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Standard English

Standard English is the variety of English which the majority of native speakers agree is 'correct'. Standard usage excludes ungrammatical structures along with dialect words, although many of these would have been correct in the past. This is the variety of English you will hear when watching the news or listening to Radio 4. You will be expected not only to recognise it, but also to write essays and exam answers using standard English.

See how well you can identify 'correct' English by trying this quiz.

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  1. He don't want to watch no more t.v. - Why is this sentence NOT standard English?
    In standard English, 'he don't' would be 'he doesn't'; 'don't want no...' is an example of double negation
  2. Are yous coming with us? - Why is this sentence NOT standard English?
    'Are you coming with us?' would be standard English
  3. I'm going to see me aunt. - Why is this sentence NOT standard English?
    'I'm going to see my aunt' would be standard English
  4. He were down the shops when I phoned him. - Why is this sentence NOT standard English?
    In standard English, 'he were' would be 'he was' and 'down' would be 'at'
  5. If I were retired, I would sail around the world. - Why is this sentence NOT standard English?
    'If I were' is an example of a subjunctive. Although it is often replaced by 'if I was' in spoken English, 'if I were' is standard. You have probably heard the phrase 'if I were you...' - this is another, easily remembered, example of the subjunctive
  6. Where is she at? - Why is this sentence NOT standard English?
    The 'at' is redundant (unnecessary). 'Where is she?' would be standard English
  7. In which of these sentences has an adjective been used in place of an adverb?
    The adjective 'quick' has been used in place of the adverb 'quickly' - this is a common feature of non-standard English
  8. Which of these displays a non-standard use of comparative adjectives?
    'More clever' would be standard English
  9. Which of these is also evident in the answer to question eight?
    Standard English would be: 'He is more clever than I.' You can easily tell that this is standard by adding the implied verb - He is more clever than I am - Keeping the word 'me' would sound like this: 'He is more clever than me is', which is obviously non-standard English
  10. Which of these is a non-standard example of leaving out a preposition?
    Each of these examples omits a preposition, but only the second is considered non-standard English. Standard English would be 'my mum gave it to me'

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