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The basics


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noun
Sometimes called 'naming words' because they name people, places and ‘things; they can be used after words like 'the'.
adjective
Sometimes called ‘describing words’ because they pick out single characteristics such as size or colour.
verb
Sometimes called ‘doing words’ because many name an action that someone does.
adverb
These add to the verb; sometimes said to describe manner (a way of doing something) or time.
word
A unit of grammar: it can be selected and moved around relatively independently, but cannot easily be split.
word class
Every word belongs to one of these which summarises the ways in which it can be used in grammar. The major ones are: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, determiner, pronoun, conjunction. They are sometimes called ‘parts of speech’.
preposition
Links a type of noun to another word in the sentence; often describes locations or directions.
determiner
Specifies whether a noun is 'known' or 'unknown'. Typically the word 'the' or 'a'.
pronoun
A type of noun which usually is 'he', 'she', 'him', 'her', 'they', 'them', 'it' or similar.
conjunction
Links two words or phrases together.
subject
The 'do-er' or 'be-er' of a sentence.
object
Normally a type of noun that comes straight after the verb. The thing being 'acted on' in a sentence.
phrase
A group of words that are grammatically connected so that they stay together, and that expand a single word, called the ‘head’. The phrase is a noun phrase if its head is a noun, a preposition phrase if its head is a preposition, and so on; but if the head is a verb, the phrase is called a clause.
head
The key word that determines the nature of a phrase.
noun phrase
A phrase with a noun as its head.
preposition phrase
A phrase which has a preposition as its head followed by a noun, pronoun or noun phrase.
clause
A special type of phrase whose head is a verb.
consonant
Most of the letters of the alphabet represent consonants. Only the letters a, e, i, o, u (and sometimes y) can represent vowel sounds.
phoneme
The smallest unit of sound that signals a distinct, contrasting meaning. For example: /t/ contrasts with /k/ to signal the difference between tap and cap. A single phoneme may be represented in writing by one, two, three or four letters constituting a single grapheme.
grapheme
A letter, or combination of letters, that corresponds to a single phoneme within a word.
tense
The choice made between present and past verbs to indicate differences of time.
sentence
A group of words which are grammatically connected to each other only.
main clause
A sentence containing at least one clause which isn't a subordinate clause.
subordinate clause
A clause which needs some other part of the same sentence.
co-ordinate clause
Two clauses equally linked by a conjunction.
relative clause
A special type of subordinate clause that modified a noun.
root words
Words which stand alone or can have other things added to them.
prefixes
Added to the beginning of a word in order to turn it into another word. Opposite of suffixes.
suffixes
Added to the end of a word to turn it into another word. Opposite of prefixes.
plural
Normally (though not always) made by adding the suffix -s or -es to a noun and means 'more than one'.
punctuation
This includes any conventional features of writing other than spelling and general layout: the standard punctuation marks . , ; : ? ! - – ( ) “ ” ‘ ’ , and also word-spaces, capital letters, apostrophes, paragraph breaks and bullet points. One important role of punctuation is to indicate sentence boundaries
syllable
A sound like a beat in a word. Will consist of at least one vowel and possibly one or more consonants.
vowel
In the English writing system, the letters a, e, i, o, u and sometimes 'y' can represent this.