How Grammar Changes

If you think that grammar is an exact science, get ready for a shock. Grammar is a science, all right – but it is most inexact. There are no inflexible laws, no absolutely hard and fast rules, no unchanging principles. Correctness varies with the times and depends much more on geography, on social class, and on collective human caprice than on the restrictions found in textbooks.
In mathematics, which is an exact science, five and five make ten the world over. There are two opinions on the matter – we are dealing, so far as we know, with a universal and indisputable fact.
In grammar, however, since the facts are highly susceptible to change, we have to keep an eye peeled for trends. What are educated people saying these days? Which expressions are generally used and accepted on educated levels of speech? The answers to these questions indicate the trends of usage, and if such trends come into conflict with academic rules, then the rules are no longer of any great importance.
Grammar follows the speech habits of the majority of educated people – not the other way around. That is the important point to keep in mind.
The following notes on current trends in modern usage are intended to help you come to a decision about certain controversial expressions. As you read each sentence, pay particular attention to the italicized word or words. Does the usage square with your own language patterns? Would you be willing to phrase your thoughts in such terms?
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