For some languages, there are academies that decide topics such as grammar and spelling of things, for example, for the Spanish language, there are 22 academies in 22 different countries, all making decisions on spanish grammar in their country. I would like to know if there is something that serves the same purpose for the English language.

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    No, there is not. And I wouldn't believe anyone who tries to tell me what my language is or is not, thank you very much.
    – Oldcat
    Mar 6, 2014 at 0:56
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    It's called "The New Yorker".
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 10, 2016 at 0:19

3 Answers 3


In American English (at least), it's basically a controlled anarchy. The language is governed by a combination of consensus and reputation, and no one person or group can change the rules by fiat. Any change requires some critical mass of other English speakers to agree with and adopt it before it will be considered proper English.

With that said, though, there are a number of dictionaries (like the Oxford English Dictionary), style guides (like the New York Times style guide), etc that many people consider at least semi-authoritative. They tend to be highly influential as far as business and formal English go, to the point where professors, editors, etc will often consider your speech/writing "incorrect" if it didn't adhere to a certain style guide's rules or had words pronounced/spelled in ways that aren't listed in a certain dictionary. The more such books mention a particular rule, the more people will be inclined to accept it, and the less educated you will typically appear to be if you seem unaware of it.

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    This is the way it's controlled in all cultures, for all real languages. Academies are just kidding themselves. You might as well have a Royal Academy of Physicians to decide on which diseases people may have. Mar 25, 2014 at 23:22
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    @JohnLawler: (For reference, your English FAQ index page is rather broken; the lists end up nesting in Chrome. You should probably use <ul> instead of <dl>, and lose the <dd> tags, since you're not really defining anything.) (Can you tell i'm really just visiting from SO? :))
    – cHao
    Mar 26, 2014 at 1:16
  • I've been thinking about doing something like that, because it's nesting in my browser, too. Must be a net-wide switch to HTML n.0 or something. Thanks for the headsup. Mar 26, 2014 at 1:49
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    @JohnLawler I think there is already one of those en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_of_Communicable_Diseases_Manual .... maybe my irony detector is not working at all Mar 26, 2014 at 22:30
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    With respect to the OED, it's worth pointing out that each edition changes to reflect the organic usage and evolution of English: they don't set out to dictate English. So while they are an authority in the sense of being expert and reliable, they are not an authority in the sense of telling people what to do. May 10, 2016 at 11:33

Native speakers of English (who take an interest in the language) tend to start getting the giggles when anyone proposes that the language needs to be controlled. I can't speak about the US, but in the UK the latest pronouncements of the Académie française form the basis of regular stock funny stories for newspapers when the news is a bit thin - for example here

As another answer says, to the extent that there is any authority at all, it comes from widely accepted dictionaries and style guides. For British English books like H W Fowler's Modern English Usage and Sir Ernest Gower's Plain Words: A Guide to the Use of English have been very influential. Significant disputes over what is "correct" grammar have always been a feature of the English language - for example see the Wikipedia article on English grammar disputes - that article also discusses the lack of any central authority to rule on such issues.

Many people see the lack of any authoritative source of "correct" English as a highly positive feature of English, enabling it to rapidly adapt to changes in culture, technology and social attitudes.

  • Native speakers of English (who take an interest in the language) tend to start getting the giggles when anyone proposes that the language needs to be controlled. The Guardian newspaper reports "'La Covid': coronavirus acronym is feminine, Académie Française says" and adds Many in France have been referring to “le Covid” but guardians of French language rule otherwise. This is the sort of thing that English speakers find good for a laugh. theguardian.com/world/2020/may/13/…
    – Greybeard
    May 16, 2020 at 9:55
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    ... Vive la France. English speakers are far more sensible. From a railfan website: 'Duke of Gloucester, she's already blown a piston rod gland.' May 16, 2020 at 10:48

To answer your question very clearly, no, there is absolutely no authority in English that is called an academy.

There are however guides, manuals, institutions, authors, dictionaries, and publications that do their best to inform people on usage.

The way they go about it determines what grammar they use. Most do not bother being overly descriptive because it is too expensive and takes up too much room. Hence, they appeal to the indicative mode or say that such is such and such a way. Others that consider some or other usage obligatory are defined as prescriptivists and view English grammar normatively, meaning that according to them some specific variation of English must be used in some particular way and never in any other way. There are many, many such proponents, and they nearly as often conflict with one another. Corpus linguistics (the large bodies of words on the internet that are used to determine contemporary and regional usage via science) will show you clearly that there is no one authority of English and that there are often many alternatives to any given grammar taught by a traditional or pedagogical grammarian.

Hence, in contemporary linguistics, the consensus is usually that there is no one correct way to say or write something but that there are standard ways of doing such or conventional ways of doing such. There are still further divisions that are attributed to register (style of context) and region (vernacular or dialect) and therefore in said settings what may be viewed common in one, could be viewed as idiosyncratic in another (in English there are only two conventions, that of Great Britain and that of the US and Canada).


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