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Difference Between Descriptive Grammar and Prescriptive Grammar

Main Difference

The main difference between the terms Descriptive Grammar and Prescriptive Grammar is that Descriptive Grammar is the general description of how the language used, whereas Prescriptive Grammar describes how the speakers must use the language.

Descriptive Grammar vs. Prescriptive Grammar

Descriptive grammar is a general description of how the language used. Prescriptive grammar describes how the speakers must use the language. Descriptive grammar is that approach to study grammar that describes the native or non-native speaker’s usage of language. Prescriptive grammar is the approach to study grammar that is related to the correct or incorrect established norms of language usage. There are no standard rules in descriptive grammar. Prescriptive grammar has a specific standard set of grammar rules.

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Descriptive grammar explains without the norms of accuracy or established rules. Prescriptive grammar formulates the rules concerning established criteria that the users of the language are bound to follow in any case. Descriptive grammar is the daily usage of the language by the speakers. The rules of prescriptive grammar are supported by the speakers in their daily usage of language. Descriptive grammar suggests that language usage varies based on different speakers. Prescriptive grammar rejects this principle and does not allow any variation in the grammar.

Descriptive grammar does not consider grammar by different speakers as ‘correct’ or incorrect grammar. Prescriptive grammar declares the rules of language by the native speakers as ‘correct’ and other variations as ‘incorrect.’ Descriptive grammar is known as the objective and nonjudgmental description of the language’s grammatical constructions. Prescriptive grammar is the approach of studying grammar with strict rules of right and wrong. Descriptive grammar is required to examine how a language used in writing and speech. Prescriptive grammar is required to consider a language as grammatically correct.

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Comparison Chart

Descriptive GrammarPrescriptive Grammar
An approach to study grammar that describes the native or non-native speaker’s usage of languageAn approach or a path to study grammar that is related to the correct or incorrect established norms of language usage
Grammar
The objective, and nonjudgmental description of the grammatical constructions onThe approach of studying grammar with strict rules of right and wrong
Principle
Does not consider grammar by different speakers as ‘correct’ or incorrect grammarDeclares the regulations by the native speakers as ‘correct’ and other variations as ‘incorrect.’
Grammar Rules
It has no specified and standard set of grammar rulesIt has specified and the standard set of grammar rules
Variations
It allowsIt does not allow
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What is Descriptive Grammar?

Descriptive grammar is that approach to study grammar that describes the native or non-native speaker’s usage of language. It is the description of the language usage of how it used. It does not explain what is linguistically correct or incorrect. Descriptive grammar describes without reference to the norms of correctness or established rules. Descriptive grammar suggests that language usage varies based on different speakers. It does not consider grammar by various speakers as ‘correct’ or incorrect grammar.
Descriptive grammar is the objective and nonjudgmental description of any language’s grammatical constructions. This type of grammar is required to examine how an expression used in writing and speech. Descriptive grammar is a study of “why and how” of any language, and it describes the daily use of language by native or non-native speakers. Linguists follow this approach to study the rules or patterns.

“Descriptive grammars are the scientific theories attempting to explain how a language works.” (Donald G. Ellis) Descriptive grammar is an approach that aims at identifying and explaining the varied use of the language. The grammarians in this approach see the patterns or arrangements that are essential to the utilization of phrases, different words, sentences, and clauses.

What is Prescriptive Grammar?

Prescriptive grammar is the approach to study grammar that is related to the correct or incorrect established norms of language usage. It describes how the speakers use the language. Prescriptive grammar formulates the rules concerning established standards that the users of the language are bound to follow in any case. It prescribes the rules about how a language should be used. So there are standard grammar rules in prescriptive grammar. These specified rules intend to teach the speaker the correct way to use language.

Prescriptive grammar highlights what should be used in using or speaking a language and what should be avoided. It created or generated in the 18th century. It gets its history as a standard form of communication prescribed by social elites. Therefore, prescriptive grammar rejects the idea of variation by varied speakers. It does not allow any deviation in the grammar. It merely declares the rules that by the native speakers as ‘correct’ and other variations as ‘incorrect.’

Prescriptive grammar implies the rules on the different speakers that are using that language. It commonly used for teaching purposes of differentiating between standard and nonstandard language. So basically, prescriptive grammar is the approach of studying grammar with strict rules of right and wrong. It aims at making the language certain to grammar and to make the language standard.

Prescriptive grammar is required to consider a language as grammatically correct. Prescriptive grammar is to “‘prescribe,’ like medicine for what ails you, how you ‘ought’ to speak.” (Donald G. Ellis). Other terms for prescriptive grammar are ‘prescriptivism’ and ‘normative grammar.’ Both types of grammar have their supporters and their detractors, which in all probability suggests that both have their strengths and weaknesses.

Key Differences

  1. There are no standard rules in descriptive grammar; conversely, there is a standard set of grammar rules in prescriptive grammar.
  2. Descriptive grammar is that approach to study grammar that describes the native or non-native speaker’s usage of language on the flip side prescriptive grammar is the approach to study grammar that describes the correct or incorrect established norms of language usage.
  3. Descriptive grammar is the objective, and nonjudgmental description of the grammatical constructions, on the other hand, prescriptive grammar is the approach of studying grammar with strict rules of right and wrong.
  4. Descriptive grammar explains without reference to the norms of correctness or rules, while prescriptive grammar formulates the rules with established norms.
  5. Descriptive grammar does not consider grammar by different speakers as ‘correct’ or incorrect grammar; on the contrary prescriptive grammar declares the rules by the native speakers as ‘correct’ and other variations as ‘incorrect.’
  6. Descriptive grammar is required to examine how a language used in writing, and a speech on the other side, prescriptive grammar is required to consider a language as grammatically correct.

Conclusion

Descriptive grammar and prescriptive grammar are the two approaches to study grammar. They are different based on their rules, grammatical structure, established norms, and grammar.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson