last changed 26 Sept 2003
All the individual terms and definitions are linked, where possible, to units in the KS3 material; just click the head-word if it is underlined, and you will go straight to the relevant part of the material.
To move round the glossary, click on any underlined term in either window. You can drag the border between the windows up or down with your mouse.
Like the rest of this KS3 material, primary responsibility lies with Richard Hudson but a number of colleagues from linguistics and the world of education have helped.
An abbreviation is a shortened version of a word or group of words. For example:
Some common abbreviations are of Latin terms:
Names of organisations are often abbreviated using the initial letters of each word. For example:
Some such abbreviations (for example, NATO, FIFA and UNESCO) are acronyms.
Some words are abbreviated so that only a part of the original word is used. Examples are:
Abstract nouns refer to ideas and other kinds of abstractions, e.g.
In academic writing abstract nouns are common and are often used instead of verbs - for example, their arrival is a useful alternative to they arrived.
Features of pronunciation which vary according to the speaker's regional and social origin. All oral language, including standard English, is spoken with an accent. The term accent refers to pronunciation only.
In MFL an accent can also be a diacritic mark used above some vowels to denote sound or spelling changes. Technically ‘accent’ refers only to the three marks known as grave, acute and circumflex, as with è, é and ê.
See also dialect
An acronym is an abbreviation which is made up of the initial letters of a group of words, and is pronounced as a single word. For example:
Acronyms are to be contrasted with abbreviations in which the separate letters are pronounced:
active and passive (see also here)
Many verbs can be active or passive. For example, bite:
In the active sentence, the subject (the dog) performs the action. In the passive sentence, the subject (Ben) is on the receiving end of the action. The two sentences give similar information, but there is a difference in focus. The first is about what the dog did; the second is about what happened to Ben.
All passive forms are made up of the verb be + past participle:
In a passive sentence, the 'doer' (or agent) may be identified using by ...:
But very often, in passive sentences, the agent is unknown or insignificant, and therefore not identified:
Passive forms are common in impersonal, formal styles. For example:
In other European languages the passive is used less often than in English, at least in spoken and/or informal language. The indefinite pronouns on and man are used in French and German respectively much more often than the English one (much as English uses ‘they’ve moved the sign’ rather than ‘the sign has been moved’).
An adjective is a word that describes somebody or something. Old, white, busy, careful and horrible are all adjectives. Adjectives either come before a noun, or after verbs such as be, get, seem, look (linking verbs):
Adjectives (and adverbs) can have comparative and superlative forms. The comparative form is adjective + -er (for one-syllable adjectives, and some two-syllable) or more + adjective (for adjectives of two or more syllables):
The corresponding superlative forms are -est or most ...:
In other languages adjectives are commonly inflected to agree with nouns. This may apply wherever the adjective is placed, but in German an adjective used predicatively (following verbs such as sein, werden, aussehen) is not inflected.
The position of adjectives in other languages may differ from the pattern in English: they may precede or follow the noun. As a rule, however, the English principle exemplified in the phrase a little green car (as opposed to a green little car) applies in other languages too.
Adverbs give extra meaning to a verb, an adjective, another adverb
or a whole sentence:
Many adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective, for example quickly, dangerously, nicely, but there are many adverbs which do not end in -ly. Note too that some -ly words are adjectives, not adverbs (eg lovely, silly, friendly).
In many cases, adverbs tell us:
Other adverbs show
An adverbial phrase is a group of words that functions in the same way as a single adverb. For example: by car, to school, last week, three times a day, first of all, of course:
Similarly, an adverbial clause functions in the same way as an adverb. For example:
Other languages form adverbs in different ways. In French the suffix -ment is added to the feminine adjective form (though there are numerous exceptions); in German the adjective is used in its basic form with no suffix.
An adverbial is a clause element that functions like an adverb, so it is an adverbial phrase or an adverbial clause. For example, these underlined elements are all adverbials:
A morpheme which is not in itself a word, but is attached
to a word. An affix can be a prefix (intolerant,
dislike) or a suffix (kindness,
agreement (or concord)
In some cases the form of a verb changes according to its subject (so the verb and subject 'agree'). This happens with the verb be:
and the third person singular (he/she/it) of the present tense:
Note that singular collective nouns (eg team, family, government) can take a singular or plural verb form. For example:
There are a few cases where a determiner must agree with a noun according to whether it is singular or plural. For example:
Agreement in some other languages is a much more significant feature
than in English, applying not only to verbs – and with a wider range
of endings – but also to adjectives and articles as a function of
gender and case.
a phrase or statement which has more than one possible interpretation. This sometimes arises from unclear grammatical relationships. For example, in the phrase: 'police shot man with knife', it is not specified whether the man had the knife or the police used the knife to shoot the man. Both interpretations are possible, although only one is logical. In poetry, ambiguity may extend meanings beyond the literal.
The sentence: 'Walking dogs can be fun' has two possible interpretations: 'it is fun to take dogs for walks' or 'dogs which go walking are fun'.
Ambiguity is often a source of humour. Ambiguity may be accidental
Perception of similarity between two things; relating something known to something new; in spelling, using known spellings to spell unknown words: night-knight-right-sight-light-fright; in reading, using knowledge of words to attempt previously unseen words.
Emphasis on analogy encourages learners to generalise existing knowledge to new situations.
In their learning of grammar, pupils often apply affixes
incorrectly by analogy: goed, comed, mouses. Analogy may also
be used in literature to draw a parallel between two situations, for
example using animal behaviour to draw attention to human behaviour.
Anaphora (Greek: ‘referring back’) is the relationship between one word (such as a pronoun) and another word or phrase, normally before it, to which it refers back. E.g. in
the relationship between they and the children is anaphora
- they refers anaphorically to the children.
A word with a meaning opposite to another: hot - cold, light
- dark, light - heavy. A word may have more than one word as
an antonym: cold - hot/warm; big - small/tiny/little/titchy.
An apostrophe is a punctuation mark used to indicate either omitted letters or possession.
Apostrophe use in other languages mainly indicates omitted letters though the details of application may vary.
the expressions my brother and John are 'in apposition' because they are combined to form a single phrase, and they both refer to the same person but supply different information about him: that he is my brother and that he is John. Similarly, in
the clause that it works is in apposition to the noun phrase the fact because both refer to the same idea.
A, an and the are articles. A (an before a vowel sound) is the indefinite article; the is the definite article. Articles are a type of determiner.
the people addressed by a text. The term refers to listeners, readers of books, film/TV audiences and users of information technology.
These are verbs that are used together with other verbs. For example:
In these sentences, going, arrived and play are the main verbs. Are, has and can are auxiliary verbs, and add extra meaning to the main verb.
The most common auxiliary verbs are be, have and do (all of which can also be main verbs).
More than one auxiliary verb can be used together. For example:
The remaining auxiliary verbs are modal verbs, eg can, will.
If a past-tense verb such as said or thought is used with a noun clause whose verb would otherwise be present tense, this tense may be ‘backshifted’ into the past:
reporting the thought ‘Today is Tuesday’.
Bridging is an indirect type of anaphora
which allows us to use one person or thing as a ‘bridge’ to another;
for example, having started to talk about a book we can refer to its
author simply as ‘the author’, as though the author had already been
a That aspect of a noun or pronoun which relates to its function in a sentence. The standard relationship is:
In most European languages nouns no longer have many different forms to reflect cases. In German (which has four cases) the various determiners (articles, etc.) have a number of endings which indicate case, and endings are in some instances applied to the noun itself (e.g. the dative plural always ends in -en). In English the genitive persists in the possessive form marked with the -’s or -s’ (John’s coat; my sisters’ books).
In many languages, pronouns still have forms that reflect a case aspect: he/him/him; il/le/lui; er/ihn/ihm all indicate nominative/accusative/dative respectively.
b In relation to single letters or characters in written language:
upper case = capital letters, lower case = non-capital letters.
A clause is a group of words that expresses an event (she drank some water) or a situation (she was thirsty/she wanted a drink). It usually contains a subject (she in the examples) and verb (drank/was/wanted).
Note how a clause differs from a phrase:
A sentence is made up of one or more clauses:
A main clause is complete on its own and can form a complete sentence (eg It was raining when we went out.). A subordinate clause (when we went out) is part of the main clause and cannot exist on its own. In the following examples, the subordinate clauses are underlined:
Although most clauses require a subject and verb, some subordinate clauses do not. In many such cases, the verb be can be understood. For example:
Clause use in other languages, notably German, may involve issues of word order and punctuation.
See also subordinate clause.
The parts of a clause are often called its ‘elements’. The main clause elements are the verb chain, the subject, object and complement, and adverbials.
Technically means ‘from the same root or origin’. In MFL, the term is commonly used to denote words which are identical with or very close to their English equivalent in spelling and meaning: important in English and French; house and Haus in English and German. Words may be technically cognates but their use or meaning may have diverged from English over time (e.g. English and German so).
coherence and cohesion
An effective text needs to be coherent and cohesive.
The term coherence refers to the underlying logic and consistency of a text. The ideas expressed should be relevant to one another so that the reader can follow the meaning.
The term cohesion refers to the grammatical features in a text which enable the parts to fit together. One way of creating cohesion is the use of connectives:
The phrase 'just then' relates these events in time.
Cohesion is also achieved by the use of words (such as pronouns) that refer back to other parts of the text. In these examples, such words are underlined:
Belonging to conversation/language used in familiar, informal contexts.
Contrasted with formal or literary language.
A colon is a punctuation mark used to introduce a list or a following example (as in this glossary). It may also be used before a second clause that expands or illustrates the first:
A comma is a punctuation mark used to help the reader by separating parts of a sentence. It sometimes corresponds to a pause in speech.
In particular we use commas:
In some languages the comma plays a grammatical role, for example in clause demarcation in German.
A comma splice is a combination of two (or more) clauses that are linked solely by a comma - e.g. This sentence is quite short, it only contains ten words. A comma splice can generally be improved either by adding and (or a subordinating conjunction), or by changing the comma into a semi-colon or full stop.
In the sentences Lisa is a fast runner or Lisa is very fit, 'Lisa' is the subject and 'is' is the verb. Neither sentence has an object. The rest of the sentence (a fast runner/very fit) is called a complement. A complement usually tells you something about the subject of the sentence (especially after the verb be but also after other linking verbs such as seem, look, get, become). In the examples the complement is underlined:
A complement can also refer to the object of a sentence. For example:
a word made up of two other words: football, headrest, broomstick.
Compound words in other languages may be formed with hyphens (as in French) or based on some variant of the English pattern (as in German).
Same as agreement.
A conditional sentence is one in which one thing depends upon another. Conditional sentences often contain the conjunction if:
Other conjunctions used in conditionals are unless, providing, provided and as long as.
A conditional sentence can refer to an imaginary situation. For example:
The term 'conditional' is sometimes used to refer to the form would + verb: would go, would help etc.
See also auxiliary verb
A word used to link clauses within a sentence. For example, in the following sentences, but and if are conjunctions:
There are two kinds of conjunction:
a. Co-ordinating conjunctions (and, but, or and so). These join (and are placed between) two clauses of equal weight.
And, but and or are also used to join words or phrases within a clause.
b. Subordinating conjunctions (eg when, while, before, after, since, until, if, because, although, that). These go at the beginning of a subordinate clause:
See also clause, connective
Connecting adverbs (and adverbial phrases and clauses) maintain the cohesion of a text in several basic ways, including:
Commas are often used to mark off connecting adverbs or adverbial phrases or clauses:
Connecting adverbs and conjunctions function differently. Conjunctions (like but and although) join clauses within a sentence. Connecting adverbs (like however) connect ideas but the clauses remain separate sentences:
Connectives help foreign language learners to follow the flow of a text they read or hear and to link sentences together when assembling text themselves. Other words such as relative pronouns can also act in the same way as other connectives.
Co-ordination is a grammatical pattern in which two or more elements are combined on equal terms - e.g.
A dash is a punctuation mark used especially in informal writing (such as letters to friends, postcards or notes). Dashes may be used to replace other punctuation marks (colons, semi-colons, commas) or brackets:
Derivational morphology turns a simpler word into a more complex one by adding prefixes or suffixes; e.g. it turns tidy into untidy or untidy into untidiness. (Contrast inflectional morphology, which distinguishes different forms of the same word; e.g. dog and dogs.)
Determiners include many of the most frequent English words, eg the, a, my, this. Determiners are used with nouns (this book, my best friend, a new car) and they limit (ie determine) the reference of the noun in some way.
When these words are used as determiners, they are followed by a noun (though not necessarily immediately):
this book is yours
Many determiners can also be used as pronouns. These include the demonstratives, question words, numbers and most of the quantifiers. When used as pronouns, these words are not followed by a noun - their reference includes the noun:
this is yours (= this book, this money, etc)
A diacritic mark is a point, sign or mark above, below or attached to a letter to show a change of sound or (sometimes) a change in spelling that has taken place over time: à â é ç ü ñ å ë.
A dialect is a variety of a language used in a particular area and which is distinguished by certain features of grammar or vocabulary. Examples of such features in some English dialects are:
non-standard subject + verb patterns, eg I knows, you was, he like
direct speech and indirect speech
There are two ways of reporting what somebody says, direct speech and indirect speech.
In direct speech, we use the speaker's original words (as in a speech bubble). In text, speech marks ('…' or "…" – also called inverted commas or quotes) mark the beginning and end of direct speech:
In indirect (or reported) speech, we report what was said but do not use the exact words of the original speaker. Typically we change pronouns and verb tenses, and speech marks are not used:
In non-standard English, a double negative may be used. For example:
Such double negatives are not acceptable in standard English. The equivalent standard forms would be:
Ellipsis is the omission of words in order to avoid repetition. For example:
An ellipsis is also the term used for three dots (…) which
show that something has been omitted or is incomplete.
An exclamation is an utterance expressing emotion (joy, wonder, anger, surprise, etc) and is usually followed in writing by an exclamation mark (!). Exclamations can be interjections:
Some exclamations begin with what or how:
Exclamations like these are a special type of sentence ('exclamative') and may have no verb.
exclamation mark (!)
If a verb has a tense (past or present), it is finite ('limited' in terms of time). This allows it to be used as the only verb in a sentence, unlike non-finite verbs. For example, walks is finite, e.g.
but walking is non-finite, so it cannot be the only verb, e.g.
Imperative verbs are also finite, e.g.
Whether a verb is finite or non-finite depends on a combination of its inflection and the surrounding words, so walk may be either finite e.g.
or non-finite e.g.
Front-shifting shifts a phrase out of its normal position so that it stands instead at the front of the clause that contains it. For example, starting with the basic sentence
front-shifting could move the other pupils to give
Front-shifting has a subtle but important effect on the balance of the sentence.
In MFL terms, the nature of a sentence or utterance in relation to its purpose: question, statement, request, invitation, description, etc. In the Framework, the term also refers to the role fulfilled by a noun, etc. in a sentence (e.g. subject, direct object).
In the grammatical sense, gender is an aspect of nouns. It features to different extents and in different ways in different languages. In English gender normally applies only in the case of those nouns which refer literally to a masculine or feminine person or animal. There may be separate words (man/woman, boy/girl, uncle/aunt) or one of a number of mainly feminine suffixes may be used (actor/actress, hero/heroine; widow/widower). Some nouns referring to inanimate objects or concepts are traditionally feminine, for example ships, nations and countries.
In the other main European languages gender is a central feature of nouns. Every noun, not only those referring to living things, has a gender which must be known if the noun is to be used accurately. Most languages have two genders – masculine and feminine; German additionally has neuter.
A noun may be of a certain gender for a number of reasons. It may indicate the actual gender, as in English, though this is not an absolute. Usually the reason is etymological and relates to the noun’s origins in Latin, Greek, Anglo-Saxon or other defunct language. This link gives rise to common patterns of spelling, so that the gender of a noun can in many cases be identified by its ending. For example, in French:
Such patterns are useful short-cuts to learning genders but as a rule the gender must simply be learned with the noun, usually by learning an article with it.
Many determiners have different forms for each gender (French le/la; German der/die/das). The determiner both indicates and reflects the gender of the noun. Other words must also agree with or match the noun gender: depending on the language, these may include pronouns, adjectives, participles, relative pronouns. There may also be article/preposition contractions: French du, German zum. The situations in which agreement is necessary vary from language to language. Gender is a fundamental aspect of most languages and is one of the earliest concepts which pupils need to identify and understand if later points of language are to make sense and be rapidly mastered.
This term refers to different types of writing, each with its own specific characteristics which relate to origin (legend/folk tale) or reader interest area - the types of books individuals particularly choose to read: adventure, romance, science fiction.
Texts with these specific features - often related to story elements, patterns of language, structure, vocabulary - may be described as belonging to a particular genre. These attributes are useful in discussing text and in supporting development of writing skills.
Texts may operate at different levels, and so represent more than
one genre; some will be combinations, for example historical romance.
A gerund is a verb which ends in -ing and which is used like a noun; e.g.
Gerunds are also called 'verbal nouns'.
The main substance of a written or spoken text or argument; the main point of information in a written or spoken statement.
Part of a text, often an appendix, which defines terms the writer/editor considers may be unfamiliar to the intended audience. In MFL a glossary is a word list specific to a single text or unit of work – technically with definitions given in the target language.
The conventions which govern the relationships between words in
any language. Includes the study of word order and changes in words:
use of inflections, etc. Study of grammar is important, as it enhances
both reading and writing skills; it supports effective communication.
A grammatical boundary is the edge of a grammatical unit (a sentence, clause or phrase) which, in writing, may be indicated by a punctuation mark such as a comma, full stop, colon, semi-colon or dash.
Written representation of a sound; may consist of one or more letters;
for example the phoneme s can be represented by the graphemes
s, se, c, sc and ce as in sun, mouse,
The head of a phrase is the word around which the whole phrase is built and which decides the phrase’s general meaning and grammatical characteristics. For example, in
the head is teacher because the phrase means a kind of teacher
and is used like a noun.
A historic present is a present-tense verb used to refer to an event in the past, usually to make the narrative more vivid. (So I say to him, ...)
Words which have the same spelling as another, but different meaning:
the calf was eating/my calf was aching;
the North Pole/totem pole; he is a Pole.
Pronunciation may be different: a lead pencil/the
dog's lead; furniture polish/Polish
people. A homonym.
Words which have the same spelling or pronunciation as another,
but different meaning or origin. May be a homograph or
Words which have the same sound as another but different meaning
or different spelling: read/reed; pair/pear; right/write/rite.
A hyphen is sometimes used to join the two parts of a compound noun, as in golf-ball and proof-read. But it is much more usual for such compounds to be written as single words (eg football, headache, bedroom) or as separate words without a hyphen (golf ball, stomach ache, dining room, city centre).
However, hyphens are used in the following cases:
a. in compound adjectives and longer phrases used as modifiers before nouns:
b. in many compound nouns where the second part is a short word like in, off, up or by:
c. in many words beginning with the prefixes co-, non- and ex-:
Hyphens are also used to divide words at the end of a line of print.
An idiom is an expression which is not meant literally and whose meaning cannot be deduced from knowledge of the individual words. For example:
An imperative sentence or clause has an imperative verb form (i.e. just the bare verb, e.g. come, be) and usually has a hidden subject you: e.g.
See direct speech
The infinitive is the base form of the verb without any additional endings. For example, play is an infinitive form (as opposed to playing, played or plays). The infinitive is used with many auxiliary verbs:
The infinitive is often used with to (to play, to eat etc):
The simple present tense (I play, they play etc) has the same form as the infinitive, except for the third person singular (he/she/it plays).
Inflection is a change to the ending of a word to indicate tense, number or other grammatical features. For example:
walk - walks/walked/walking
The extent to which inflection features in different languages varies considerably. English has relatively few inflected forms compared with other European languages.
See also suffix.
An interjection is a word like Ouch!, Oh! or Damn! expressing an emotion such as pain, surprise, anger, etc. An interjection is followed by an exclamation mark (!).
See also exclamation
An interrogative sentence or clause is one that would normally be used to ask a question - e.g.
Intonation is the way in which changes in the musical pitch of the voice are used to structure speech and to contribute to meaning. Among other functions, intonation may distinguish questions from statements (as in 'Sure?' 'Sure!'), or indicate contrastive and emotive stress (as in 'I said two, not three', or 'I just hate that advertisement!').
An intransitive verb is one that has no object.
A lexical pattern is a regular relationship between words which is found in a large number of word families - e.g. the relationship between an adjective and a noun which consists of the adjective followed by -ness:
A lexical relationship is a connection between the meanings of two words in a text which helps the text to hold together. Relevant connections include (rough) synonymy (e.g. woman - person, win - victory) and connections in a field of meaning (e.g. plane - pilot).
A symbol or character which represents a morpheme
or word. A logographic system contrasts with an alphabetic-phonetic
system, such as English, in which symbols relate to sounds rather
than meaning. There are a number of logograms which would be instantly
recognisable to those using alphabetic systems, for example
£, &, %.
A main clause is one which is a complete sentence (except for any other clauses with which it may be co-ordinated). For example, the following example contains two main clauses separated by the co-ordinating conjunction but:
A main clause may contain any number of subordinate clauses (such as the noun clauses in the examples above).
Any verb which is not an auxiliary verb is a main verb.
The language we use when talking about language itself. It includes
words like sentence, noun, paragraph, preposition. Those
who understand these concepts are able to talk about language quite
precisely; thus, acquisition of metalanguage is seen as a crucial
step in developing awareness of and proficiency in communication,
particularly written language.
The modal verbs are:
These auxiliary verbs are used to express such ideas as possibility, willingness, prediction, speculation, deduction and necessity. They are all followed by the infinitive, and ought is followed by to + infinitive:
These verbs can occur with other auxiliary verbs (be and have):
In this context have is unstressed and therefore identical in speech to unstressed of; this is why the misspelling of for standard have or 've is not uncommon.
In the phrase
big modifies books by changing its meaning from 'books' to 'big books'; and similarly about grammar modifies books by changing its meaning to ‘books about grammar’. Inside a phrase, the word which acts as the phrase’s head is modified by the other parts of the phrase. These other parts are called its modifiers because they modify its meaning by making it more precise.
The smallest unit of meaning. A word may consist of one morpheme
(house), two morphemes (house/s; hous/ing) or
three or more morphemes (house/keep/ing; un/happi/ness).
Affixes are morphemes.
Morphology is the part of grammar which focuses on the patterns found within words (e.g. the fact that books contains the suffix -s), in contrast with syntax, which focuses on the patterns that we make by combining words.
Any verb in English is classified as either finite or non-finite. In English there are three kinds of non-finite verb: the infinitive (be, see, walk), the present participle (being, seeing, walking) and the past participle (been, seen, walked).
A noun is a word that denotes somebody or something. In the sentence My younger sister won some money in a competition, 'sister', 'money' and 'competition' are nouns.
Many nouns (countable nouns) can be singular (only one) or plural (more than one). For example sister/sisters, problem/problems, party/parties. Other nouns (mass nouns) do not normally occur in the plural. For example: butter, cotton, electricity, money, happiness.
A collective noun is a word that refers to a group. For example, crowd, flock, team. Although these are singular in form, we often think of them as plural in meaning and use them with a plural verb. For example, if we say The team have won all their games so far, we think of 'the team' as 'they' (rather than 'it').
Proper nouns are the names of people, places, organisations, etc. These normally begin with a capital letter: Amanda, Birmingham, Microsoft, Islam, November.
Noun phrase is a wider term than 'noun'. It can refer to a single noun (money), a pronoun (it) or a group of words that functions in the same way as a noun in a sentence, for example:
Similarly, a noun clause functions in the same way as a noun. For example:
See also phrase.
Words which echo sounds associated with their meaning: clang,
hiss, crash, cuckoo.
A section of a piece of writing. A new paragraph marks a change of focus, a change of time, a change of place or a change of speaker in a passage of dialogue.
A new paragraph begins on a new line, usually with a one-line gap separating it from the previous paragraph. Some writers also indent the first line of a new paragraph.
Paragraphing helps writers to organise their thoughts, and helps
readers to follow the story line, argument or dialogue.
The term parentheses can also refer to the brackets themselves.
An unsatisfactory traditional name for word classes.
Participles (present and past) are sometimes used as adjectives: the falling leaves, stolen goods. They can also be used to introduce subordinate clauses, for example:
Participles in other languages may be used less frequently than in English and may be subject to specific rules: agreement in French, word order in German.
In grammar, a distinction is made between first, second and third person.
One uses the first person when referring to oneself (I/we); the second person when referring to one's listener or reader (you); and the third person when referring to somebody or something else (he/she/it/they/my friend/the books etc).
In some cases the form of the verb changes according to person:
See also agreement.
A phoneme is the smallest contrastive unit of sound in a word. There are approximately 44 phonemes in English (the number varies depending on the accent). A phoneme may have variant pronunciations in different positions; for example, the first and last sounds in the word 'little' are variants of the phoneme /l/. A phoneme may be represented by one, two, three or four letters. The following words end in the same phoneme (with the corresponding letters underlined):
A phrase is a group of words that act as one unit. So dog is a word, but the dog, a big dog or that dog over there are all phrases. Strictly speaking, a phrase can also consist of just one word. For example, in the sentence Dogs are nice, 'dogs' and 'nice' are both one-word phrases.
A phrase can function as a noun, an adjective or an adverb:
If a phrase begins with a preposition (like in a hurry, along the lane), it can be called a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase can be adjectival or adverbial in meaning:
See singular and plural.
The predicate is that part of a sentence which is not the subject
but which gives information about the subject. So, in the sentence
Clare went to school, 'Clare' is the subject and
'went to school' is the predicate.
A prefix is a morpheme which can be added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning. For example:
A preposition is a word like at, over, by and with. It is usually followed by a noun phrase. In the examples, the preposition and the following noun phrase are underlined:
Prepositions often indicate time (at midnight/during the film/on Friday), position (at the station/in a field) or direction (to the station/over a fence). There are many other meanings, including possession (of this street), means (by car) and accompaniment (with me).
In questions and a few other structures, prepositions often occur at the end of the clause:
In formal style, the preposition can go before whom or which (with whom, about which etc):
Many prepositions (eg on, over, up) can also be used as adverbs (without a following noun or pronoun):
In other languages preposition use may be linked to gender aspects (French du, de la) and/or case (German mit dem/mit der; zum/zur).
A prepositional phrase is a phrase built round a preposition, e.g.
In English (though not in most other languages) we often ‘strand’ a preposition by shifting its object to an earlier position. This is common in passives:
There are several kinds of pronoun, including:
Many determiners can also be used as pronouns, including this/that/these/those and the quantifiers (some, much etc). For example:
Pronouns often 'replace' a noun or noun phrase and enable us to avoid repetition:
Punctuation is a way of marking text to help readers' understanding.
The most commonly used marks in English are: apostrophe,
exclamation mark, full stop,
and speech marks (inverted
question mark (?)
We can use the verb to refer in two ways.
1. We can say that a noun or pronoun refers to the person or thing that it ‘picks out’; for example, the noun Shakespeare refers to the person William Shakespeare, and my teacher refers to the speaker’s teacher. This is a link between a word and something outside language. Technically this kind of referring is called 'reference'.
2. We can say that a pronoun refers, or refers back, to an earlier noun, meaning that it refers (in the first sense) to the same person or thing as that noun - in traditional terminology, it 'stands for' that noun. For example, we may say that he refers back to John in John said he was tired. Technically this kind of referring is called 'anaphora'.
A word’s reference is the person or thing to which it refers. For example, the reference of Shakespeare is the writer Shakespeare.
The words when and where can be used, like relative pronouns, to introduce a relative clause, e.g.
But they are also like the adverbs then and there.
A relative clause is one that defines or gives information about somebody or something. Relative clauses typically begin with relative pronouns (who/whom/whose/which/that):
In other languages the form of the relative pronoun may be defined by agreement with the noun to which it refers, as well as by its function in the relative clause.
A pronoun that is used to introduce a relative clause. The most common relative pronoun is that (a pronoun that is used ...), but the remainder all derive from question words: who, which and whose.
See also relative adverb.
Semantic facts are facts about meaning, and semantics is the study of meaning.
A semi-colon can be used to separate two main clauses in a sentence:
This could also be written as two separate sentences:
However, where the two clauses are closely related in meaning (as in the above example), a writer may prefer to use a semi-colon rather than two separate sentences.
Semi-colons can also be used to separate items in a list if these items consist of longer phrases. For example:
In a simple list, commas are used.
A sentence can be simple, compound or complex.
A simple sentence consists of one clause:
A compound sentence has two or more clauses joined by and, or, but or so. The clauses are of equal weight (they are both main clauses):
A complex sentence consists of a main clause which itself includes one or more subordinate clauses:
Simple sentences can also be grouped as follows according to their structure:
In writing, we mark sentences by using a capital letter at the beginning, and a full stop (or question mark or exclamation mark) at the end.
singular and plural
Singular forms are used to refer to one thing, person etc. For example: tree, student, party.
Many nouns (countable nouns) can be singular (only one) or plural (more than one). The plural is usually marked by the ending -s: trees, students, parties.
Some plural forms are irregular. For example: children, teeth, mice.
Other nouns (mass nouns) do not normally occur in the plural. For example: butter, cotton, electricity, money, happiness.
Verbs, pronouns, and determiners sometimes have different singular and plural forms:
Note that they/them/their (plural words) are sometimes used to refer back to singular words that don't designate a specific person, such as anyone or somebody. In such cases, they usually means 'he or she':
speech, speech marks
A personal, ongoing record of words which are being learnt. Pupils
would decide, with the teacher's guidance, words to be learnt. These
words would be kept in a folder so the pupil can work on them during
the week with a partner or teacher, or at home. Once learnt, the
words can be added to the pupil's record.
Standard English is the variety of English used in public communication, particularly in writing. It is the form taught in schools and used by educated speakers. It is not limited to a particular region and can be spoken with any accent.
There are differences in vocabulary and grammar between standard English and other varieties. For example, we were robbed and look at those trees are standard English; we was robbed and look at them trees are non-standard.
To communicate effectively in a range of situations - written and oral - it is necessary to be able to use standard English, and to recognise when it is appropriate to use it in preference to any other variety.
Note that standard British English is not the only standard variety; other English-speaking countries, such as the United States and Australia, have their own standard forms.
subject and object
In the sentence John kicked the ball, the subject is 'John', and the object is 'the ball'.
The subject is the person or thing about which something is said. In sentences with a subject and an object, the subject typically carries out an action, while the object is the person or thing affected by the action. In declarative sentences (statements), the subject normally goes before the verb; the object goes after the verb.
Some verbs (eg give, show, buy) can have two objects, indirect and direct. For example:
Here, 'some money' is the direct object (= what she gave). 'The man' is the indirect object (= the person who receives the direct object).
When a verb has an object, it is transitive, eg find a job, like chocolate, lay the table. If it has no object, it is intransitive (eg go, talk, lie).
In different languages, objects may be indicated by word order, the use of a preposition, or a case indicator.
A subordinate clause is one that is part of a larger clause - e.g. the underlined below, which illustrate the three main kinds of subordinate clause:
In the subordinate clause
the word if is a subordinating conjunction. This means that it is a special word whose only function is to signal the start of the subordinate clause and the way in which it relates to the rest of the sentence.
A suffix is a morpheme which is added to the end of a word. There are two main categories:
Each beat in a word is a syllable. Words with only one beat (cat, fright, jail) are called monosyllabic; words with more than one beat (super, coward, superficiality) are polysyllabic.
Words which have the same meaning as another word, or very similar: wet/damp. Avoids overuse of any word; adds variety.
Syntax is the study of sentence structure, ie how words are used together in a sentence.
A tag question is a very small question such as isn't it? or did he? which is attached to the end of a sentence. It consists of nothing but an auxiliary verb followed by its subject which is copied from the main sentence, and it asks for confirmation - e.g. didn’t they? in
A tense is a verb form that most often indicates time. English
verbs have two basic tenses, present and past, and each of these
can be simple or continuous.
Additionally, all these forms can be perfect (with have):
English has no specific future tense. Future time can be expressed in a number of ways using will or present tenses. For example:
In other languages the future and other tenses may be indicated
by auxiliary verbs (German) or by inflection (French).
Language organised to communicate. Includes written, spoken and electronic forms.
A transitive verb is one that has an object.
A verb is a word that expresses an action, a happening, a process or a state. It can be thought of as a 'doing' or 'being' word. In the sentence Mark is tired and wants to go to bed, 'is', 'wants' and 'go' are verbs. Sometimes two or more words make up a verb chain, such as are going, didn't want, has been waiting.
Most verbs (except modal verbs, such as can or will) have four or five different forms. For example:
A verb can be present or past:
Most verbs can occur in simple or continuous forms (be + -ing):
A verb can also be perfect (with have):
If a verb is regular, the simple past and the past participle are the same, and end in -ed. For example:
Verbs that do not follow this pattern are irregular. For example:
Same as gerund.
A verb chain may be up to five verbs long, e.g.
and modifies the meaning of the full verb by supplying information about tense and voice and the kind of meaning that is expressed by modal verbs.
Voice is the contrast between active and passive.
Note that a word can belong to more than one class. For example:
The Linguistics Association maintains a page of suggestions for further reading.