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Standard English

This is the standard national dialect of English. It is the clearest and most well-known dialect and as such is accepted for use in most textbooks, by teachers, in the media and as the basis for English teaching across the world. Non-standard English includes regional dialects and slang. There are also 'standard forms' of important international English languages such as 'standard American English'.


The structure of something refers to the form of the complete item - such as a sentence or a text - and the way its individual parts have been put together to create a coherent (interrelated) whole. In a phrase , clause or sentence the individual words are related both by their grammatical structure and their semantic properties in a text, the relationship and connections between its structural parts (e.g. its sentences and paragraphs) is considered using discourse analysis.


Style means the way language and structure are chosen by a writer or speaker to suit a particular context, audience and purpose. Three important aspects of style that could be worthy of comment are its degree of formality or informality, its use of standard or non-standard grammar and its discourse structure. A good writers might also have a distinctive, individual style, which may also be called a ' voice' .


The word 'subject' needs care as it has a particular - and very important - meaning that is quite distinct to grammar and which is different from the meaning you probably usually use. Grammatically speaking, the subject (S) is an element of a clause. It is the word or phrase that the clause tells about - and is usually a noun or noun phrase. In the sentence, 'I gave him a present', 'I' is the grammatical subject and 'gave' is its associated verb in the sentence (in the past tense). In the simple sentence, 'The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog', the subject is 'The quick brown fox'. This is a noun phrase that has as its associated finite verb , 'jumped'.

Most English sentences need a subject but sometimes this can be one of the small words (called pronouns) 'it' or 'there'. This type of subject can be tricky to recognise as proper subjects.

Some typical word orders of simple declarative sentences are: SV (subject-verb), SVO (subject-verb-object), SVC (subject-verb-complement) or SVA (subject-verb-adverbial).

Some types of verb transfer their action from their subject onto something else (the thing receiving the action of the verb is called its object). These are called transitive verbs. In the above sentence, the verb 'gave' is transitive as action transfers to the object, the noun 'a present'.

Verbs are called intransitive if they do not transfer action, but, instead, act to tell what their subject is doing, e.g. 'He is working.', 'It died.' Some verbs can be either transitive or intransitive according to their usage in the sentence, e.g. 'He is singing.' (intransitive) and 'He is singing a song.' (transitive).

A few special verbs (stative verbs) have no sense of direct action but, instead, act to make a statement about their subject's state of being. These verbs are called copular or linking verbs, e.g. He seems ill, She is clever, he was a criminal, it appears dark, etc.. The word that follows a stative verb has no action passing on to it so it cannot be called an object; instead, it is termed a complement.

Confusingly, Some verbs can take two objects:

'I gave Sally a present.' (i.e. 'I gave a present to Sally')

In this type of sentence, the object is 'a present' (= the thing given; this is called the DIRECT OBJECT); but there is a second 'object' - the 'receiver' of the direct object. This is termed the INDIRECT OBJECT. Notice that all sentences of this type can be re-written as shown using the word 'to'.


An affix (a morpheme ) added to the end of a word to alter its grammatical function , e.g. the noun luck can become an adjective by adding the suffix (or 'adjective marker') -y, as in lucky.


A word that has a closely similar meaning to another word. English has very few true synonyms (e.g. sofa / couch / settee), but many near synonyms, e.g. house - dwelling - home - abode - pad. The existence of synonyms allows variety of word choice according to style and register. A list of synonyms is available in a thesaurus. 

Compare antonym.


Syntax is the most important aspect of English grammar . It refers to the way words are put together in a group to create meaning as phrases, clauses or as a sentence. Studying the syntax of a sentence involves investigating the structure and relationships of its words. Standard syntax refers to the syntax of a particular dialect of English called Standard English - this is the syntax you will read in most written texts and hear from teachers in lessons, newsreaders and in any other more formal context. Non-standard syntax is a normal part of much spoken English and is common in regional dialects



Tense refers to the way the time of an action can be directly indicated in a verb by changing its form (i.e. morphologically). English only has two verb tenses - present tense 'I leave.' and past tense, 'I left.'. However, we have many other ways of creating the idea of tense by using auxiliary verbs or other structures that indicate the time of an action. For example, each of the following grammatical structures suggests a future event, or a future aspect (the 'will' construction is often, but loosely, called 'the English future tense'):

  • I will leave in the morning.
  • I am going to leave in the morning.
  • I shall leave in the morning.
  • I leave in the morning.
  • I am leaving in the morning.


Within linguistics, the word 'text' means any continuous and coherent sequence of writing or speech. See also discourse .



Combined with its subject , the verb becomes the central element of a sentence or clause.  A main verb is the head word of a verb phrase - sometimes called a verb chain , e.g. 'He hit him hard.'  A lexical verb is the part of the verb chain that suggests the action involved, e.g. He might have hit him. A verb that tells of a 'state of being' is a copular or stative verb, e.g. is, was, seems, appears, becomes, etc. Verbs that work along with a subject are called finite (e.g. the girl looked). But verbs do not have to work with a subject within a sentence - these are called a verb's non-finite forms (e.g. I like to run). Non-finite forms of verbs can act as other parts of speech:     

The infinitive from of the verb (often used with 'to'), e.g. 'He used to love me.'

The -ed participle form (usually ending with the suffix -ed):

  • 'Only the cooked apples should be used.'

The -ing participle form:

  • 'He used cooking apples' (adjective).

  • 'The cooking was superb' (noun).

  • 'He will be cooking this evening' (continuous aspect).

A verb phrase has a head word that is a main verb along with one or more 'helper' or auxiliary verbs.

A verb phrase is a coherent group of words that acts as a unit of meaning and which most often follows a subject (which is usually a noun phrase). Along with its subject the combination forms a clause. Both single verbs and verb chains tell what the action or state of their subject.

In a verb phrase, the main verb can be inflected to show tense (e.g. eat, eaten, ate), agreement (e.g. I eat, she eats) or continuous action (e.g. He is eating) and it can also be pre-modified with an adverb (e.g. He is quietly eating) the auxiliary verb can be inverted to form a question (e.g. Do you eat spaghetti?), e.g. 'She will have been singing for forty minutes.'

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