Glossary: Standard English


Standard English can be recognised by the use of a very small range of forms such as those books, I did it and I wasn’t doing anything (rather than their non-Standard equivalents); it is not limited to any particular accent. It is the variety of English which is used, with only minor variation, as a major world language. Some people use Standard English all the time, in all situations from the most casual to the most formal, so it covers most registers. The aim of the national curriculum is that everyone should be able to use Standard English as needed in writing and in relatively formal speaking.

  • I did it because they were not willing to undertake any more work on those houses. [formal Standard English]
  • I did it cos they wouldn’t do any more work on those houses. [casual Standard English]
  • I done it cos they wouldn’t do no more work on them houses. [casual non-Standard English]

Note that standards change, and that Standard English in Shakespeare's time, or in Dickens's time, was different from Standard English today. Likewise, Standard English in 200 years will be different from Standard English now.

Likewise, standards vary around the world. American English and British English do have some significant differences, such that what is standard in America may be non-standard in the UK.


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