The article looks at three instances of grammatical variation in present-day standard English: the use of bare and to-infinitives with the verb help, the presence or absence of the preposition/complementizer from before -ing-complements depending on prevent, and the choice between -ing- and infinitival complements after the verbs begin and start. In all three instances, current British and American usage will be shown to differ, and these differences need to be interpreted against diachronic changes affecting Late Modern English grammar as a whole. The description of twentieth-century developments is mainly based on data obtained from matching corpora of British and American standard English. Since in all three cases studied developments did not originate in the twentieth century, additional data from the quotation base of the OED were used to outline the long-term evolution of the relevant portions of the grammar since ca. 1600. In general/methodological terms, the article aims to show that an utterance-based model of language change, in combination with the exceptionally well-developed corpus-linguistic working environment available to the student of standard English, can lead to new discoveries even in a well-studied area such as the grammar of standard English.
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