Glossary or reference key for terms used on website English for Foreigners Online
This glossary of terms is a reference key to help explain some of the confusing jargon used through the English for Foreigners Online website. This list is not a complete list of terminology concerning grammar. I recommend the book Practical English Usage for a more comprehensive list of terminology.
Terms used in grammar
Adjective – A word that describes a noun or pronoun. For example, ‘a red potato’, the word red describes the noun potato.
Adverb – A word or phrase that changes or adds to an adjective, verb or another adverb or phrase. An adverb expresses a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. For example, ‘she gently tucked her son into bed’. The word gently describes the verb tucked.
Article – An article is a kind of adjective that is always used with and gives some information about a noun. There are only two articles a and the, but they are used very often and are important for using English accurately.
Conjunctions – Conjunctions are words that connect phrases, or clauses in a sentence or words that coordinate words in the same clause, for example, e.g., and, but, if.
Infinitive – the most basic form of a verb.
Interjection – an abrupt remark, for example, an aside or interruption. For example, “Oh!, dear me!”
Noun – a word, other than a pronoun, used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things (common noun); or to name a particular person, place or thing (proper noun). Nouns can function as the subjects of verbs, or objects of verbs or prepositions.
Participle – a word formed from a verb and used as an adjective.
Phrases – part of speech without both a subject and verb, that function as a single part of speech.
Predicate – the part of a sentence, or clause, that tells us what the subject does or is. Something that is affirmed or denied of the subject of a proposition. For example, is the sentence ‘The exam was difficult‘. The predicate ‘was difficult’ tells us about the subject ‘the exam.’
Preposition – relates a noun to the rest of the sentence.
Preterite – a verb tense describing things that happened in the past.
Pronoun – substitute a noun or a noun phrase, they are also known as antecedents and are used to avoid repetition in a sentence. There are twelve types of pronouns.
Transition words – a part of speech that is used to connect words, phrases, or sentences. They help the reader to connect an idea to another, hence creating cohesion within the text.
Verbs – a word used to describe an action, state or occurrence. A verb forms the main part of the predicate of a sentence.
Terms used in language
Idioms – are culturally specific sayings; they convey some idea or principle.
Proverbs – Proverbs are long idioms containing one or several complete sentences.
Aphorism – Similarly to proverbs. A pithy observation that contains a general truth.
Platitude – a proverb that has been said so often that it is no longer interesting or thoughtful.
Jargon – special words or expressions that have specific professional meaning.
Slang – very informal language, often restricted to a context or group of people.
Terms in writing
Passive voice – a sentence where the subject undergoes the action of the verb.
Meta-discourse – writing about what you are going to say in the sentence. Meta-discourse is extraneous, unnecessary, and insulting to the reader.
Terms to describe Tense
Present Simple – Subject + Verb + es/s. He brushes his teeth.
Present Continuous – Subject + is/am/are + Verb + ing. I am brushing my teeth.
Present Perfect – Subject + has/have + Verb. He has made his bed.
Present Perfect Continuous – Subject + has/have + been + Verb(+ing) + since/for. He had been living there for two years.
Past Simple Tense – Subject + has/have + Verb. He has made his bed.
Past Continuous – Subject + was/were + Verb. He was watching television.
Past Perfect – Subject + had + Verb. I had finished washing the clothes.
Past Perfect Continuous – Subject + had + been + Verb(ing). He had been watching television.
Simple Future – Subject + will/shall + Verb. I shall watch the television.
Future Continuous – Subject + will/shall + be + Verb(ing). He was watching television.
Future Perfect – Subject + will have + Verb. He will have played tennis.
Future Perfect Continuous – Subject + will have + been + Verb(ing). He will have been watching television for 30 minutes.
Past Future – Subject + would + VerbI would leave in one hour.
Past Future Continuous – Subject + should/would + be + Verb(ing). I would be leaving in one hour.
Past Future Perfect – Subject + should/would + have + Verb. She said that she would be leaving in one hour.
Past Future Perfect Continuous – Subject + should/would + have + been + Verb. She said that she would have been leaving in one hour.
Terms used in Punctuation
Ellipse Marks – Three dots. Elipses are used for shortening a quote. Use three dots when omissions occur. For example, “Four score and seven years ago…”
Semicolons – Semicolons are a comma with a full stop above. It is stronger than a comma. Use a semicolon to separate two strong clauses in a sentence. For example, “Call me tomorrow; I will fill you in on the details.”
Colons – A Colon finishes a clause while continuing the sentence with a list.
Apostrophes – Use an apostrophe with contractions at the place of the omission. For example, don’t, isn’t. Use an apostrophe to show possession. For example, the girl’s hat.
Hyphens – It is not always clear when to use a hyphen to separate a compound noun.
Parentheses – Parentheses encapsulate words or figures that support a statement.
Prepositional phrase – made up of a preposition and a noun.
Appositive phrase – renames another noun or pronoun. For example, “John, my uncle.” ‘John’ is the noun and ‘my uncle’ modifies the noun.
Gerund phrase – contains a gerund (verb + ing), modifiers and other related words linked to the gerund. A gerund acts as a noun.
Participle phrase – a group of a present-participle (verb + ing) or a past participle verb, modifiers and other linked words; they act as a noun or adjective and are separated by commas.
Noun phrase – functions as a syntactic unit; using conjunctions, prepositions, specifiers, and modifiers.
Verb phrase – is made up of a verb root and a preposition or particle which follows the verb.
Adjective phrase – act as an adjective in a sentence.
Adverb phrase – act as an adverb in a sentence.
Infinitive phrase – contains an infinitive and modifiers or words related to the infinitive.
Absolution phrase – consists of a noun or pronoun, a participle, and linked modifiers.