Humanities › English What Is the Difference Between Grammar and Usage? Share Flipboard Email Print English English Grammar An Introduction to Punctuation Writing By Richard Nordquist English and Rhetoric Professor Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester B.A., English, State University of New York Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. our editorial process Richard Nordquist Updated March 06, 2017 Question: What Is the Difference Between Grammar and Usage? Answer: In the late 1970s, two Canadian educators wrote a spirited, well-informed defense of the teaching of grammar. In "Twenty-one Kicks at the Grammar Horse," Ian S. Fraser and Lynda M. Hodson pointed out the weaknesses in research studies that purported to show that teaching grammar to youngsters was a waste of time. Along the way, they offered this clear distinction between two fundamentally different approaches to studying language: We must distinguish between grammar and usage. . . . Each language has its own systematic ways through which words and sentences are assembled to convey meaning. This system is grammar. But within the general grammar of a language, certain alternative ways of speaking and writing acquire particular social status, and become the conventional usage habits of dialect groups.Grammar is the list of possible ways to assemble sentences: usage is a smaller list of the socially preferred ways within a dialect. Usage is trendy, arbitrary, and above all, constantly changing, like all other fashions--in clothing, music, or automobiles. Grammar is the rationale of a language; usage is the etiquette.(The English Journal, December 1978) In any case, as the eminent linguist Bart Simpson once observed, "Grammar is not a time of waste." See also: What Is Grammar?What Is the Difference Between Descriptive and Prescriptive Grammar?