I had a long, unnecessary debate with more than one NATIVE ENGLISH speakers, who said the sentence “HE SPEAKS PERFECT ENGLISH” is “GRAMMATICALLY” incorrect, because there is no such thing as “PERFECT English”. Â (REGARDLESS OF “HE SPEAKS ENGLISH PERFECTLY” being correct !)
I then said so, if my sister says : “I HAVE A PERFECT HUSBAND” is incorrect, because a “PERFECT HUSBAND” does not exist…. or, if I say: “ENGLISH IS A COLORFUL LANGUAGE”, it is incorrect, because a language cannot have colors… !
First, welcome to the forum friscon1.
I disagree that there is no such thing as “perfect English.” I agree that virtually nobody actually speaks it. Well, maybe William F. Buckley did, along with a very few others. Fact is, there’s rarely a need to use the language “perfectly,” and that’s the beauty of ALL languages … flexibility, nuance, colloquialisms, dialects, etc.
Saying instead, “He speaks English fluently.” avoids the thorny philosophy of what constitutes “perfection.”
When one uses the phrase “I have a perfect husband/wife/mother-in-law etc.” one is speaking informally, since what constitutes “perfection” in that case is a subjective matter and not really open for debate.
I would say that ‘speaking English fluently’ refers to speaking with effective speed; neither too fast, nor too slowly. ‘Speaking perfect English’ or ‘speaking English perfectly’ may include fluency and accuracy together. An ideal language user is supposed to speak the language perfectly though nobody can know and speak it perfectly. By the way I heard “speakÂ perfect English”Â many times.Â
As far as Â the statementÂ “ENGLISH IS A COLORFUL LANGUAGE” is concerned, it is not incorrect either. I once read that the colors of the language are its idioms. Metaphorically it’s possible to say that; and Â not only to refer to the idioms, but speak about the language in general.
In terms of what is correct and what is incorrect, prescriptively we can debate and finally say this is the only correct way of saying that, descriptively we can explain each usage and each may be right in its own way. It depends on what angle we are considering it from.
Language play and its ludic character allow us to develop the language all the time.Â
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