All human languages are characterised by inherent synchronic variability (Hudson, Cognitive Linguistics 8: 73–108, 1997, English Language and Linguistics 11: 383–405, 2007a) and are subject to change over time. Consequently, due to this central role of variation and change, any explanatorily adequate cognitive theory of language should aim to account for both of these phenomena. The present special issue explores how usage-based Construction Grammars can address issues of linguistic variation and change. In particular, focusing on English, we will show how constructionist approaches provide new insights for the study of variation and change in the English language as well as how data from English can help to refine construction grammar theories. This introduction will give a short overview of aspects of constructionist approaches to language which are of relevance to the modelling of linguistic variation and change. In addition to our discussion of the modelling of synchronic and diachronic variation in construction grammar, we provide an overview of the topics addressed by the seven articles in this special issue.