Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Rules

Descriptivevs. Prescriptive Rules


Descriptivevs. Prescriptive Rules

Descriptiverule is concerned with the regular study as well as languagedescription. Descriptive grammar is defined as the structure andconstruction of a language as it is essentially employed by writerstogether with the speakers (McArthur, 1992). In descriptive grammar,linguists or experts study the patterns or rules underlying how thephrases, sentences, words, and clauses are used. Some rules ofdescriptive grammar encompass:

  • Plurals of a noun are formed by adding –s, for instance, one pen, five pens.

  • A number of English speakers usually conclude sentences using a preposition. According to linguists, in formal styles, sentences should not be ended with a preposition.

  • Nouns are preceded by adjectives they modify, for instance a red book, a black shirt.

  • A number of English speakers negate using double negatives.

Onthe other hand, prescriptive rule is concerned with the manner inwhich an individual should write or speak. Usually, this is foundedon certain’s people perception of what is bad or good (McArthur,1992). The aim of prescriptive rule is to guide individuals inlearning a particular language. In here, prescriptive grammariansincluding teachers and editors put down rules regarding what theyregard as incorrect or correct employment of language. Some rules ofprescriptive grammar include:

  • The initial letter of a sentence should be capitalized, for instance (The table has broken).

  • The sentence subject and the verb should be in agreement, for instance (The instructors are having a meeting, rather than the instructors is having a meeting).

  • Subject pronouns should be used subsequent to a verb, for instance (It was I who asked them to come, instead of It was me who asked them to come).

  • In this case, it’s I and between you and me is correct are prescriptive rules.


McArthur,T. (Ed.) (1992). TheOxford Companion to the English Language.Oxford: Oxford University Press.