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Standard and Non-Standard English: Knowing the Difference

In this worksheet, students consider how non-standard English varies from standard English and think about situations where standard English should be used.

'Standard and Non-Standard English: Knowing the Difference' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:   Grammar and Vocabulary

Curriculum subtopic:   Use Standard English with Confidence

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

People across the United Kingdom speak English in different ways. They have different accents and sometimes form sentences in ways that are not the same as standard English.

 

Sometimes the verb forms are different from standard English.

"We were thinking of buying a new car." (standard English)

"We was thinking of buying a new car." (non-standard English)

 

Using the 'double negative' is another form of non-standard English.

"I didn't do anything." (standard English)

"I didn't do nothing." (non-standard English)

 

"He didn't go anywhere." (standard English)

"He didn't go nowhere." (non-standard English)

 

Some forms of non-standard English use adjectives in place of adverbs.

"Peter played well today." (standard English)

"Peter played good today." (non-standard English)

 

"Jake ran quickly." (standard English)

"Jake ran quick." (non-standard English)

 

There is nothing wrong with non-standard English, but there are occasions when standard English should be used. If you apply for a job you are expected to be able to write in standard English, and there are many situations in school where you need to use standard English.

Complete the following sentence in standard English.

 

Bobby plays the piano real good.

Complete the following sentence in standard English.

 

I did not do nothing wrong.

Underline the word you would change to make the following sentence into standard English.

 

We was trying to finish our work.

We was trying to finish our work.

Which of the following sentence is in standard English?

My throat hurt real badly in the night.

My throat hurt really badly in the night.

My throat hurt badly in the night.

My throat hurt really poorly in the night.

Read the following sentence in non-standard English.

 

I ain't got none of them stickers.

 

Which of the following sentences is the equivalent in standard English?

I haven't got none of them stickers.

I haven't got any of them stickers.

I haven't got any of those stickers.

I haven't got none of those stickers.

Read the following sentence in non-standard English.

 

He done real good to pass his test first time.

 

Which of the following sentences is the equivalent in standard English?

He done real well to pass his test first time.

He done really well to pass his test first time.

He did real well to pass his test first time.

He did really well to pass his test first time.

Read the following sentence in non-standard English.

 

Me and my mates went to the skate park last night.

 

Which of the following sentences is the equivalent in standard English?

Me and my friends went to the skate park last night.

My friends and me went to the skate park last night.

My mates and me went to the skate park last night.

My friends and I went to the skate park last night.

Read the following sentence in non-standard English.

 

I were looking for them pencils what were in the pot.

 

Which of the following sentences is the equivalent in standard English?

I was looking for them pencils what were in the pot.

I was looking for those pencils that were in the pot.

I was looking for those pencils what were in the pot.

I were looking for those pencils that were in the pot.

Look at the following situations.

Which would it be better to use standard English rather than non-standard English for?

Sending a text to your friend.

Writing a science report in school.

Writing a letter to your local paper about something that interests you.

Talking to your grandmother on the phone.

Giving a presentation in assembly.

Again, tick the situations in which it would be better to use standard English rather than non-standard English.

Writing dialogue in a story.

Writing your private diary.

Talking to your local newsagent about starting a paper round.

Speaking to your head teacher about your plans to start a new club after school.

Applying to be on the school council.

  • Question 1

Complete the following sentence in standard English.

 

Bobby plays the piano real good.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
How did you get on? Remember, the way we write and speak can be different. In standard English, we need to write 'really well' as this formal.
  • Question 2

Complete the following sentence in standard English.

 

I did not do nothing wrong.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Here's another phrase you may hear people say, but technically it is not good English! 'Didn't do nothing' is actually a double negative, which means that you must have done everything. It's unclear what the speaker means.
  • Question 3

Underline the word you would change to make the following sentence into standard English.

 

We was trying to finish our work.

CORRECT ANSWER
We was trying to finish our work.
EDDIE SAYS
This sentence should ring alarm bells in your head. The incorrect word that you should have underlined is 'was'. If you were talking in the first person and said 'I was trying to finish my work' this would make perfect sense. However, this sentence isn't about I, it's about 'We'. As this sentence refers to a collective group, the word that follows 'we' has to be 'were'.
  • Question 4

Which of the following sentence is in standard English?

CORRECT ANSWER
My throat hurt really badly in the night.
EDDIE SAYS
Did you spot a pattern here? In question one the phrase was that Bobby played the piano 'real' good and we had to change that 'real' to 'really'. Guess what, it's the same principle here! Option 2 follows the rules of standard English.
  • Question 5

Read the following sentence in non-standard English.

 

I ain't got none of them stickers.

 

Which of the following sentences is the equivalent in standard English?

CORRECT ANSWER
I haven't got any of those stickers.
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to spot the correct sentence? Hopefully, the presence of the made-up word 'ain't' gave you the biggest clue that the original sentence was not written in proper English! If you've ever heard someone say 'ain't' they are normally substituting for the word 'haven't'. Listen out for it, and make sure you don't ever write it!
  • Question 6

Read the following sentence in non-standard English.

 

He done real good to pass his test first time.

 

Which of the following sentences is the equivalent in standard English?

CORRECT ANSWER
He did really well to pass his test first time.
EDDIE SAYS
If in doubt think about what your teacher may say. That's always a good measure of what is standard English. I'm sure you 'ain't' never heard them use this phrase in the classroom... so you shouldn't either!
  • Question 7

Read the following sentence in non-standard English.

 

Me and my mates went to the skate park last night.

 

Which of the following sentences is the equivalent in standard English?

CORRECT ANSWER
My friends and I went to the skate park last night.
EDDIE SAYS
Are you feeling more confident now? Keep imagining your teacher saying the sentences and sure enough, you should come to the right conclusion. Who knows, your teacher may have been to the skate park last night... but certainly not with 'me and my mates'!
  • Question 8

Read the following sentence in non-standard English.

 

I were looking for them pencils what were in the pot.

 

Which of the following sentences is the equivalent in standard English?

CORRECT ANSWER
I was looking for those pencils that were in the pot.
EDDIE SAYS
Can you remember what we said before? If the sentence is about 'I' the only word that can follow is 'was' as 'i' is singular'. You can use 'were' if the words before include 'we' but in this case, they don't.
  • Question 9

Look at the following situations.

Which would it be better to use standard English rather than non-standard English for?

CORRECT ANSWER
Writing a science report in school.
Writing a letter to your local paper about something that interests you.
Giving a presentation in assembly.
EDDIE SAYS
In all of the situations above where you need to make a good impression in a formal setting (school, work, government) you have to use standard English. Think about a word that you and your friends use that when you've used at home your parents have not understood what it means. Can you think of one? Well, in standard English the main aim is to communicate clearly and correctly, so we cannot have people feeling like they are not up to speed with the language, can we? However, in your house, with your friends, that's less of a problem!
  • Question 10

Again, tick the situations in which it would be better to use standard English rather than non-standard English.

CORRECT ANSWER
Talking to your local newsagent about starting a paper round.
Speaking to your head teacher about your plans to start a new club after school.
Applying to be on the school council.
EDDIE SAYS
Did you imagine a formal setting in your head? If you did you will have done really well here I'm sure. Well done, that's another activity ticked off! Why not attempt a slightly more challenging one?
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