Grammar Rules That Native Speakers Break in Conversation

Native speakers break a lot of grammar rules.  

If you’re an English learner, this must be frustrating. You spend your time learning the rules of the language, and then you discover that real people don’t always follow these rules. 

So why does this happen? If there are rules to English, why don’t native speakers follow them?

The reason is that formal communication and informal communication are two different things. 

In a formal context, the rules are important. So if you walk into a courtroom or business meeting, you will generally hear native speakers adhering to the grammar rules you’ve learned in your classes. 

In an informal context, however, the rules are less important. So if you walk into a cafe, a bar, or a university cafeteria, you’ll hear native speakers communicating freely and breaking a grammar rule or two.

Below are eight grammar rules you will hear natives speakers break in casual conversation. 

Disclaimer: While pretty much everyone relaxes their language in informal settings, not all native speakers break these grammar rules. (Numbers 3 and 4 on this list might be exceptions—many, many native speakers break these rules in conversation and it’s generally considered just fine to do so.) And since not everyone breaks these rules, there’s probably no reason for you to start making grammar mistakes in an effort to fit in. If you’d like to sound more natural in casual conversation, you should use informal terms and expressions instead of breaking the grammar rules you worked so hard to learn.

1. Use fewer with count nouns and less with non-count nouns

The rule is that we use fewer for things we can count (friends, people, cookies, problems, classmates, books, etc.), and less for things we can’t count (rice, milk, patience, traffic, etc.). This is the traditional rule that you probably learned in your English classes. 

Another way to think about the difference is that we use fewer for plural nouns and less for singular nouns (including non-count nouns). Grammar Girl has a great explanation of this rule

In informal conversation, however, people sometimes use less with count nouns. 

So you may hear:

“There were less people here yesterday.” (instead of fewer people)

“I had less problems when I had less money.” (instead of fewer problems)

“Do you think there will be less cars on the road today because of the holiday?” (instead of fewer cars)

You might hear one of them say “I’m happy that there are less people at the beach than I thought there would be.” (Photo by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

2. Each is always singular and takes a singular verb 

The rule is that each is always singular. Each takes a singular verb even when it is followed by of and a plural noun (each of my friends, each of my students, each of her cousins, etc.).

So each of these sentences is correct: 

“I would like to know what each of my students is doing to practice their English.”

“Each of our employees gets a holiday bonus.”

But in casual conversation, people sometimes use a plural verb with each.

So you might hear:

“My boss wants to know what each of her employees are doing.” (instead of is doing)

“Each of his paintings represent a specific human emotion.” (instead of represents a specific human emotion)

In conversation, you might hear that “each of the employees have received extensive safety training.” (Photo by Anamul Rezwan from Pexels)

3. Use do and did for questions in the simple present and simple past

With verbs like go, see, catch, watch, etc., the rule is that we must use the auxiliaries do or did followed by the subject. 

Informally, however, people sometimes drop the auxiliaries do and did. Doing this is fairly common and generally considered okay for informal speech.

So you might hear:

“You see that game last night?” (instead of Did you see…?)

“You have breakfast yet?” (instead of Did you have…?)

“You want to go see a movie?” (instead of Do you want…?)

This also happens with the verb to be. You’ll hear native speakers drop the auxiliary in questions.

So you might hear:

“You hungry?” (instead of Are you hungry?)

“Your air conditioning working okay? It feels a little hot in here.” (instead of Is your air conditioning…?)

You might hear her say “Want some pancakes? I made a lot.” (Photo by klimkin from Pixabay)

4. Every sentence must include a subject unless it’s an imperative

The rule is that every sentence must contain a subject. The only exception is for imperatives. (An imperative is a sentence that gives a command or order, such as “Take out the trash,” or “Don’t forget your mother’s birthday.”)

In casual conversations, however, people will sometimes omit the subject if it is obvious what the subject is. Oftentimes, this happens when the speaker is the subject of the sentence. Doing this is fairly common and generally considered okay for informal speech.

So you may hear:

“Thought you might need help getting ready for the party, so I came early.” (instead of I thought you might…)

“Heard you were sick, so I brought you some soup.” (instead of I heard you were…)

You might hear her say “Thought you might be thirsty, so I brought you some orange juice.” (Photo by JESHOOTScom from Pixabay)

5. Me can’t be used as a subject

The rule is that me is an object pronoun and can’t be used as a subject. For subjects, we must use the subject pronoun I and put I last if there are multiple subjects.

So these sentences are correct:

“My family and I went to the party.”

“My daughter and I took a walk after dinner.”

Informally, however, people sometimes use me as a subject followed by the second subject in the sentence. 

So you might hear:

“Me and my dad went fishing.” (instead of My dad and I…)

“Me and my wife will have to talk about this.” (instead of My wife and I…)

Sometimes you’ll hear people use other object pronouns along with me in these situations.

So you may hear:

“Me and him talked about this.” (instead of He and I talked…)

“Me and her went to the movies.” (instead of She and I went…)

In informal conversation, you may hear “Me and my friend went fishing.” (Photo by 1643606 from Pixabay)

6. Good is an adjective, and well is an adverb

The rule is that good modifies nouns, and well modifies verbs. So we speak good English (good modifies the noun English), but we speak English well (well modifies the verb speak). 

But in casual conversation, sometimes people use good as an adverb. 

So you might hear:

“Great job! You did good!” (instead of did well)

“I haven’t been feeling very good lately.” (instead of feeling well)

You might hear this person say “I don’t feel so good.” (Photo by rawpixels.com from Pexels)

7. Use the participle form of the verb with perfect tenses

The rule is that we use past participles with the present perfect, past perfect, and perfect modals (should have seen, might have taken, etc.). 

In casual conversation, however, people sometimes use the simple past form of the verb instead of the past participle. This happens with irregular verbs in which the simple past and the past participle are different (comego, drink, sing, ring, take, etc.). 

So you might hear:

“You should’ve went to the bathroom before we got in the car. You knew it was going to be a long ride.” (instead of You should’ve gone…)

“I’ve went to that restaurant a few times.” (instead of I’ve gone to…)

“I haven’t drank regular soda in years—I only drink diet now.” (instead of I haven’t drunk…)

You might hear someone say, “We should have went to a different beach. It’s too crowded.” (Photo by pierrelaurentdurantin from Pixabay)

8. Use If + past perfect to talk about imaginary conditions in the past

The rule is that we use the past perfect (had + past participle) to talk about an unreal past condition.

So these are correct:

“If you had told me about the party, I would have gone.”

“You might have passed the test if you had studied for it.”

Informally, however, people sometimes use the simple past instead of the past perfect.

So you might hear:

“If you told me about the party, I would have gone.” (instead of If you had told me…)

“If it didn’t rain, it would have been a great party.” (instead of If it hadn’t rained…)

“The teacher probably would have helped you if you asked her.” (instead of if you had asked)

You may hear someone say “I would have driven if I knew it was going to rain.” (Photo by MichaelGaida from Pixabay)


If you spend enough time with native speakers in casual settings, you’ll certainly hear these grammar rules being broken. 

Finally, to repeat the advice from the introduction: Just because a native speaker says it, doesn’t mean that you should too. So don’t start making these grammar mistakes in an effort to sound more natural. Just be aware that real people in real conversations don’t always communicate with perfect grammar. 

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