I am studying Japanese and a relative who is studying Italian has noticed the same thing, that there exist grammatical structures which are said to be only used in writing.

Are there any terms or is there any grammar which is not used in spoken English? I am struggling to find any examples.

Thank you!

  • Apostrophes, dashes, parentheses, quotation marks, etc., only exist In written English. Some of them can be indicated in spoken English in other ways of course.
    – Jim
    Dec 10, 2019 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


I would not say that there are grammatical structures which can only be used in writing. However, there are definitely stylistic differences between a dialect (spoken version) of English and a grapholect (written version.)

For example, it is much more common to end a sentences with a preposition in spoken English than in written English. To demonstrate, it is very common to hear "that is one of the things I have a problem with" in spoken English and its numerous dialects. However, in written English, the proper phrase would generally be "that is one of the things with which I have a problem."

Now, all of that said, even the standard "rule" of not ending a sentence with a preposition is hotly debated among English teachers, professional editors, and lovers of language. That would get us in to a descriptivist vs prescriptivist debate, though, and I don't want to travel too far down that road.

In brief, the answer to your question is "No." The "rules" for English are a bit more lax than they are in other languages, which means that there really aren't any grammatical structures or verb tenses which are reserved solely for the written form of the language.

  • The question is whether a speaker wants to sound like a text. Many of the full constructions that we use in writing instead of contractions, for instance, sound pompous when they are spoken in ordinary conversation. Normally, English contracts every auxiliary, complementizer, article, and preposition it can, because they don't have any meaning and only identify the construction. Once that's done, there's no need for it, so it goes. Dec 10, 2019 at 21:07
  • For an example of how strange it sounds to eschew all contractions in spoken English, check out the character of Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) in the TV series Longmire. Dec 10, 2019 at 21:31

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