English Grammar Glossary

action verb a verb that animates a sentence, either physically or mentally.

active voice see voice.

additive phrase an expression typically set off with commas, that while it seems to be part of the subject is not, and therefore does not change the number of the verb.

adjective a word that modifies a noun, pronoun.

adverb a word that modifies a noun, pronoun, or another adverb.

adverbial clause subordinate clauses that begin with subordinate conjunctions; they function as adverbs within the sentence and cannot stand alone as sentences.

agreement see pronoun agreement or subject-predicate agreement.

antecedent the noun or group of words acting as a noun to which the pronoun refers.

appositive a word or group of words that restates or identifies the noun or pronoun it is next to.

audience refers to the reader at the other end of your writing; you should consider your audience's position and experiences when deciding on the appropriate language, style, and tone for your essay.

case refers to the way a noun or pronoun is used in a phrase, clause, or sentence; case can be subjective, objective, or possessive.

clause a group of related words, but unlike a phrase, a clause has a subject and predicate.

cliché trite, overused expressions, many of which rely on figurative language and should be avoided in writing.

collective noun a word that stands for a group of things is called a collective noun.

colon used primarily when introducing a list, introducing a quotation or formal statement, or introducing a restatement or explanation.

comma the most frequently used internal punctuation in sentences; commas are used after introductory clauses and phrases, with restrictive and nonrestrictive elements, with appositives, between items in a series, between modifiers in a series, to join independent clauses, and to set off interrupting elements.

comma splice see run-on sentence.

comparative degree used with adjectives and adverbs to compare two people, things, or actions.

complement (predicate nominative or predicate adjective) an element in a predicate that identifies or describes the subject; a complement can be either a noun (called a predicate noun or predicate nominative), or an adjective (called a predicate adjective).

complete predicate the verb or verb phrase and the words that modify or complete it.

complete subject the noun or pronoun and the words that modify or complete it.

complex sentence contains one independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses.

compound adjectives adjectives that are hyphenated when they appear before a noun.

compound adverbs while most compound adverbs are written as two words, those beginning with over or under are spelled as one word.

compound-complex sentence joins two or more independent clauses with one or more subordinate clauses.

compound preposition prepositions made up of more than one word.

compound sentence has two or more independent clauses, joined by coordinating conjunctions, and no subordinate clauses.

compound subjects refers to more than one actor in a sentence.

compound word combination of two words can create a spelling problem; a dictionary is your best guide to correct spelling.

conclusions the final paragraph or paragraphs of an essay, and should give a reader a sense of completion.

conjunction words that join or link elements.

conjunctive (sentence) adverbs words that look like coordinating conjunctions but are actually adverbs.

coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet) join words, phrases, or clauses that are grammatically equal in rank.

correlative conjunction conjunctions that come in matched pairs, like not only/but also.

dangling modifiers are similar to misplaced modifiers except that the modifier is not just separated from the word it modifies; it is missing the word it modifies.

dash a punctuation device used to interrupt a sentence, or introduce a restatement or explanation.

demonstrative pronoun (this, that, these, those) single out what you are talking about.

direct object a noun that receives the action of the sentence but that is not the subject.

draft a written version of an essay; most writers create multiple drafts in the process of writing.

ellipsis indicates an omission from a quotation.

elliptical clause a clause in which a word or words have been omitted.

euphemism a mild or roundabout word or phrase used in place of one considered painful or offensive.

exclamation point follow interjections and other expressions of strong feeling; they may also lend force to a command.

faddish words terms that appear suddenly and become very popular in language; some last, some fade, and some disappear altogether.

faulty parallelism a failure to create grammatically parallel structures when appropriate, is referred to as faulty parallelism.

figurative idiom expressions so common that they have become clichés.

future perfect a verb tense that indicates action in a future time in relation to another time farther in the future; it is formed with will have and the past participle of the verb.

future tense a verb tense that indicates the action has yet to take place

gerund a noun created from the -ing form of a verb; gerunds act as subjects and objects in sentences.

gerund phrase phrases that begin with the -ing form of a verb and have objects and modifiers; a gerund phrase always acts as a noun in a sentence, not as an adjective.

idiom an accepted phrase or expression that doesn't follow the usual patterns of language, or has a meaning other than the literal.

imperative refers to the mood of the verb used in requests and commands.

indefinite pronouns (all, any, he, she, it, and so on) stand in for nouns but do not specify the persons or things to which they refer.

independent clause a clause that contains a subject and a predicate, expresses a complete thought, and can stand alone as a sentence.

indicative refers to a mood of the verb that is used in most statements and questions.

indirect object tells to or for whom an action is done, although the words to and for are not used; it is used with a transitive verb and precedes the direct object.

indirect question a question that is being reported rather than asked and ends with a period rather than a question mark.

infinitive the base form of a verb with to, and that usually functions as a noun, although it can be an adjective or adverb.

infinitive phrase a phrase containing an infinitive and its objects and modifiers; infinitive phrases usually function as nouns, although they can be used as adjectives and adverbs.

intensifiers words intended to add force to what you say.

interjection words that express a burst of emotion but are not grammatically related to other elements in a sentence.

interrogative pronoun (who, whom, whose, which, what) introduce questions.

intransitive verb verbs that do not take an object.

introduction beginnings of essays that establish the purpose and tone; introductions should attract the reader's attention and guide the reader naturally into the rest of the paper.

irregular verb verbs that form the past tense and past participle in a variety of ways, but not by adding -d or -ed as regular verbs do.

jargon the specialized language of a field or profession.

linking verb verbs that do not convey action but help complete statements about the subject by describing or identifying it.

misplaced modifier modifiers that do not clearly relate to the word they are modifying.

modifier describes or limits another word or group of words.

mood refers to the manner or attitude of the speaker which the verb intends to convey; verbs have three moods: indicative, imperative, or subjunctive.

noun a word that names a person, place, or thing, and can be either concrete or abstract.

noun clause a clause that serves as a noun in a sentence.

number refers to whether a noun or verb is singular or plural.

object of the preposition a noun or pronoun that follows a preposition and completes the prepositional phrase.

objective case when a noun or pronoun is the object of a verb, it is in the objective case.

outline establishes an overall pattern of organization for an essay; they may be formal or informal but are essential to good writing.

paragraph develops one idea with a series of logically connected sentences and may vary in length.

paragraph coherence the smooth logical flow of a paragraph.

paragraph unity a paragraph that focuses on one idea and one idea only.

parallelism refers to matching grammatical structures; elements in a sentence that have the same function or express similar ideas should be grammatically parallel, or grammatically matched.

paraphrase involves borrowing an idea that you rephrase in your own words.

parentheses punctuation devices used to set off incidental information.

participle a verb that ends in -ing (present participle) or -ed, -d, -t, -en, -n (past participle).

participial phrase begins with a past or present participle and is followed by its object and modifiers; participial phrases are used as adjectives.

parts of speech there are eight parts of speech: noun, verb, pronoun, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection.

passive voice see voice.

past perfect a verb tense indicating action in past times in relation to another past time; it is formed with had and the past participle of the verb.

past tense a verb tense indicating that an action is finished or complete.

period punctuation device used with statements, requests, mild exclamations, courtesy questions, and abbreviations.

person refers to the person (or thing) that is a subject or object; person can be either first (I, me, my, mine), second (you, your), or third (he, she, him, her, it, they).

personal pronoun (I, me, he, she, it, and so on) stand in for one or more persons or things and differ in form depending upon their case.

phrase a group of related words that have no subject-predicate combination and cannot stand alone as a sentence.

plagiarism the use of another writer's words or ideas without acknowledging that person's contribution.

possessive case the case of a noun or pronoun used to show ownership.

predicate part of a sentence that tells what the subject does or is, or what is done to the subject.

preposition shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and another noun or pronoun.

prepositional idiom an expression that depends on the choice of a particular preposition.

prepositional phrase a phrase that begins with a preposition and includes a noun or pronoun that is the object of the preposition.

present perfect a verb tense that indicates action in past time in relation to present time; it is formed with has or have and the past participle of the verb.

present tense a verb tense that indicates the action is occurring now.

pronoun a word that stands in for a noun.

pronoun agreement a pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number (singular or plural) and gender (masculine or feminine).

pronoun case refers to the way a pronoun is used in a sentence (see subjective, objective or possessive case).

proper noun names a specific person or place, or a particular event or group and is always capitalized.

punctuation helps a reader make sense of what you write; punctuation devices include periods, question marks, exclamation points, commas, semicolons, colons, dashes, parentheses, and brackets.

question mark used to end questions.

quotation marks used to indicate to the reader that the words or sentences within the quotation marks are borrowed from another writer.

redundancy the unnecessary repetition of words, phrases, or ideas in writing.

reflexive (intensive) pronoun combines a personal pronoun with -self or -selves in order to reflect nouns or pronouns, or to provide emphasis.

relative clause a clause that begins with a relative pronoun and functions as an adjective.

relative pronoun (who, whom, which, that) introduce clauses that describe nouns or pronouns.

run-on sentence or comma splice is an error in which two independent clauses are joined without the proper punctuation.

semicolon punctuation device used to join independent clauses between items in a series.

sentence a group of words containing a subject and a predicate and expressing a complete thought.

sentence fragment a group of words that is missing a subject, a predicate, or does not express a complete thought.

simple predicate a verb or verb phrase.

simple sentence has one independent clause and no subordinate clauses.

simple subject a noun or pronoun.

slang conversational or informal language, which should generally be avoided in formal writing.

split infinitives breaking up an infinitive with one or more adverbs.

subject part of a sentence that tells what or whom the sentence is about.

subjective (nominative) case when a noun or pronoun is the subject of a verb.

subject-predicate agreement a predicate must agree in person and in number with its subject, regardless of other elements in a sentence.

subordinate (dependant) clause a clause that does not express a complete thought and is not a sentence; it depends upon something else to express a complete thought.

subjunctive refers to the mood of the verb used in sentences that are contrary-to-fact or hypothetical.

subordinating conjunctions join subordinate clauses to independent clauses.

superlative degree used with adjectives and adverbs to compare more than two things, people, or actions.

tense refers to the time in which the action, or state of being of the verb, is taking place.

topic the general idea or area of an essay; provides the subject of the essay.

transitive verbs a verb that takes a direct object; that is, the verb transmits action to an object.

thesis a sentence or group of sentences that make an assertion about the topic; it is usually found in the introduction and may be directly stated or implied.

verbal words derived from verbs but that function differently from a verb (see infinitives, participles, and gerunds).

verb conveys the action performed by a subject, expresses the state of that subject, or links the subject to a complement.

verb agreement see agreement.

voice refers to the form of a verb indicating whether the subject performs the action (active voice) or receives the action (passive voice).

wordy expression expressions that say the same thing twice or avoid getting directly to the point.