I have been seeing phrases like, "That sentence isn't grammatical" etc. recently, and at first I wrote them off thinking, "Oh, well that technically isn't right, but I get what he's saying so I'm not going to make a fuss..." The thing is, I've been seeing it more and more, by different people, and I can't tell if it's just that the speakers (well, this I've been seeing this on the internet, so I guess it "the posters") aren't native English speakers, or I've missed some sort of shift in the usage of the word "grammatical". Can anyone shed some light on this?


2 Answers 2


To say that a sentence is grammatical is to say that it conforms to the rules of English grammar as found in the way in which native speakers normally use the language and, in the case of Standard English, as codified in various academic works of grammar such as ‘The Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English’ and ‘The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language’.

The introduction of 'correctness' introduces value judgements which tend to reflect the prejudices of the writer rather than the way the language is actually used. Some people, for example, will say that it is incorrect to place an adverb between to and the plain form of the verb, or to use less when describing things that can be counted. Those are matters of opinion, not of fact. Describing any construction as incorrect is unhelpful and inadequate. That is why, in most cases, it it makes more sense simply to say whether or not a construction is grammatical.

  • This is an incredibly useful two paragraphs on speaking about language with...well, just about anyone. Jan 16, 2016 at 18:25

"Grammatical" - which is an adjective - has a meaning of "correctly following the rules of grammar". So, including the idea of "correctness" it is possible to use as in

This sentence is perfectly grammatical.

  • No, that does not have to import the idea of 'correctness'. See Barrie's answer.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 23, 2012 at 0:23

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