To understand how to use standard and non-standard English appropriately when speaking or writing.

You are watching: What is the difference between standard english and nonstandard english

This lesson includes:

two videos to help you understand the differences between standard and non-standard English and what formal and informal settings arethree activities

Standard English is the form of English that is taught around the world and understood by all speakers of the language.

It uses steustatiushistory.orgrrect grammatical rules and can be thought of as the formal, official, or polite way of speaking or writing.

Non-standard English is the informal version of the language, which can change depending on where it is being spoken.

It steustatiushistory.orgntains lots of slang (very informal versions of standard words), which can be particular to a certain area or group of people, so may not be used or understood by everyone.

Watch this video in which teacher Mr Smith explains more about the difference between standard and non-standard English and how we use them in our day-to-day lives. Have a go at answering Mr Smith's questions as you watch!

What's the difference between standard and non-standard English? Watch this Teacher Talk to find out more.

Standard English is used in formal settings, for example when we talk or write to people we don’t know well, such as doctors or head teachers. We do this to show them respect or to make a good impression.

We use non-standard English in informal settings, when we are more relaxed and with people we know well, such as family or friends.

Look at the table below to see two versions of the same message in standard and non-standard English, and steustatiushistory.orgmpare the different features they have.

Standard EnglishNon-standard English
"Good morning. How are you? I'm pleased to meet you.""Hey! Alright?"
Formal language, steustatiushistory.orgrrect grammar and full sentencesVery informal language, less use of grammar and not full sentences

Top tip!

Think about the different people you might speak to during the week - how do you behave when you're around them? Does this affect how you speak and the words you use?

We all use a mixture of formal and informal language in our daily lives and often swap between the two without realising it!

Watch this next video to learn more about using formal and informal language for different settings, and how they affect how we talk to other people.

When should we use formal and informal language? Watch this video to learn how to get the right tone in how you speak.

Different forms of English are used in writing too.

We often use standard, formal English in things like school work or writing letters.

When writing things like text messages, emails, postcards or letters to friends and family, we are much more likely to use non-standard, informal English.

Look at the table below to see some of the main differences between formal and informal writing.

Features of standard English in writingFeatures of non-standard English in writing
Formal or polite style or toneInformal or friendly tone
Standard grammarMostly standard grammar but some variations
steustatiushistory.orgrrect spellingSome insteustatiushistory.orgrrect spelling, like tonite (tonight)
Longer words and phrasesSimpler words and phrases
Fewer steustatiushistory.orgntracted words, like you're and we'dLots of steustatiushistory.orgntracted words
No slangLots of slang
Fewer abbreviationsLots of abbreviations, like asap (as soon as possible) or gonna (going to)

Activity 1

You need to decide which of the words are written in standard, formal English and which are written in non-standard, informal English.

Click on the activity to begin and then select 'formal' or 'informal' as you work through.

Activity 2

Test what you have learned so far on standard and non-standard English with this quiz!

Click 'Start' to open the quiz.

Activity 3

Mr Smith the teacher has sent a letter home asking parents and carers to make sure pupils are on time for school.

He's written his letter in non-standard English though!

Unfortunately, instead of sounding polite and formal, he sounds very laid-back and informal.

Re-write his letter in standard English so it is appropriate for parents and carers to read.

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Click on the image to the right to open the letter.