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Non-Standard English Grammar

If you’ve ever heard British English speakers say something that you know is wrong, it could be because they’re using non-standard English grammar.

This is the grammar that people use when they speak – but which is considered to be incorrect. Sometimes it comes from a regional dialect, and sometimes it happens because grammar rules are also confusing for British English speakers! For example, you’ll often hear double negatives and incorrect past endings.

You’ll typically hear (rather than read) non-standard English. Here are some examples.

Double negatives

Many languages have double negatives – which is why it can be difficult to remember the single negative rule in standard English. However, you’ll hear British English speakers (incorrectly) use double negatives in examples like this:

“I don’t have none left” (instead of “I don’t have any left”)
“I couldn’t hardly walk” (instead of “I could hardly walk”)
“I didn’t do nothing” (instead of “I didn’t do anything”)

Pronouns

If you find subject and object pronouns confusing, you’ll be glad to know that they can be difficult for British English speakers too! Here are some examples:

“Them houses are expensive” (instead of “Those houses are expensive” / “They are expensive”)
“Me and my friend went there” (instead of “My friend and I went there”)

Another example of a non-standard pronoun is from the Geordie dialect in England. A Geordie is someone who is from the north-east of England, in the area around the city of Newcastle. “Us” is used instead of “me”. For example:
“My ex-partner left us for no reason” (= “my ex-partner left me for no reason)
“There’s a lot more to us than you think” (= “there’s a lot more to me than you think)

Singular / Plural verbs

There are many examples of non-standard verb endings. For example:

“So I goes…” — when you’re telling a story (instead of “So I go…” or “So I say…”)
“He don’t live here” (instead of “He doesn’t live here”)
“We / They was waiting…” (instead of “We / They were waiting”)

Past Simple / Past Participles

Irregular verb endings are also confusing for British English speakers. Here are some examples:

“I don’t know who done it.” (instead of “who did it”)
“He must have took it” (instead of “he must have taken it”)
“She brung him up” (instead of “she brought him up”)

More non-standard English grammar

Here are three more examples of common non-standard English grammar:

“What” used as a relative pronoun
“It was them what won” (instead of “it was them who won”)

“Sat” and “Stood” used as a passive
“He was sat on the grass” (instead of “he was sitting on the grass)

“Aint” and “Innit” used as auxiliaries
“I ain’t seen him” (instead of “I haven’t seen him”)
“Nice weather innit” (instead of “Nice weather, isn’t it”)


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