Following grammar rules in English as a foreign language is important if we want to speak correctly. It is needless to say that business or school require nothing less than proper grammar. However, as with refined vocabulary, being ’too grammatical’ in informal situations might look out of place. What fits the professional or academic setting might be inadequate chatting with friends. So, let’s check when and how we can break ’em grammar rules!
Rule #1 – Always express a complete thought
Sentences missing subject or predicate are considered incomplete grammatically; however, the fragments we say in everyday conversation, paired with intonation and body language, can be enough in conveying our message.
Example: Is that your car? – I only wish!
Rule #2 – Form proper questions
When forming questions we have to follow a proper word order. Nevertheless, in informal situations, and especially when questions are emphasized, the usual inversion rule is ignored.
Example: You really did that?
Rule #3 – Don’t end a sentence with a preposition
The rule that a sentence shouldn’t end with a preposition is very often broken in informal English.
Example: Who did you talk to after the game?
Some grammarians even argue that this rule only applies to sentences where the preposition is unnecessary.
Example: Where are you at?
Rule #4 – Don’t begin a sentence with a conjunction
Conjunction connects parts of the sentence, so its place is never at the beginning. This rule is often broken in everyday conversation, though, especially when we want to make a point.
Example: But that isn’t true!
Rule #5 – Avoid run-on sentences
A proper sentence has its proper thought expressed in it. When we are excited, sometimes there is no short pause that shows the sentence is ended.
Example: When I opened the present I was so excited, it was really amazing!
Rule #6 – Don’t use a double negative
To express a negative thought we normally use one negative. However, in African American and Southern American, a double negative is very common, particularly to emphasize.
Example: I don’t have any time for that.
Rule #7 – Collective nouns are singular
Collective nouns refer to a group of people or things and should be followed by a singular verb. In real life, this rule is quite often broken to the point that the original rule doesn’t sound natural anymore.
Example: A bunch of my friends are coming over.
Rule # 8 – Pronoun should match the subject
Pronouns should always match the subject, but that’s not the case when we don’t know the gender. Instead of writing he/she, it is much easier to use ’they’, so we can safely say that the exception of this rule became a new rule to follow.
Example: Everyone has their own way of studying.
As we can see, the informal, everyday conversation allows simplifying sentences and skipping certain grammatical rules. However, it doesn’t mean we should stop studying them altogether. Being aware of the distinction between the grammar rules that can and can’t be broken separates informal style from simply not knowing the language well. If you want to learn more about English grammar, make sure to read the 55 Most Common Grammatical Questions students ask.