The word descriptive grammar refers to a nonjudgmental, objective depiction of a language’s grammatical constructs. It’s a look at how a language is utilised, both in writing and in speech.

Descriptive grammar linguists study the principles and patterns that govern the usage of words, phrases, clauses, and sentences. In this sense, the adjective “descriptive” is a little deceptive, because descriptive grammar analyses and explains a language’s grammar rather than just describing it.

When people discuss how a language should or should not be used, they are using prescriptive vocabulary. Consider going to the doctor’s office as a way to recall this association.

Let’s get into details and understand more about descriptive and prescriptive grammar.

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Descriptive and Prescriptive Grammar

The primary distinction between both types is that prescriptive explains how speakers should use language whereas, descriptive describes how language is used.

Linguistics is the study of language and its structure from a scientific standpoint, including syntax, vocabulary, and phonetics. When it comes to learning vocabulary, there are primarily two approaches: descriptive vocabulary and prescriptive vocabulary.

Descriptive and Prescriptive Grammar Definition

What is Descriptive?

It is concerned with defining how native and non-native speakers interact with the language daily. As a result, it provides a set of language norms based on how language is used, rather than how it should be used. Linguists frequently utilise this approach to vocabulary to investigate the rules or patterns that underpin a speaker’s use of words and sentences.

This vocabulary discipline does not describe what is correct and what is incorrect because this approach concentrates on recognising and explaining the many uses of the language according to the user. In other words, this vocabulary method might be described as an “objective description of the language’s grammatical constructs.”

Descriptive Grammar Example

Any phrase that gives you a little amount of information about something is descriptive. Consider the following scenario: (House) is dark and spooky, with wispy spirits. [two descriptors for a single noun] bright oval-shaped (facial) with gleaming red cheeks [two descriptors for a single noun]

What is Prescriptive?

Prescriptive vocabulary describes or rather specifies how speakers should or should not use a language. As a result, prescriptive vocabulary is a set of rules that teach the speaker how to use the language in the most exact and right manner possible, emphasising what should be utilised and what should be avoided so that he can meet the vocabulary and terminology standards.

Prescriptive vocabulary has its origins in the 18th century when social elites needed to establish a standard form of language. In a nutshell, this vocabulary method explains how a language should be used and what rules should be followed based on a specific model of vocabulary.

Prescriptive Grammar Example

A grammarian might have told you that you should “never conclude a sentence with a preposition” or that beginning a statement with a conjunction like “But” or “And” is a big no-no.

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Descriptive and Prescriptive Grammar Advantages

#Prescriptive grammar instruction produces formal authors and resources.

#Prescriptive vocabulary is advantageous for both non-native teachers and learners since it has precise terminology principles that help to eliminate confusion.

#The descriptive vocabulary approach helps non-native speakers sound more like native speakers by improving their pronunciation.

#The descriptive vocabulary approach aids language learners in comprehending the practical use of language and improving communication with native speakers.

Descriptive and Prescriptive Grammar Disadvantages

#When non-native speakers converse with native speakers, prescriptive vocabulary may leave them perplexed and perplexed, as some natives do not write or speak according to these standards.

#In formal circumstances, such as exams and speeches, the descriptive vocabulary approach is not always applied.

Descriptive and Prescriptive Grammar Rules

Prescriptive put down the rules for English usage, whereas descriptive synthesises rules for English usage from the terminology that people use. A prescriptive grammarian believes that certain forms are correct while others are erroneous, even if they are used by native speakers. Many prescriptivists believe that modern linguistics is to blame for the deterioration in terminology standards, as it tends to focus on real rather than perceived terminology usage.

Descriptivists study how people speak and try to come up with rules that account for it, accepting different forms that are prevalent regionally and being open to forms in the speech that standard grammar would label as errors.

Principal and Rules

Descriptive grammar is based on the idea that terminology usage varies depending on the speaker. As a result, it does not consider what constitutes ‘incorrect’ or ‘right’ vocabulary, whereas prescriptive vocabulary operates on the assumption that the long-established vocabulary rules developed by native speakers are ‘correct,’ and modifications are ‘incorrect.’

The criteria are based on how the speakers use the terminology daily. As a result, descriptive vocabulary has no specific or standard rules; rather, the rules describe and explain how the speaker uses terminology. Prescriptive, on the other hand, specifies and standardises a set of grammar rules that should be observed by the speaker in their usage.

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The term ‘than,’ according to prescriptive grammarians, is employed as a conjunction that should be followed by a subject pronoun. According to this method, the right wording is ‘he is older than she (is).’

However, descriptive grammar should be included in the data and examined because it is employed by actual language speakers and authors. Because the word ‘than’ is considered as a preposition in this approach, it may be argued that the statement ‘John is older than her’ is equally accurate and that ‘her’ serves as the object of the preposition in this situation.

Descriptive is a type that describes language forms objectively and without prejudice. The goal is to learn about the ideas and patterns that underpin usage.

Pedagogic Grammar

Are the prescriptive and descriptive, on the other hand, appropriate for English learners? Both prescriptive and descriptive grammars are difficult to teach in most classrooms. As a result, more teachable, pedagogic grammar – is required. This vocabulary is useful in language teaching since it considers the learners’ level and needs, as well as the nature of the classroom. This vocabulary must meet certain requirements to be effective. The following should be the vocabulary rules:


The laws should be contextualised and make sense.

Explanations of grammar rules that are too long may be harmful. Rules that are straightforward to create can be more effective.

Grammar rules should not be simplified at the expense of accuracy. Many teachers explain the difference between the indefinite articles ‘a’ and ‘an’ by saying that ‘a’ goes before consonants while ‘an’ goes before vowels.

This rule is straightforward, however, it is not accurate. The article ‘a’ is frequently used in front of a vowel (cf. a university). Similarly, there are numerous instances of ‘an’ being used in front of a consonant letter (cf. an honour.) The following is a more accurate and true statement of the preceding rule:

Before consonant sounds, ‘a’ is used, but before vowel sounds, ‘an’ is used.

This is because a consonant letter such as ‘h’ may not be uttered at all, therefore the subsequent vowel is taken into account when applying the rule.

A vowel letter, such as ‘u,’ can also be heard as a consonant, as in ‘university.’


This categorical, basic approach to stating a grammar rule ignores the fact that both of these verbs are also used in the continuous form when:

“Have” does not imply “possess” or “ownership” – This exercise is proving to be difficult for me.

I’m not thinking about how to complete the activity, therefore “thought” does not entail “opinion.”

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Actual or Perceived Language Usage?

Prescriptive grammar’s regulatory perspective may distinguish between correct and incorrect language usage, but it falls short of describing the facts. Prescriptive grammarians may promote artificial vocabulary with little evidence in real use if they stick to the ideal set of rules they claim govern language.

It is, nonetheless, extremely difficult to avoid being a prescriptivist. We all adhere to normativity at some point in our lives. In language, there is always a requirement for some valid authority. Teachers, for example, should provide landmarks for pupils to help them internalise the target language and its vocabulary.


Let’s summarise what we have learned above: there are two methods to vocabulary in a language: descriptive and prescriptive grammar. While descriptive grammar is a subjective study of how people use language, descriptive grammar tries to enforce certain normative grammar rules on people to achieve the language’s acceptable standard. The major distinction between descriptive and prescriptive grammar is this.

Prescriptive grammar establishes a set of guidelines for distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable language usage. Descriptive grammar, on the other hand, examines language as it is spoken by real people and strives to understand and establish rules for it.

However, pedagogical grammar aids in the teaching of language. The restrictions of the students’ level of skill, as well as the unique qualities of the classroom, are considered by pedagogical grammarians.

Hopefully, the information in this article has helped you understand the above concept. With the help of the examples provided, you should have grasped the rules and their application. You may learn more about this and other grammar principles by using Fluent Life or visiting the Fluent Life website.

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