My question may seem curious, but some books from which I learn English grammar contradict each other. So I'm interested: is there a formal specification of English grammar?.

By specification I mean an official document completely describing English grammar which I can refer to in any controversial cases.

P.S. If it's possible, please point out my grammar errors. :)

  • I have edited your question to conform to English idiom; you may click on the "edited" link to see what changes I have made. Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 14:05

1 Answer 1


There is no institutional or authoritative specification for the English language.

This is unlike French, which has L'Académie française to (attempt to) direct and govern the use of language. Even this, though, is advisory only, and they have no power to actually enforce their recommendations.

One of the reasons for this is that language is developed through convention - the general populace speaking a language agrees, as a whole, on what is and is not acceptable.

One of the reasons that you have found contradictory English grammars is that language is open to interpretation in many ways, depending on your focus. In the time where Latin was the lingua franca, it may have been prestigious to describe English in a manner similar to Latin (which contributed to the split infinitive fallacy, amongst others).

Furthermore, language standards are different in different parts of the world, and acceptable language differs even in the societal contexts. You wouldn't speak to your mother the same way you would to your boss, or your best friend. You wouldn't address a crowd the same way you would an individual. Someone from Britain or New York may have different notions of what is acceptable, compared to someone from Sydney.

Another reason that you have found contradictory English grammars is that the more comprehensive the grammar, the longer it takes to write, and in that time, language changes such that parts of it are outdated - a grammar written last year, for instance, would not account for the more recent doge speak.
Because language changes so frequently, a grammar written can be outdated and inaccurate as soon as it is published.

Having said that, there are several well-known grammars of the English language, for example the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. However, it is important to note that grammars such as this are not authoritative, and represent a person's, or a group of people's best efforts to describe a language at a certain time, and generally for certain social contexts. They are not attempts to prescribe - to tell you - how to use language. They document the ways in which native speakers use language, which can serve as a model for learning.

Short answer: no.

Also, ELL is not a proofreading site - you need to specify a specific source of concern in your text.

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