Key Terms - English Language

Key Terms for English Language and Language, Form and Structure. Part 1. Language Basics. 



Proper Nouns - Refers to specific people and places. Normally begins with a capital letter. I.E. Paris, Alex, Venus 

Common Nouns - Refer to types of people, places, feelings etc. I.E. man, planet, excitement. Most nouns are common, which can be subdivided further into concrete, abstract and collective nouns. 

Concrete Nouns - Refers to things that exist physically (the things we can see and feel). I.E. computer, hand, dog 

Abstract Nouns - Refer to things that do not exist physically (the things we feel, qualities, ideas). I.E. friendship, sadness, democracy, dreams

Collective Nouns - Refer to groups of people, animals or objects. I.E. team, family, herd 

1 of 18


Adjective - Describing words I.E. beautiful, boring, strange 

Comparative - An adjective that makes a comparison, usually ending in -er I.E. bigger, smarter, faster

Superlative - An adjective indicating the highest degree, usually ending in -est I.E. biggest, smartest, fastest

Irregular Adjectives - 2 types of comparatives and superlatives that do not fit into this rule: 

Good - Better - Best

Bad - Worse - Worst

2 of 18


Verb - Often known as a doing word I.E. jump, take, explode

Dynamic Verb - Verbs which refer to physical actions I.E. throw, skip, laugh

Stative Verb - Verbs which refer to states or conditions I.E. felt, dream, was 

Infinitive Verb - A form of a verb that does not specify a person or number I.E. to write, to lift, to decide. To be is also an example (is, was, are, were)

Main Verb - Is a single verb that expresses the main meaning in a clause or sentence. 

Auxillary Verb - (sometimes know as 'helping verbs') Verbs that are placed in front of main verbs I.E. I must have been thinking about something else 

Primary Verb - Verbs that are to be, to have, to do. I.E. He is running, I do want to see you, Have you spent all your money?

Modal Auxillaries - ONLY used in conjunction with a main verb I.E. can, will, should, might, could 

3 of 18

Active and Passive

Active Verb - If a verb is used actively, the person or thing performing the action is emphasized as the subject of the verb:

The minister has used an apology

Passive Voice - If the passive voice is used, the emphasis shifts to the object of the verb. The order of the sentence is reversed. 

An apology has been issued by the minister

Using the passive form means that the agent responsible for the action can be left out completely. 

An apology has been issued

4 of 18


Adverb - Usually gives us more information about verbs. They describe verbs in rather the same way that adjectives describe nouns. Most adverbs end in -ly to the ends of adjectives. I.E. She ran quickly, He felt better

Adverbs can also modify adjectives:

unbelievably good

And other adverbs:

remarkably quickly

5 of 18


Pronoun - Words that take the place of nouns. I.E. 

Wendy gave the address book to Stephen

She gave it to him

Personal Pronoun - They replace the subject or the object of the sentence I.E. I, he, she, it, them, you, we, us

Possessive Pronoun - These show possession. I.E. mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, theirs

Reflexive Pronoun - These indicate that the object of a verb is the same as its subject. They end in either -self or -selves. I.E. myself, ourselves, himself, yourself

6 of 18


Conjunction - (sometimes known as connectives) are joining words. They join together different parts of sentences. 

Coordination Conjunctions - Include the words and, but and or. They are used when the parts of the sentence to be joined are of equal value. I.E. 

I went to the party and met Max there

Subordinating Conjunctions - Connect a subordinate clause to a main clause. I.E. because, although, unless, until

7 of 18


Preposition - Usually indicate in some way how one thing is related to something else. Examples include prepositions relating to position (at, on, opposite), direction (into, past, to) and time (before, during, after)

8 of 18


Phrase - One or more words functioning as a unit in a sentence, usually containing a head word and accompanying modifiers. 

Head Word - A main word in a phrase. 

Modifiers - Words that describe a head word or give more information about it. 

Pre-Modifiers - A word that comes before the head word. 

Post-Modifiers - A word that comes after the head word. 

Noun Phrases - Has a noun or pronoun as its head word. I.E. the sandy beach

Verb Phrases - Has a verb as its head word and any accompanying auxillary verbs (is, was, have) I.E. I may see him, I should have seen him

9 of 18


Clause - Usually contains both a verb phrase and other types of phrase. Clauses are usually made up of 5 elements: subject, verb, object, complement and adverbial. 

My teacher called my project a masterpiece yesterday

Subject - A main person or thing that the clause is about. It performs the action being described, so it usually comes before the verb. I.E. my teacher

Verb - The doing word in a sentence, explaining what the subject is doing. I.E. called

Object - Normally follows the verb and usually provides an answer to the question I.E. my project

Complement - Gives more information about the subject or more information about the object. I.E. a masterpiece

Adverbial - Normally an optional extra in a sentence. Usually provides information on time, place and manner. I.E. yesterday

10 of 18


Simple Sentences - Contains only one clause. Contains a single main verb and a combination of some or all of the other clause elements (subject, verb, adverbial).

Compound Sentences - Consists of two or more simple sentences joined together by a coordinating conjunction. Each clause in a compound sentence makes sense on its own and each is of equal importance, both of which are considered main clauses. I.E. 

Joe lived in Glasgow and his sister lived in London

Complex Sentences - One or more of the clause is of lesser importance than the main clause. The lesser clause is known as a subordinate clause. The subordinate clause cannot stand on its own and make sense. 

11 of 18

Function of Sentences

Declaritive Sentences - Make statements. The usual order of these sentences is subject-verb-object. Often appear in informative, narrative and descriptive texts. 

I have read all the Twilight Novels. 

Interrogative Sentences - Ask questions. Often appear in advertisements and speech, as it addresses the reader. 

Have you read all the Twilight Novels? 

Imperative Sentences - Give instructions of some kinds - orders, warning, advice, invitations, which often appear in instructional texts. They usually begin with a verb. 

Read Twilights' Breaking Dawn by next week.

Exclamatory Sentences - Emphatic sentences, which in writing are indicated by the use of exclamation mark. 

I've got to read Twilight by next week!

12 of 18

Words and Meanings

Connotation - The association that a word has, although they can be positive or negative. I.E. 

TITANIC - iceberg, ship, sinking, movie etc.

Lexis - Another word for vocabulary. 

Lexical Field/Semantic Field - A group of words with associated meanings and uses. I.E. 

IPHONE - Apps, touch screen, 3G, Apple, iTunes, Safari etc. 

Hypernym - A general word that is linked to more specific words. 

Hyponym - A word that is linked in meaning to, but more specfic than, another word. 

COLOUR (Hypernym)

Red Yellow Pink Blue Green Black (Hyponym)

13 of 18

Synonyms and Antonyms

Synonym - Words that are similar in meaning. I.E. chat, conversation, talk

Antonym - Words whose meanings are in some ways opposite to each other. I.E. hot/cold, tall/short, wet/dry etc. They can also be in word classes, I.E. Verbs: start/finish, Adverbs: always/never and Nouns: boy/girl 

Polysemic - Words that have more than one meaning. I.E. a clear window, his reasons were clear

Ambiguity - An expression, word or arguement that can be interpreted or understood in more than one way. 

Antithesis - Deliberate contrasting of opposite words or ideas in a text. 

Oxymoron - An expression in which words of contradictory or opposite meaning have been collocated. I.E. bitter sweet, love hate relationship etc. 

Collocation - Groups (usually pairs) of words that are commonly found alongside each other I.E. once upon a time 

14 of 18

Words and Meanings 2

Simile - Comparisons that involve the use of like or as. I.E. as cold as ice or swim like a fish

Metaphor - A comparison that describes a person, object, situation etc. as if it were something else, even though it's not true. I.E. his eyes were a sea depth blue

Dead Metaphor - A metaphor that has occurred so often that it has become a new meaning of the expression. I.E. tied up, laid back, tread carefully 

Extended Metaphor - A metaphor that continues into the sentences that follow. Mostly seen in poetry/reviews. 

Idiom - An expression whose meaning cannot be understood from the meanings of the individual words that make up the expression. I.E. face the music, out of hand, put a sock in it etc. 

Personification - A type of metaphor in which something that is not human is described as if it were. I.E. the clouds cried with rain 

15 of 18


Monosyllabic - Words of one syllable. Extense use of monosyllabic lexis is a feature of more simple lexis I.E. in childrens books

Polysyllabic - Words of more than one syllable. Extense use of polysyllabic lexis is a feature of more complex lexis. I.E. in political documents

Onomatopoeia - Occurs when the sound of a word echoes its meaning. I.E. splash, buzz, thump etc. 

Alliteration - When 2 or more words begin with the same sound and letter. I.E. crispy, crunchy cornflakes

Assonance - When the vowel sounds in the middle of 2 or more words are similar. I.E. Kwik Fit

16 of 18


Anaphoric Reference - A word or expression in a text that refers back to another part of the text. 

Cataphoric Refernce - A word or expression in a text that refers forward to another part of the text. 

Repetition - Involves straightforward repetition of a single word, sentence structure or phrase. 

17 of 18


Juxtaposition - Placing words, ideas and pieces of information next to eachother. 

Typeface - A particular design or type. 

Illustrations - Take forms of photographs, cartoons, drawings and diagrams.

Layout - Overall presentation and design on the object. 

GenreA category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter. 

18 of 18


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Language resources:

See all English Language resources »