Grammar and punctuation

Standard and non-Standard English

Standard and non-Standard English

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Tutor: Jonathan


Standard and non-Standard English

In a nutshell

Standard English is the English that everyone agrees is correct and is understood by all native speakers within a native English-speaking country. English that is spoken and written differently is considered non-Standard English.

Identifying common mistakes

When it comes to using Standard English, it's important to follow the grammar and punctuation rules you are taught at school. Sometimes it's easy to get into the habit of making certain mistakes. Here are some tips for using Standard English:

The subject and verb should always agree

It's important to make sure that the verb always agrees with the subject in a sentence. This is called verb conjugation. Conjugating the verb correctly is considered Standard English.


Standard English

Non-standard english

We were excited about our test results.
We was excited about our test results.

Note: some authors use non-Standard English in their writing to either create an effect or to represent certain English variants or dialects.

Also, be sure not to mix up the simple past and present perfect tenses. As a reminder, the present perfect tense is the "have + past participle" form.


standard english

non-standard english

I did my homework. (simple past)
I done my homework.
I have done my homework. (present perfect)


A pronoun is a word that can replace a noun in a sentence. Be sure not to use a pronoun and a noun in the same sentence.


​​standard english

​​non-standard english

I like those pies on the table.
I like them pies on the table.

Most adverbs end in '-ly'

An adverb is a word that modifies or describes a verb, adjective or another adverb. Adverbs often end in '-ly' with a few exceptions. Make sure to use adverbs correctly.


​​standard english

non-standard english

Drive safely. Text me when you get there.
Drive safe. Text me when you get there.

The word, 'safe' is an adjective that describes the verb, 'drive' so it should en in '-ly'.


I did well on my exam.

​He runs fast.

I travel often.

She kicked the ball hard.​

Non-Standard English

It's important to remember that although many of the common mistakes that were discussed above are considered non-Standard English, it does not mean that all words or sentence structures that are different are wrong.


In some local dialects, older versions of English are preserved. In certain parts of the UK, you might hear someone say:

​​standard english

non-standard english

That's my mum.
That's me mam.

Many centuries ago, the word, "my" was pronounced "me" which is still preserved today. Even though this is not considered incorrect, it is still important that you stick to Standard English outside of those dialects and English variants.

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean for a subject and a verb to agree?

Is non-Standard English incorrect?

What is Standard English?


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