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English Language & Linguistics

English Language



Examples of non-standard usage

1. I can do that quicklier than you

In English a comparative is formed from an adjective by either adding "more" [difficult > more difficult] or adding the suffix "er" [fast > faster]. In the case of "the quicker and the slower runner" the adjective would be "quick" and the comparative "quicker".
In the example above however the key word is not the adjective "quick" but the adverb "quickly." Adverbs take "more" never "er."
Whether we choose to add "more" or to add the suffix "er" to an adjective depends mainly on the length of the word - so the monosyllable "quick" becomes "quicker" while the polysyllable "difficult" takes "more difficult".

2. Then he jumped off of the wall

The "of" is redundant here although the use is common in some dialects. "jumped off" is a phrasal verb using a preposition to supplement the verb. "of" is possessive and is grammatically redundant.

3. If he hadn't've gone to the match he wouldn't of been late

There is confusion in some listeners who hear the contraction "'ve" (abbreviated from "have") and hear it as "of". This example shows the contraction with the first verb and the use of "of" in the second verb. However the first verb is made unnecessarily complex, as "if he had not gone" contracted to "if he hadn't gone" would be correct Standard English grammar.

4. I ain't never done nothin' like that

Multiple negation is not acceptable in Standard English but is common in Cockney and elsewhere and was common in the writing of Chaucer. Standard English speakers sometimes argue that multiple negation works on mathematical principles, so that two negatives create a positive, however dialect forms use multiple negation to intensify and enhance as in the example above. Standard English would be "I have done nothing ..." or "I have never done anything ..."

5. How much Easter eggs do you have?

While French uses "combien" for how much or how many, English distinguishes between countable and non countables. So "how much sugar" and "how many bags of sugar". Eggs are countable so take the word "many." This is a typical issue for non-native English speakers.

6. That's the swing we swinged on

Two common ways of creating a simple past tense verb form are - adding an "ed" suffix and changing the central vowel. Older verbs may change the vowel eg swim > swam > swum or hang >hung but others simply add the suffix walk > walked or hang > hanged ( referring specifically to an execution). In the example above the verb should be "swung".

7. We're waitin' of it comin' in, pet

The phrasal verb "waiting for" is part of Standard English but "waiting of" is common in Newcastle dialect. The meaning is the same.

8. You'ze lot 've got a lot to learn

Standard English has identical second person pronouns so in "you are guilty" we cannot tell whether the subject is singular or plural. However Geordie, Northern Irish, Scots and others do have a second person plural pronoun (yous). Here there is also an intensifier "lot" used for emphasis.

9. [James aged 3 after poking his ear]
Look mummy. My itch is gone and I got a wak out of it

James has heard "wax" as the plural form of *wak. By back formation he has created a new word. This is a "virtuous error" as it demonstrates that he has grammatical awareness (even though he was wrong in this case.)

10. [Mother] Don't argue

[Hugh aged 3] I don't argme!

Similar to the previous example. Hugh has heard "arg you" and has used his grammatical knowledge to generate what is logical to him.


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