Grammatical change

Lesson rationale

Even if your family has lived in the same area for generations, you probably notice a number of subtle differences between the constructions you use and the way your grandparents express the same grammatical notion. English has a number of ways of forming a negative statement with the verb have, for instance. I haven’t any money, I haven’t got any money and I don’t have any money may appear to be only superficially different, but a tendency to use one more consistently can reveal subtle clues about a speaker’s age. I haven’t any money is extremely rare among younger speakers in the UK, while I haven’t got any money is used by speakers of all ages. I don’t have any money, however, is used much more frequently by young speakers than by the older generation – a clear indication of a grammatical change in progress. These tasks are designed to encourage students to explore grammatical change captured in sound recordings on this site and to investigate grammatical change in their own community.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • How does grammar change over time?
  • How do the grammatical forms we use reflect our age?