English Glossary

Referenced from ‘An introduction to English Grammar’ third edition. By Sidney Greenbaum and Gerald Nelson.

Absolute clause: An absolute clause is an adverbial clause that either has a non-finite verb (1) or no verb, but has it’s own subject (2). (1) The work having been finished, the gardener came to ask for payment. (2) The prisoners marched past, their hands above their heads.


Active and passive verb: Sentences and verb phrases with transitive verbs are either active or passive. Active is more commonly used. The passive verb phrase has the addition of a form of the verb be, which is followed by an ed participle.

ActiveLoves. Will proclaim. Is investigating | PassiveIs loved. Will be proclaimed. Is being investigated. 

The active subject corresponds to the passive object.

ActiveThe police (s) are investigating the crime (o) PassiveThe crime (s) is being investigated.

If the active subject is retained in the passive sentence it is put into a by-phrase – The crime is being investigated by the police.


Adjective: Is a word that typically can modify a noun and usually can itself be modified by very; Example – (very) wise, (very) careful. Adjectives are called ‘attributive’ when they are used as a pre-modifier in a noun phrase (a conscientious student) They are called ‘predicative ‘ when they are used as subject complement – (she is conscientious) or object complement – (I considered her conscientious) Adjectives that can be used both attributively and predicatively are called ‘central adjectives’.


Adjective phrase: The main word in this phrase is an adjective. Other constituents that often appear in the phrase are pre-modifiers (Which come before the adjective) and post-modifiers (Which come after)

Quite (pre-mod) hungry (adj) | Very (pre-mod) happy (adj) to see you (post-mod)


Adverb: A word that is used chiefly as a modifier of an adjective (extremely in extremely place), or a modifier of another adverb (very in very suddenly), or as an adverbial (frequently in I visit my family frequently)


Adverb phrase: The main word in an adverb phrase is an adverb. Other constituents that often appear in the phrase are pre-modifiers (Which come before the adverb) and post-modifiers (Which come after)

Quite (pre-mod) neatly (adv) | Very (pre-mod) luckily (adv) for me (post-mod)


Adverbial: An adverbial is an optional element that is chiefly used to convey information about the circumstances of the situation depicted in the basic structure of the sentence. There may be more than one adverbial in a sentence.

Every year (A1) they rented a car for two weeks (A2) to tour some European country (A3)

A1 – frequency | A2 – duration | A3 – purpose

We should distinguish the adverbial from the adverb. Like a noun, an adverb is a member of a word class.


An adverbial complement: is an element that conveys the same information as some adverbials but is required by the verb – I am now living in Manhattan. The verb that most commonly requires an adverbial complement to complete the sentence is the verb be, as in, ‘she is on the way to New-Zealand’ An adverbial complement (aC) is also required by some transitive verbs to follow a direct object (dO).

I put my car (dO) in the garage (aC)


Adverbial clause: This is a clause that functions as adverbial in sentence structure.


Alternative question: A question that presents two or more choices and asks the hearer to choose one of them. – Do you want a biscuit or (do you want) a piece of cake?


Antecedent: The antecedent of a pronoun is the unit that the pronoun refers to. The antecedent usually comes before the pronoun – The brakes were defective when I examined them.


Anticipatory it: The pronoun it is called ‘anticipatory it’ when the sentence is so structured that the pronoun takes the psoition of the subject and the subject is moved to the end.

It is a pity that Sue is not here. (Compared with.. ‘that Sue is not here is a pity’)

It’s good to see you (Compared with.. ‘To see you is good’)


Apposition: A type of relation between two or more units.Peter, your youngest brother, has just arrived.

Typically the two units are identical in the kind of unit (Here two noun phrases), in what they refer to  (Peter and your youngest brother refer to the same person), and in having the same potential function, so that either can be omitted (Peter has just arrived and your youngest brother has just arrived are both acceptable)


Appositive clause: A type of clause that functions as a post-modifier in a noun phrase. – The reason that I am here today.


Aspect: Aspect is the grammatical category in the verb phrase that refers to the way that the time of the situation is viewed by the speaker. There are two aspects: Perfect and progressive. The perfect combines a form of auxiliary have with the ed participle; Has shouted, had worked, may have said. The progressive combines a form of auxiliary be with the ing participle; Is shouting, was working, may be saying.


Auxiliary: (‘helping’) verbs typically come before the main verb in a verb phrase; can see, has been seeing, should have been seen. The auxiliaries are; 1. Modalse.g. can, could, may, might, should, will, would. 2. Perfect auxiliaryhave. 3. Progressive auxiliary – be. 4. Passive auxiliary – be. 5. Dummy operator – do.


Base form: The base form of the verb is the form without any inflection. It is the entry word for verb in dictionaries.


Basic sentence structure: The seven basic sentence or clause structures are;

SV: Subject + verb

SVA: Subject + verb + adverbial (complement)

SVC: Subject + verb + (subject) complement

SVO: Subject + verb + (direct) object

SVOO: Subject + verb + (indirect) object + (direct) object

SVOA: Subject + verb + (direct) object + adverbial (complement)

SVOC: Subject + verb + (direct) object + (object) complement


Case: Case is a distinction in nouns and pronouns that is related to their grammatical functions. Nouns have two cases: The common case (child, children) and the genitive case (child’s, children’s). The genitive noun phrase is generally equivalent to an of-phrase:

The child’s parents | The parents of the child

In the child’s parents, the genitive noun phrase is a dependent genitive: It functions like a determiner. When the phrase is not dependant on a following noun, it is an independent genitive:

The party is at Susan’s.


Personal Pronouns: and the pronoun who have three cases: Subjective (e.g. I, we, who), objective (e.g. me, us, whom), and genitive (e.g. my, mine, our, ours, whose). The two genitive forms of the personal pronouns have different functions: My is a possessive determiner in my parents, and mine is a possessive pronoun in those are mine. The distinctions in case are neutralised in some personal pronouns. For example, you may be either subjective or objective.


Clause: A clause is a sentence or sentence-like construction that is contained within another sentence. Constructions that are sentence-like are non-finite clauses or verbless clauses. Non-finite clauses have a non-finite verb phrase as their verb, whereas verbless clauses do not have a verb at all. They are like sentences because they have sentence elements such as subjects and direct objects.

We can parallel the non-finite clause in (1) with the finite clause in (1a)

  1. Being just a student, I’d….

(1a) Since I’m just a student, I’d…

We can show similar parallels between the verbless clause in (2) and the finite clause in (2a)

2. Though fearful of the road conditions, they…

(2a) Though they were fearful of the road conditions, they…

In a wider sense, a clause may coincide with a sentence, since a simple sentence consists of just one clause.


Cleft sentence: A cleft sentence is a sentence divided into three parts. The first has the subject it and a form of the verb be; the emphasised part comes next, and the final part is what would be the rest of the sentence in a regular pattern.

It was Betty that I wanted to see. (Compared to – I wanted to see Betty)

It was after lunch that I phoned John. (Compared to – I phoned John after lunch)


Collective noun: A collective noun refers to a group, e.g, audience, class, family, herd, jury.


Comparative clause: These are introduced by than or as and involve a comparison;

Adam is happier than he used to be.

Paul is as good a student as you are.


Complement: A complement is the unit that may or must be introduced to complete the meaning of a word. For example, a preposition (e.g. for) is normally followed by a noun phrase (e.g. my best friend) as its complement, as in for my best friend.


Complex sentence: A complex sentence is a sentence that contains one or more subordinate clauses. The subordinate clause may function as a sentence element (1) or as a post modifier in a phrase (2) and (3).

  1. Jean told me that she would be late.
  2. This is the man who was asking for you.
  3. We are glad that you could be here.

Compound: A compound is a word formed from the combination of two words: handmade, user-friendly.


Compound sentence: A compound sentence is a sentence that consists of two or more clauses linked by a coordinator. The coordinators are and, or and but:

She is a superb administrator and everybody and everybody knows it.

We can go in my car or we can take a bus.

He felt quite ill but he refused to leave his post.


Conditional clause: A conditional clause is a clause that expresses a condition on which something else is dependant:

If they hurry, they can catch the earlier flight.

The sentence conveys the proposition that their ability to catch the earlier flight is dependant on their hurrying.


Conjunction: The two classes of conjunctions are coordinators and subordinators. The coordinators are and, or and but. They link units of equal status (those having a similar function), e.g. clauses, phrases, pre-modifiers. Subordinators (e.g. because, if) introduce subordinate clauses:

The baby is crying because she is hungry.


Conversion: Conversion is the process by which a word is changed from one class to a new class without any change in its form. For example, the verb bottle (put into a bottle) is derived by conversion from the noun bottle.


Coordination: Coordination is the linking of two or more units with the same function. The coordinators are and, or and but;

There is heavy duty on cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco.

They pierced their ears or noses.

We waited, but nobody came.


Count noun: Count nouns refer to things that can be counted, and they therefore have a singular and a plural: College, colleges. Non-count nouns have only the singular form: information, software.


Dangling modifier: Is an adverbial clause that has no subject, but its implied subject is not intended to be identified with the subject of the sentence;

Being blind, a dog guided her across the street.

The implied subject of being blind is not intended to be a dog.


Declarative: A declarative sentence is a type of sentence structure used chiefly for making statements. In declaratives, the subject generally comes before the verb.

Sandra is on the radio.

I’m not joking.

I’ll send you an email.

Much more work will be required to analyse the data before we can announce our conclusions.


Declarative question: A declarative question has the form of a declarative sentence but the force of a question’

She agrees with us?


Definite: Noun phrases are definite when they are intended to convey enough information, in themselves or through the context, to identify uniquely what they refer to;

You’ll find the beer in the refrigerator.

A likely context for using the definite article here is that this beer has been mentioned previously and that it is obvious which refrigerator is being referred to. Noun phrases are indefinite when they are not intended to be so identifiable;

You’ll find a beer in the refrigerator.


Definite article: The definite article is the.


Demonstrative: The demonstrative pronouns are this, these, that, those. The same forms are demonstrative determiners.


Determiner: Determiners introduce noun phrases. They fall into several classes: the definite and indefinite articles, demonstratives, possessives, interrogatives, relatives, indefinites.


Directive: The major use of imperative sentences is to issue directives, that is, requests for action. Directives include a simple request (1), a command (2), a prohibition (3), a warning (4) and an offer (5);

  1. Please send me another copy.
  2. Put your hands up!
  3. Don’t move!
  4. Look out!
  5. Have another piece of cake

You can convey a directive through sentence types other than imperatives:

I want you to send me another copy, please.

Would you please send me another copy?

I need another copy.


Direct speech: Direct speech quotes the actual words that somebody has said. Indirect speech reports what has been said but not in the actual words used by the speaker;

  1. Judith asked me, ‘have you any friends?’ (direct speech)
  2. Judith asked me whether I had any friends. (indirect speech)

In both (1) and (2), Judith asked me is the reporting clause.


Discourse particle: The term ‘discourse participle’ is applied to items such as I mean, you know, you see and well. Discourse particles are very common in speech, where they perform a range of functions, including signalling a change of topic.


Dummy operator: The dummy operator is the verb do. It is used to perform the functions of an operator when an operator is otherwise absent:

Does (op) Paul know?

The three verb forms are do and does for the present tense and did for the past tense.


Element: A sentence or clause element is a constituent of sentence or clause structure. Seven elements combine to form the basic sentence structure:

Subject (S)

Verb (V)

Object (O) Direct object (dO)

Indirect object (iO)

Complement (C) Subject complement (sC)

Object complement (oC)

Adverbial complement (aC)

In addition, the adverbial (A) is an optional element.


End-focus: The principle of end-focus requires that the most important information comes at the end of a sentence or clause.


End-weight: The principle of end-weight requires that a longer unit come after a shorter unit whenever there is a choice of relative positions.


Exclamative: An exclamative sentence is a type of sentence structure used chiefly to express strong feeling. Exclamatives begin with what or how. What is used with a noun phrase and how elsewhere:

What a great time we had! (‘We had a great time’.)

How well she plays! (‘She plays well’.)


Finite: Finite is a term used in contrast with non-finite in the classification of verbs, verb phrases, and clauses. A finite verb allows contrasts in tense and mood. All verb forms are finite except infinitives and participates. A verb phrase is finite if the first or only verb is finite; all the other verbs are non-finite. A finite clause is a clause whose verb is a finite verb phrase;

  1. Marian has been working

A finite clause can constitute an independent sentence, as in (1). Contrast the non-finite clause in to work hard in (2):

2. Daniel was reluctant to work hard.


Foregrounding: Foregrounding refers to the features that stand out in language, especially in literary language.


Formal definition: A formal definition defines a grammatical term, such as adverb, by the form of members of the category. For example, most adverbs end in –ly. In a wider sense, form includes structure. The form of structure of a noun phrases may be described as consisting of a noun or pronoun as the main word plus other possible constituents, such as determiners and modifiers. Formal definitions are contrasted with notional definitions.


Fragmentary sentence: Fragmentary sentences are irregular sentences from which some part or parts are missing that are normally present in corresponding regular sentences. We can ‘regularise’ the fragmentary sentence in the kitchen in this exchange:

A: Where are you?

B: In the kitchen.

In the kitchen corresponds to the regular sentence I am in the kitchen.


Front-focus: A device for fronting an expression from its normal position so that it will acquire greater prominence.

Ronald I like, but Doris I respect.

Here the two direct objects have been fronted from their normal position after the verb.


Function: The function of a unit refers to its use within another unit. For example, the function of your sister is subject in (1) and object in (2):

  1. Your sister is over there.
  2. I have already met your sister.

Gender: Gender is a grammatical distinction among words of the same word class that refers to contrasts such as masculine, feminine, neuter. In English this distinction is found mainly in certain pronouns and in the possessive determiners.


Generic: Noun phrases are generic when they refer to a class as a whole:

Dogs make good pets.

They are non-generic when they refer to individual members of a class:

My dogs are good with children.


Gradable: Words are gradable when they can be viewed as being on a scale of degree of intensity. Adjectives and adverbs are typically gradable: they can be modified by intensifiers such as very (extremely hot, very badly), and they can take comparison (happier, more relevant).


Grammar: Grammar is  as set of rules for combining words into larger units. For example, the rules for the grammar of standard English allows:

Home computers are now much cheaper.

They disallow;

  1. Home computers now much are cheaper.
  2. Home computers is now much cheaper.

They disallow (1) because much is positioned wrongly. They disallow (2) because the subject and the verb must agree in number, and the subject Home computers is plural whereas the verb is is singular.

Such rules are descriptive rules: they describe what speakers of the language actually use. There are also prescriptive rules, which advise people what they should use. These are found in style manuals, handbooks and other books that advise people how to use their language, telling people which usages to adopt or avoid, The prescriptive rules refer to usages that are common among speakers of standard English, perhaps mainly when they are speaking informally, for example:

Don’t use like as a conjunction, as in speak like I do.


Grammatical sentence: A grammatical sentence in English is a sentence that conforms to the rules of the grammar of standard English. In a wider sense, grammatical sentences are sentences that conform to the rules of any variety, so that it is possible to distinguish between grammatical and non-grammatical sentences in different varieties of non-standard English.


Hypotaxis: Hypotaxis refers to the grammatical relationships between clauses based on coordination or subordination.


Imperative: An imperative sentence is a type of sentence structure used chiefly for issuing a directive. The imperative verb has the base form. The subject is generally absent, and in that case the missing subject is understood to be you:

Take off your hat.

Make yourself at home.

There are also first and third person imperative sentences with let and a subject:

Let’s go now.

Let no one more.


Indefinite article: The indefinite article is a or (before a vowel sound) an.


Indefinite pronoun: Indefinite pronouns are pronouns that refer to the quantity of persons or things. They include sets of words ending in -one and -body (someone, nobody, everybody), many, few, both, either, either, some, any. Some of these pronouns have the same form as indefinite determiners.


Infinitive: The infinitive has the base form of the verb. It is often preceded by to (to stay, to knock), but the infinitive without to is used after the central modals (may stay, will knock) and after dummy operator do (did say).


Interrogative: An interrogative sentence is a type of sentence structure used chiefly for asking questions. In interrogatives the operator comes before the subject or the sentence begins with an interrogative word (e.g. who, how, why) or with an interrogative expression (e.g. on which day, for how long):

Did you hear that noise?

Why is Pat so annoyed?

At which point should I stop?


Interrogative pronoun: These are who, whom, which and what.


Intransitive verb: An intransitive verb does not require another element to complete the sentence:

Peter yawned.

The baby laughed.

It has been raining.

Intransitive verbs contrast with transitive verbs, which take an object; for example, the transitive verb take is followed by the object my book in this next sentence:

Somebody has taken my book.

Many verbs may be either intransitive or transitive, for example play;

They were playing.

They were playing football.


Main clause: A simple sentence (1) or a complex sentence (2) consists of one main clause:

  1. You should be more careful.
  2. You should be more careful when you cross the street.

A compound sentence (3) consists of two or more main clauses:

3. I know that you are in a hurry, but you should be more careful when you cross the street.

In (3), but joins the two main clauses.


Main verb: A main verb is the main word in a verb phrase. Regular main verbs have four forms: the base, -s, -ing and ed forms. The base form (e.g. talk) has no inflection; the other three forms are named after their inflections (talks, talking, talked). Some irregular verbs have five forms, two of them corresponding to the two uses of the regular -ed form: past (spoke) and -ed participle (spoken); others have four forms, the the -ed form is irregular (spent); others still have only three forms, since the base and the -ed forms are identical (put). The highly irregular verb be has eight different forms.


Medium: The medium is the channel in which the language is used. The main distinction is between speaking and writing.


Modal: The central modals (or central modal auxiliaries) are can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, should, must.


Mood: Mood is the grammatical category that indicates the attitude of the speaker to what is said. Finite verb phrases have three moods: indicative, imperative and subjunctive. The indicative is the usual mood in declarative, interrogative and exclamative sentences. The imperative mood is used in imperative sentences. The subjunctive mood commonly conveys uncertainty or tentativeness.


Morphology: Morphology deals with the structure of words. Words may be combinations of smaller units. For example, books consist of the stem book and the inflection -s. Sometimes is a compound formed from the two stems some and times. Review consists of the prefix re- and the stem view, and national consists of the stem nation and the suffix –al.


Multi-word verb: Multi-word verbs are combinations of a verb and one or more other words, The major types are phrasal verbs (give in), prepositional verbs (look at), and phrasal-prepositional verbs (put up with).


Neutralisation: Involves reducing distinctions to one form. For example, you represents both the subjective form (you saw them) and the objective form (They saw you).


Nominal clause: Are subordinate clauses that have a range of functions similar to that of noun phrases. For example, they can function as a subject (1) or direct object (2):

  1. That it’s too difficult for him should be obvious to everyone.
  2. I think that you should take a rest now.

Nominal relative clauses are introduced by a nominal relative pronoun. The pronoun functions like a combination of antecedent and relative pronoun:

You can take whatever you want. (‘anything you want’)


Nominal relative pronoun: Are who, whom (formal), which, whoever, whomever (formal), whichever, what and whatever. They introduce nominal relative clauses. Several of these pronouns have the same form as nominal relative determiners.


Non-sentence: A non-sentence may be perfectly normal even though it cannot be analysed as a sentence. For example, the greeting Hello! Is a non-sentence grammatically, and so is the written sign exit.


Notional definition: A notional definition defines a grammatical term, such as a noun, by the meaning that members of the category are said to convey. For example, a traditional notional definition of a noun is ‘the name of a person, thing or place’. Notional definitions can help to identify a category such as a noun by indicating typical members of the category, but the definitions are usually not comprehensive. Nouns include words such as happiness, information and action that are not covered by the traditional notional definition. Notional definitions are contrasted with formal definitions.


Noun: Proper nouns are names of people (Helen), places (Hong Kong), days of the week (Monday), holidays (Christmas), etc. The noun phrases in which common nouns function refer to people (teachers), places (the city), things (your car), qualities (elegance), states (knowledge), actions (action), etc. Most common nouns take a plural form: car, cars.


Noun phrase: The main word in a noun phrase is the noun or a pronoun. If the man word is a noun, it is often introduced by a determiner and may have modifiers. Pre-modifiers are modifiers that come before the main word and post-modifiers are modifiers that come after it:

An (det.) old (pre-mod.) quarrel (noun) that has recently flared up again (post-mod.)


Number: Number is a grammatical category that contrasts singular and plural. It applies to nouns (student, students), pronouns (she, they) and verbs (he works, they work).


Object: Transitive verbs require a direct object to complete the sentence as in (1):

  • Helen wore a red dress (dO).

Some transitive verbs allow or require a second element: indirect object, which comes before the direct object (2); object complement (3); adverbial complement (4).

  • Nancy showed me (iO) her book (dO).
  • Pauline made him (dO) her understudy (oC).
  • Norma put the cat (dO) in the yard (aC).

The direct object typically refers to the person or thing affected by the action. The indirect object typically refers to the person who receives something or benefits from the action. The object in an active structure (whether the object is direct or indirect) usually corresponds to the subject in a passive structure:

The sentry fired two shots (dO).

Two shots (S) were fired.

Ted promised Mary (iO) two tickets (dO).

Mary (S) was promised two tickets.

Two tickets (S) were promised to Mary.


Object complement: Some transitive verbs require or allow an object complement to follow the direct object:

The heat has turned the milk (dO) sour (oC).

The relationship between the direct object and the object complement resembles that between the subject and subject complement:

The milk (S) turned sour (sC).


Operator: The operator is the part of the predicate that (Among other functions) interchanges with the subject when we form questions (1) and comes before not or contracted n’t in negative sentences (2) and (3):

  1. Have (op) you (S) seen my pen?
  2. I have (op) not replied to her letter.
  3. I haven’t replied to her letter.

The operator is usually the first auxiliary in the verb phrase, but the main verb be is the operator when it is the only verb in the verb phrase, as in (4), while the main verb have may serve as operator, as in (5), or take the dummy operator, as in (6):

4. Are you ready? 5. Have you a car? 6. Do you have a car?


Orthographic sentence: An orthographic sentence is a sentence in the written language, signalled by an initial capital letter and a final full-stop. (period), question mark or exclamation mark.


Orthography: Orthography is the written system in the language: the distinctive written symbols and their possible combinations.


Parallelism: Is an arrangement of similar grammatical structures. In parallel structures at least some of the words have similar or contrasting meanings:

It was too hot to eat; it was too hot to swim; it was too hot to sleep.

They tended the wounded and they comforted the dying.

The more you talk, the madder I get.

Chiasmus is a form of parallelism in which the order of parts of the structure is reversed;

I respect Susan, but Joan I admire.


Parataxis: Refers to the loose ‘stringing together’ of (usually) clauses, without any grammatical relation between them: It was midnight. It was dark. The door opened.


Particle: A particle is a word that does not change its form (unlike verbs that have past forms or nouns that have plural forms) and, because of its specialised functions, does not fit into the traditional classes of words. Particles include not, to as used with the infinitive, and words like up and out that combine with verbs multi-word verbs, for example, blow up and look out.


Participle: There are two participles, the -ing participle (Playing) and the -ed participle. The -ing participle always ends in –ing. In all regular verbs and in some irregular verbs, the –ed participle ends in -ed. In other irregular verbs the -ed participle may end in –n (speak – spoken), or may have a different vowel from the base form (fight – fought), or may have both characteristics (wear-worn), or may be identical with the base form (put-put). The –ing participle is used to form the progressive (was playing). The –ed participle is used to form the perfect (has played) and the passive (was played). Both participles can function as the verb in non-finite clauses:

Speaking before the game, Keegan was upbeat and optimistic.

When captured, he refused to give his name.


Person: Person is the grammatical category that indicates differences in the relationship to the speaker of those involved in the situation. There are three persons: the first person refers to the speaker, the second to those addressed, and the third to other people or things. Differences are signalled by the possessive determiners (my, your, etc.), some pronouns (e.g. I, you), and by verb forms (e.g. I know versus She knows).


Personal pronoun: The personal pronouns are:

  1. Subjective case: I, we, you, he, she, it, they
  2. Objective case: me, us, you, him, her, it, them

Phonetics: Deals with the physical characteristics of the sounds in the language, their production and their perception.


Phonology: The sounds system in the language: the distinctive sound units and the ways in which they may be combined.


Phrase: A phrase is a unit below the clause. There are five types of phrases:

Noun phrase – our family

Verb phrase – was walking

Adjective phrase – quite old

Adverb phrase – very loudly

Prepositional phrase – on the table

The first four phrases above are named after their main word. The prepositional phrase is named after the word that introduces the phrase. In this book, and in many other works on grammar, a phrase may consist of one word, so that both talked and was talking are verb phrases.


Possessive determiner: are my, our, your, his, her, its, their.


Possessive pronoun: are mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, theirs.


Pragmatics: Pragmatics deals with the use of utterances in particular situations. For example; Will you join our group? Is a question that might be intended as either a request for information or a request for action.


Predicate: We can divide most clauses into two parts; the subject and the predicate. The main parts of the predicate are the verb and any of its objects or complements.


Prefix: is added before the stem of a word to form a new word, e.g. un- in untidy.


Preposition: Prepositions introduce prepositional phrases. The preposition links the complement in the phrase to some other expression. Here are some common prepositions with complements in parentheses: after (lunch), by (telling me), for (us), in (my room), since (seeing them), to (Ruth), up (the road).


Prepositional object: is a word or phrase that follows the preposition of a prepositional verb:

Tom is looking after my children.

Norma is making fun of you.


Prepositional phrase: Consists of a preposition and the complement of the preposition:

For (prep.) your sake (comp.)

On (prep.) entering the room (comp.)


Pronoun: is a closed class of words that are used as substitutes for a noun phrase or (less commonly) for a noun. They fall into a number of classes, such as personal pronouns and demonstrative pronouns.


Reciprocal pronoun: are each other and one another


Reflective pronoun: are myself, ourselves, yourself, yourselves, himself, herself, itself, themselves.


Register: A linguistic register is a variety of language we associate with a specific use and communicative purpose. For example, conversational English, newspaper English and scientific English are commonly recognised registers.


Regular sentence: This type of sentence conforms to one of the major sentence patterns in the language. Those that do not conform are irregular sentences.


Relative clause: A relative clause functions as a post-modifier in a noun phrase:

The persons who advised me.

The relative word or expression (here who) functions as an element in the clause (here as the subject; compared to- They advised me).


Relative pronoun: Introduce relative clauses. The relative pronouns are who, whom (formal), which and that. The relative pronoun is omitted in certain circumstances: the apartment (that) I live in. The omitted pronoun is known as a zero relative pronoun. Which and whose are relative determiners.


Restrictive apposition: Apposition may be restrictive or non-restrictive. A restrictive apposition identifies:

The fact that they have two cars.

My sister Joan.

A non-restrictive apposition adds further information:

The latest news, that negotiations are to begin next Monday

My eldest sister, Joan ..

Restrictive relative clause: Relative clauses may be restrictive or non-restrictive. A restrictive relative clause identifies more closely the noun it modifiers:

The boy who got the top grade was given a prize.

A non restrictive relative clause does not identify. It adds further information:

The boy, who got the top grade, was given a prize.


Rhetorical question: has the form of a question but the force of a strong assertion.

How many times have I told you to wipe your feet? (‘I have told you very many times to wipe your feet.’)


Run on sentence: is an error in punctuation arising from failure to use any punctuation mark between sentences. If a comma is used instead of a major mark, the error is a comma splice.


Semantics: is the system of meanings in the language: the meanings of words and the combinatory meanings of larger units.


Semi-auxiliary: The semi-auxiliaries convey meanings that are similar to the auxiliaries but do not share all their grammatical characteristics. For example, only the first word of the semi-auxiliary have got to functions as an operator:

Have we got to go now?

Semi-auxiliaries include have to, had better, be about to, be going to, be able to.


Sentence fragment: A sentence fragment is a series of words that is punctuated as a sentence even though it is not grammatically an independent sentence:

You’re late again. As usual


Simple sentence: is a sentence that consists of one clause:

I’m just a student.

A multiple sentence consists of more than one clause:

I’m just a student, and i’ve not had much work experience.

Since i’m just a student, i’ve not had much work experience.


Specific: Noun phrases are specific when they refer to specific persons, places, things, etc.:

I hired a horse and a guide.

They are non-specific when they do not have such reference:

I have never met a Russian. (non-specific: ‘any Russian’)


Standard English: is the variety of English that normally appears in print. Its relative uniformity is coned to grammar, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation. There is no standard English pronunciation. There are some differences in the standard English used in English-speaking countries, so that we can distinguish, for example, between standard English in Britain, in the USA and in Canada. Varieties other than the standard variety are called non-standard.


Stative: Stative verbs introduce a quality attributed to the subject (Tom seems bored) or a state of affairs (We know the way). Dynamic verbs are used in description of events (The kettle is boiling; Cathy listened intently), Dynamic verbs can occur with the -ing form, as in is boiling, has been listening.


Structure: The structure of a unit refers to the parts that make up the unit. For example, a sentence may have the structure subject, verb, object, as in:

David (S) has written (V) a good paper (O).

Or a noun phrase may have the structure determiner, pre-modifier, noun, as in:

a (det) good (per-mod) paper (noun).


Subject: The subject is an element that usually comes before the verb in a declarative sentence (1) and after the operator in an interrogative sentence (2):

  1. We (S) should consider (V) the rights of every class.
  2. Should (op) we (S) consider the rights of every class?

Except in imperative sentences, the subject is an obligatory element. In active structure, the subject typically refers to the performer of the action.


Subject complement: Linking verbs require a subject complement to complete the sentence. The most common linking verb is be. Subject complements are usually noun phrases (1) or adjective phrases (2):

  1. Leonard is Mary’s brother.
  2. Robert looks very happy.

The subject complement typically identifies or characterises the subject.


Subjective case: The personal pronouns and the pronouns who and whoever distinguish between subjective case and objective case. The subjective case is used when a pronoun is the subject (I in I know). The objective case is used when a pronoun is a direct object (me in He pushed me) or indirect object (me in She told me the truth) or complement of a preposition (for me). The subject complement takes the subjective case formal style (This is she), but otherwise the objective case (This is her) is usual.


Subject-operator inversion: In subject operator inversion, the usual order is inverted: the operator come before the subject:

  1. Are (op) you (S) staying?

Subject-operator inversion occurs chiefly in questions, as in (1). It also occurs when a negative element is fronted, as in (2):

2. Not a word did we hear.

Compare (2a) and (2b):

2a. We did not hear a word. | 2b. We heard not a word.


Subject-verb agreement: The general rule is that a verb agrees with its subject in number and person whenever the verb displays distinctions in number and person:

The dog barks. | I am thirsty.

The dogs bark. | She is thirsty.


Subjunctive: The present subjunctive is formed using the base form of the verb:

I demanded that Norman leave the meeting.

It is essential that you be on time.

The were subjunctive is formed using the verb were.

If Tess were here, she would help me.


Suffix: A suffix is added after the stem of a word to form a new word, e.g -ness in goodness. A suffix that expresses a grammatical relationship is an inflection, e.g. plural -s in crowds or past -ed in cooked.


Superordinate clause: is a clause that has a subordinate clause as one of its elements:

I hear (A) that you know (B) where Ken lives.

The (A) clause that you know where Ken lives is superordinate to the (B) clause where Ken lives. The subordinate (B) clause is the direct object in the (A) clause.


Syntax: This is another term for grammar, as that term is used in this book.


Tag question: A tag question is attached to a sentence that is not interrogative. It invites agreement:

You remember me, don’t you?

Please don’t tell them, will you?


Tense: Tense is the grammatical category that refers to the time and is signalled by the form of the verb. There are two tenses: Present (Laugh, laughs) and past (Laughed).


There-structure: In a there-structure, there is put in the subject position and the subject is moved to a later position:

There is somebody here to see you. (compare with- ‘somebody is here to see you’)


Verb: A verb is either (like a noun) a member of a word class or (like a subject) an element in sentence or clause structure. As a verb, it functions in a verb phrase. The verb phrase may be playing is the verb of the sentence in (1):

  1. She may be playing tennis this afternoon.

Its is the verb of the that-clause in (2):

2. She says that she may be playing tennis this afternoon.


Verbless clause: This is a reduced clause that does not have a verb:

Send me another one if possible. (‘if it is possible’)

Though in pain, Joan came with us. (‘Though she was in pain’)


Verb phrase: A verb phrase consists of a main verb preceded optionally by a maximum of four auxiliaries.


Voice: Voice is a grammatical category that applies to the structure of the sentence and to the structure of the verb phrase. There are two voices: the active voice and the passive voice.


wh-question: A wh-question is a question beginning with an interrogative word or with a phrase containing an interrogative word. All interrogative words except how begin with the spelling wh-: who, whom, whose, which, what, where, when, why.


Yes-no question: A yes-no question is a question that expects the answer yes or no. Yes-no questions require subject-operator inversion:

Can (op) I (S) have a word with you?


Advertisements