i love english language

2.5 – Technical Terms Defined

1st / 2nd / 3rd  P Pronoun – a pronoun is any word which stands in place for a noun – e.g. “He is great.” Where “he” refers to John – a noun

Possessive Pronoun – a pronoun such as “his” or “her/s” or “our/s” or “their/s” which denotes possession as in “It is our car.”

Reflexive Pronoun – a ponoun which refers back to itself – e.g. myself, yourself, etc

Interrogative Pronoun – pronouns use to ask questions , e.g. “who”, “whose”, “which”

Indefinite Pronoun – a pronoun which refers to things in a general or open way – e.g. “someone”, “anybody”, “everything”, “nothing”

Demonstrative Pronoun – pronouns which are used to point at things – e.g. “this”, “that”, “these” and “”those”

Proper Noun – nouns which are typically used without determiners and give names to people, places or things – they always have a capital letter – “London”

Concrete Noun – things of substance – e.g. “table”, “horse”

Abstract Noun – ideas – thigns without substance – e.g. “beauty”, “hope”

Emotive Noun – a noun which will have an emotional impact upon the reader

Jargon – any term which is specific to a field and not generally understood

Semantic Field – a term to describe an area of language to do with a certain field – so there is a semantic fild of war or food or music, which contains words to do with any of those fields – e.g. the words “march”, “cannon” and “advance” are all from the semantic field of war – the use of which in a text about relationships should be commented on as it says a lot about how the author sees relationships as a fraught topic.

Denotation – the dictioanry meaning of a word

Connotation – the associations or the flavour of a word – the words which spring to mind when a particular word is used – e.g. the connotations of “school” are homework, boring, teachers, detention, etc – none of which are necessarily are in the dictioanry meaning of the term. Connotations of words are often used by an author to decide on one word over another, dependig on how they want the reader to view the topic under discussion, and so are always worth commenting on of any noun, adjective, verb or adverb used.

Collocation – refers to how words occur together regularly and in a restricted way – e.g. blonde hair, lean meat, etc

Comparative Adjective – bigger, smaller, more beautiful

Superlative Adjective – biggest, smallest, most beautiful

Attributive Adjective – when an adjective is used to premodify the noun – as in “the big car…”

Predicative Adjective – when an adjective is the complement of the sentence – as in “the car is big” – Predicative adjectives are notable because the author has used a whole sentence to ascribe this attribute, and so stresses its importance

Descriptive Adjective – describes the objective appearance of a noun

Evaluative Adjective – an adjective which is a judgement on its noun, and so is subjective – e.g. “goo”, “bad”,  “horrible”

Emotive Adjective – an adjective which will have an emotional impact upon the reader

Definite Article – “the” – a specific thing

Indefinite Article – “a” – any old thing

Synonym – a word with the same meaning

Antonym – a word with the opposite meaning

Hyponym – the more specific term – e.g. red admiral

Hypernym – the more general term – e.g. insect

Deictic Term – a word which points outside of the text – e.g. “that”, “Those”, etc

Cataphoric Reference – a word, or phrase, usually a pronoun such as “it”, or “he” or “that” which refers forward in the text to a noun which has yet to be included

Anaphoric Reference – a word, or phrase, usually a pronoun such as “it”, or “he” or “that” which refers backwards in the text to a noun which has already been used

Finite Verb – a full verb, where the reader knows who’s doing the action, how many people are doing it and when it’s being done – e.g. “The man was running across the park.”

Non-finite Verb – not a full verb, where the reader does not know who’s doing the action, how many people are doing it and when it’s being done – e.g. “running across the park.”

Infinitive – the “to run” form of the verb

Past Participle – the –ed form of the verb – e.g. “ran”, “played”, “went”

Present Participle – the –ing form of the verb – e.g. “running”, playing”, “going”

Transitive Verb – the more usual type of verb,  one which has can take an object – e.g. “John killed the sheep.” – “killed” is a transitive verb and “sheep” is its object”

Intransitive Verb – the less usual type of verb,  one which does not take an object – e.g. “John sang.” – “sang” is a intransitive verb and there is no object – similarly with verbs such as “sleep”, “complain” and “die”

Past tense – happening now

Present tense – happened in the past

Modal Verb – a very important word to pick out – it generally forms part of the verb phrase in a sentence – e.g. “He should have killed the sheep.” Where “should” is the modal verb – it tells us an awful lot about what the author thinks about what he’s writing about – which is what “modailty” means – the author’s attitude to what he or she is writing. This can also be shown using an adverb of modailty such as “hopefully”

Lexical Verb – the main meaning part of the verb phrase – which would be “killed” in the verb phrase “should have killed”

Auxiliary Verb – the helping verb – the little one which helps form the precise tense – such as “have” “was” or “did”

Perfective Aspect – the aspect formed using the auxilliary verb “have” in its present form, or “had” in its past form – e.g. “I have eaten my dinner.” – what’s the difference between this present perfective aspect and the past perfective aspect “I had eaten my dinner.”? And what’s the difference between either of these aspects and the simple present tense ““I eat my dinner.” And the simple past tense “I ate my dinner.”? – if you can explain the difference you are subtly analysing tense. Sometimes the difference in these aspects is very important to a text.

Progressive Aspect – the aspect formed using the auxilliary verb “is” and the “-ing” suffix in its present tense form and the auxilliary verb “was” and the “-ing” suffix in its past tense form – “I am going” = present progressive aspect, “I was going” – past progressive aspect. As with the perfective aspect the difference between this aspect and the simple past or present could be significant – so it’s always worth looking out for the auxilliary verb “is”/”was” in a verb phrase with the “-ing” suffix.

Dynamic Verbs – a verb which is to do with something actually happening – such as “killing”, “was slammed”, “jumps”

Stative Verbs – a verb which is to do with the state of things, where nothing is actually happening, such as “seems”, “has been”, “will be”

Active Voice – where the person or thing doing the action the verb describes starts the sentence – which is the normal way to construct such a sentence – “John killed the cat.” Where “John” is the active subject

Passive Voice – where the person or thing doing the action the verb describes does not starts the sentence – instead what suffers the action of the verb becomes the sentences subject, and the agent becomes the object – e.g. “The cat was killed by John.” Where “The cat” is the passive subject, and John is the object. This sentecne is now about the passive subject, the cat, the thing which suffers the action, as opposed to the person or thing doing the action – it shifts the reader’s attention around.

Copular Verb – the verb is which connects the sentence’s subject to the predicative adjective or its complement – as in “Mary is sweet.”

Adverbs – An adverb is essentially a modifier – a word which modifies another; but, whereas and adjective modifies a noun, as in “the big car”, an adverb modifies anything else – therefore making it a much more useful tool for the writer.

modifying an adjective – “That is a very big car.”

modifying a verb – “I quickly run to the park.” “I run quickly to the park.” … so adverbs can be poistioned in different parts of the sentence depending on what the author wants the reader to focus on most.

modifying another adverb – “He ran very quickly to the car.”

modifying a clause– “Obviously, he’s a big man.”

Adverb of Time – Adverbs come in different types, for example an adverb which relates to time – e.g. “yesterday” as in “I went there yesterday.” – it answers the question “when?” or “for how long?” – e.g. “I go to the gym regularly.”

Adverb of Space – an adverb which relates to place or position or distance – e.g. “Sign here please.” – it answers the question “where?”

Adverb of Manner – these adverbs are by far the most common and answer the question “how?” of the sentence’s verb – e.g. “He went to prison quietly.”

Adverb of Modality – these are some of the most useful adverbs to spot in a text as they tell us what the attitude of the writer is to what he is writing – e.g. “Hopefully, the sun will be nice and hot.” Or “She probabaly thinks I don’t like her.”

Adverb of Degree – refers to how much or to what degree something happens – “I was greatly disappointed in the score of the game.”

Preposition of Place – a preposition is a little word which expresses a relation between two or more things… either their position, their direction, their time, or any other relation such as cause and effect – they are useful in so far as they start prepositional phrases – which are always worth picking out and commenting on. Prepositional phrases are also called adverbials – very often they are not essential to the structure of the sentence, so their inclusion is a sharp insight into the intentions of the author.

Adverbial – also called a prepositional phrase – these groups of words, whcihc begin with prepositions, work as adverbs in a sentence. So if you take a sentence with an adverb, such as “They went to the shop quickly.” you can replace the adverb with a prepostional phrase / adverbial – “They went to the shop with a skip in their step.” You should look out for prepositions which start these phrases as these are always worth talking about – just like adverbs (but you get more points talking about phrases than single words).

Preposition of Direction – a preposition which relates to direction – e.g. “below”

Preposition of Time – a preposition which relates to time – e.g. “since”

All the (common) Prepositions



  1. aboard
  2. about
  3. above
  4. across
  5. after
  6. against
  7. along
  8. amid
  9. among
  10. around
  11. as
  12. at
  13. before
  14. behind
  15. below
  16. beneath
  17. beside
  18. besides
  19. between
  20. beyond
  21. but
  22. by
  23. despite
  24. down
  25. during
  26. except
  27. for
  28. from
  29. in
  30. inside
  31. into
  32. like
  33. near
  34. of
  35. off
  36. on
  37. onto
  38. opposite
  39. outside
  40. over
  41. past
  42. round
  43. since
  44. than
  45. through
  46. to
  47. toward
  48. towards
  49. under
  50. underneath
  51. unlike
  52. until
  53. up
  54. upon
  55. via
  56. with
  57. within
  58. without


Subject – is the person or thing that the sentence is about – “The car crashed.” “Some people don’t know anything.” The man killed the sheep.” The sheep were killed by the man.” – as you can see it is the noun phrase which starts the sentence off – “The very impatient woman dropped her groceries on the footpath.”

Direct Object – Some verbs can take objects (transitive verbs – kill as in “I killed the man.”) some don’t (intransitive verbs – “I exist.” where there is no object). The object is generally the thing or person after the verb as opposed to the subject which is the thing or person before the verb – “The man killed the pig.” “The pig was killed by the man.” – where “the pig” and “the man” are objects in turn.

Indirect Object – Some verbs even need a second object. These selfish verbs make a sentence look like nonsesne unless they get their way – “I gave the ball” where the subject is “I”, the verb is “gave” and the object is “the ball”, but still the verb is unhappy and so we must give the sentence an indirect object too – thus: “I gave the ball to the referee.”

Complement – Some sentences which look like they are of the pattern – subject-verb-object – SVO – may not be so. E.g. the sentence “Tom is happy.” Because “happy” is not independent of Tom, but describes him, it cannot be said to be the object of the verb, a person or thing cannot be both the subject and object of the verb. “happy” is here said to be the sentence’s complement – SVC. Whereas the sentence – “Tom hit Sean.” Is SVO because the persons on either side of the verb are not the same thing.

Premodification – modification which comes before that which is modified – “The big car crashed into the hard wall.” – these two adjectives premodify the nouns which they precede. Premodification is generaly more simple than postmodification, which allows more words to be used and so a greater level of discrimination or subtelty…

Postmodification – modification which comes after that which is modified – e.g. “

Connective / Subordinator – words which start subordinate clauses – woth looking out for in order to spot subordinate clauses










in case

in order that



















as far as

as if

as long as

as soon as

as though

assuming (that)


given (that)

granted (that)

in case

ir order for

in order that

insofar as

in the event that

providing/provided (that)

such that


Conjunction – a word which connects two clauses together but which doesn’t subordinate one to the other. There are only three such words – “and”, “but” “or” – they join two simple sentnces to make a compound sentence rather than a complex one. They are treated as different because they don’t carry any meaning, and so can be dispensed with in a sentence wihtou loss of meaning – e.g. the compound sentence “The man went home and the man walked to the shop.” Has the same meaning as the two simple sentences “The man went home. The man walked to the shop.” This is not the case with any other connective. The Complex sentence “The man went home because he was hungry.” Does not mean the same thing as the following two simple sentnces “The man went home. The man was hungry.” Some meaning has been lost. All connectives but “and, but, or” carry meaning and subordinate one clause to another, leading to a main clause “The man went home” and a subordinate clause (which cannot stand on its own) “because he was hungry.”

Major Sentence – a grammatical sentence

 Minor Sentence – an ungrammatical sentence – often used by texts, e.g. advertising texts, in order to affect the reader’s awareness of certain words or meanings.

Declarative Sentence – the most common function of sentence – the sentence which actually says something or declares something – e.g. “That man is an idiot.”

Interrogative Sentence – a sentence which asks a question – “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

Imperative Sentence – a sentence which demands/orders something – “Get out.” Close that door.” – such sentences can easily be identified as they start with a verb – always worth commenting on

Exclamaitve Sentence – a sentence which excalims – “Oh my God!” or some such sentiment

Simple Sentence – A sentence with one verb

Complex Sentence – a sentence with more than one verb and a subordinator (i.e. not “and”, “but” or “or”) connecting the clauses – such that there’s at least one subordinate clause and only one main clause – e.g. “I killed the pigeons because I lost my mind when I was a very young boy.”

Compound Sentence – a sentence with more than one verb, where the clauses are joined by either “and”, “but” or “or”  “I killed the pigeons and I lost my mind and I was a very young boy.” – and so there’s no main or subordinate clauses, just three coordinate clauses, all of which weight the same.

Main Clause – the clasue in a complex sentence which can stand on its own

Subordinate Clause – the clasue in a complex sentence which cannot stand on its own

Noun phrase – any group of words which works as a noun in a sentence – e.g. the noun phrase “The big fat man from London” can replace the noun “Tom” in the sentence “Tom went to the park.”, as could “That useless idiot” or “Some person from somewhere” etc. etc.

Adjective Phrase – any group of words which works as an adjective in a sentence

Adverb Phrase – any group of words which works as an adverb in a sentence

Verb Phrase – very often the verb part of a sentence os more than one word, as in “He was going to the park yesterday.” Where the auxilliray verb “was” helps the verb mark its time, or in the sentence “He should have killed the sheep yesterday.” The auxilliary verb “have” and the modal verb “should” help out the lexical verb “killed” – called the lexical verb as it carries the meaning of the verb phrase.

Prepositional Phrase – also called adverbials, they work as adverbs within a sentence, answering questions suc as when, where, for how long, how come and all sorst of other questions about that sentences subject or object – very often they are not essential to the structure of the sentence, so their inclusion is a sharp insight into the intentions of the author

Parenthetic Phrase – a phrase that’s dropped into the middle of a senence between two commas – “There was little that he could do that night, the longest of the year, without getting everybody else up and out of bed.”

Non-Finite Clause – a clause which has a non-finte verb (an incomplete one) rather than a finite verb – e.g. “Running home from school, I screamed and screamed and screamed.” Or “Fallen to the floor, I was no good to anyone any more.” Such clauses start with the present participle form of the verb – the –ing form, or the past participle form of the verb – the –ed form (or in the case of the iggegular verb fall above –en)

Relative Clause – a subordinate clasue which starts with the connectives “when”, “where” “who” or “which”

Parallelism – or “syntactic parallelism” – when the grammatical (or syntactical) structure of a clause is repeated for rhetorical effect. E.g. “I have a dream, that one day… I have a car, that one day… I have a feeling, that dreams of cars…”

Rhetorical Question – a question posed for rhetorical effect and therefore not a real question, in the sense that questions require answers, so it is a question where the answer is either immaterial or obvious, i.e. not a legitimate question which requires of the reader a genuine answer.

Fronting – putting that part of the sentence which can be moved around, e.g. a subordinate clause or a prepositional phrase, at the front of the sentence in order to give it priority in the attention of the reader.

End Focus – apart from the front of a sentence, the end of a sentence gives the most attention to a phrase, word or clause. If a word, phrase or clause can be moved to the end of a sentence then it is given greater prominence than if it is hidden away in the middle, perhaps as an embedded clause would be; however, the front of the sentence still carries far more prominence.

Embedding – An Embedded Clause is where a subordainte clause is dropped into a main clause, so it does not feature either at the end (end focused) or the beginning (front focused) of the sentence; it is relatively hidden away, not being given prominence by the author ; it languishes in the belly of the sentence.

Figurative Language – any use of language which is not literal; i.e. it doesn’t mean simply what it denotes literally; e.g. “I am worn out”, meaning that I am tired as opposed to my body, or mind,  having been degraded to the point of failure by any activity.

Idiom – Figurative language, or metaphor, is everywhere in our language; where it has been around for so long it gets incorporated into our normal use such that we don’t see the expression as figurative or metaphorical, but which don’t make sense in and of themselves literally, we have an idiom: e.g. “keep tabs on”, “raining cats and dogs”.  These expressions cannot be understood merely by understanding their constituent words; that’s what makes them “idiomatic”.

Euphemism – where a metaphorical expression is used to soften the impact of a taboo subject, such as going to the toilet being rendered “spending a penny. The opposite of a dysphemism, where every effort is made to render the topic as disagreeable as possible: “push one out”.

Irony – saying one thing whilst meaning the opposite; however, if I were to tell you that you look beautiful, but mean the opposite, there would have to be some clue as to whether I was begin ironic, otherwise the literal truth of what I am saying will be presumed. Frequently, exaggeration is used: “You are the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on.”

Hyperbole – over-exaggeration for effect; properly speaking it is a figurative device because you don’t literally mean that you’ve been waiting for your boyfriend for hours when he’s a little late for an appointment.

Litotes – the opposite of hyperbole, where ironic understatement is used to make a point: “I was not a little disappointed by your drunken behavior at the vicar’s house last night.”

Repetition – repetition

2 Responses

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  1. Poppy said, on June 6, 2011 at 11:14 am

    this website is really useful thanks! its helped a lot with revising for exams

  2. Charlotte said, on June 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    WOW this website is SOOO good, way better than any other website i have found to help me with my english language A level revision!

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