The grass wren was described in 1790 by the English ornithologist John Latham and given the binomial nameSylvia platensis. The type locality is Buenos Aires, Argentina. The current genusCistothorus was introduced by the German ornithologist Jean Cabanis in 1850.
The grass wren and the sedge wren (Cistothorus stellaris) were formerly treated as conspecific. They were split based on the results of a molecular phylogenetic study published in 2014. This split was accepted by 2018 by the International Ornithological Committee (IOC) and BirdLife International‘s Handbook of the Birds of the World, in 2019 by the South American Classification Committee of the American Ornithological Society (AOS), and in 2021 by the AOS North American Classification Committee and the Clements taxonomy. As of 2018 the fourth edition of the Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World had not implemented the split. Taxonomic bodies recognize 17 subspecies of the grass wren.