier to say butter rather than ba'er. Where on earth can a learner of English look for a precise definition of these idle mispronunciations. Don't be fooled by Lena from Scotland enjoying the different accents and dialects. Scots can be extremely difficult to understand, talking with their "glottal shock". And Oh!, have you tried to say "latent" omitting the 't after the 'a'.

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