Morpheme - a morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in language. A word may be made up of a single morpheme, for example child / speak / good / please or a combination of morphemes, for example speaker / goodness / pleased.
Word - a word is the smallest complete free-standing unit of meaning in a language.
Phrase - A
phrase is a group of words which
of meaning, but is not a clause.
The man in the red shirt is a phrase, but so is the red shirt on its own.
Clause - A clause is a group of words that has intrinsic meaning, since it contains a subject and a verb.
- A sentence is the basic unit that constitutes a
Almost all sentences have at least two words, including a subject and a verb.
Paragraph - Paragraphs are the principal sub-divisions of documents.
The active "voice" is the main voice in which verbs are used. The other voice is the passive.
In the active voice, the subject is the doer or the topic of the action expressed by means of the verb.
/ bad /
ugly / disreputable.
An adjective is a word that describes or modifies a noun, or occasionally a pronoun.
Key words used in relation to adjectives: attributive, predicative, comparative, superlative.
- Examples: Well
/ badly / sometimes
/ on the table .
An adverb is a word or a prepositional phrase that describes or modifies a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or occasionally a whole sentence.
- Examples: A
/ an / the
An article is a type of determiner which comes before a noun. In English there are two sorts of articles, the definite article the, and the indefinite articles a and an. Some grammar sources also consider the word some as an indefinite article.
/ is / was / has/ have / must / can / ought
Auxiliaries are "helper" verbs which are used to form tenses or modify the meaning of a verb with regard to time, possibility, suitability or obligation.
Key words used in relation to auxiliaries: modal.
– Examples: and
/ but / or / yet / though
A conjunction is a connector or connecting word, a word that is used to link sentences, clauses, phrases or words.
/ a/ some / my / his / this / whose / Mary's /
Determiners are used at the start of a noun phrase. They include articles, demonstratives, numerals, or possessive determiners. All nouns or noun phrases require a determiner unless they are used as generalisations.
-ing / -ed / -ly / -ness / -ity
/ - ual
Also called suffixes, endings are grammatical or functional morphemes that are added to the end of word to inflect or change its meaning. Compared to many languages, English has relatively few endings.
/ extremely / most / highly
A type of adverb of degree that is used to give extra force to the meaning of an adjective or another adverb.
must / will / ought to / should
These are helper verbs, or auxiliaries, such as can or must that are most commonly coupled to another verb in order to express possibility, obligation, probability or futurity.
Mood: In English there are three "moods", the indicative, the subjunctive and the imperative. Most of the time verbs are used in the indicative; the imperative is used for giving orders; the subjunctive is very rarely used.
Noun – Examples:
/ woman /
chair / basket / birth
/ philosophy / Christopher / idea
A noun is a word that describes an entity (person, item, substance etc.) or a process. It is usually preceded by a determiner (article or other determiner) and may be qualified or modified by one or more adjectives, by prepositional phrases, or by another noun.
Key words used in relation to nouns: countable, uncountable, concrete, abstract, collective.
Object – Example:
gave a book to my mother.
There are two kinds of object, the direct object and the indirect object. In the example, a book is the direct object, to my mother is the indirect object.
The direct object is the entity (person, thing, process) that is directly concerned by the action expressed through a transitive verb, or is the entity that explains the action or process. The indirect object is the person or entity that is the receiver of the action, or for whom the action is done.
The tree was
blown over by
The passive is a "voice". A passive sentence is one in which the subject is the topic of the action (in this example tree), not the actor or agent (in this example wind). Verbs are either used in the passive or in the active voice.
had chicken and chips for lunch at school today.
Everything in a sentence that is not the subject. The predicate includes the verb, or verbs, plus any other elements that may be present, notably objects or adverb phrases.
on / under / against /
after / with / by
A preposition is a short functional word that relates two other words in terms of space, time, manner or other relation, or modifies or specifies the meaning of a verb (like to come in).
/ mine / you / she / we / this /
A pronoun is a (usually) short word that is used to refer back to an already-mentioned (or implied) noun, or to a statement, without repeating it.
Key words used in relation to pronouns: personal, relative, interrogative, demonstrative, possessive.
many, a few, several.
A quantifier is a type of determiner that expresses an imprecise or undefined quantity; it can be contrasted with a number that expresses a precise quantity.
who live in glass houses shouldn't
A relative clause is a subordinate clause introduced by a relative pronoun such as who, which, whose etc.
Subject – The subject is the main actor or the main topic of a sentence or clause. In a basic declarative sentence, the subject comes before the verb. In some questions, it follows the verb.
Subordinate clause –
that I told you. / If you drink that, ….
A subordinate or dependent clause is the secondary clause in a complex sentence. It does not have any logical meaning unless it is attached to a main clause, so cannot be used on its own. Types of subordinate clause include relative clauses, conditional clauses, time clauses etc.
Tense – Examples:
/ future / past / present perfect /
The word tense means different things to different people. In it wider meaning, best used in a teaching context, it describes the different forms in which a verb is used to represent different time contexts. In the narrow meaning, it is used to distinguish inflected and non-inflected forms of a verb, with reference to time.
Key words used in relation to tense: simple, progressive, continuous, aspect.
Transitive – A term used to describe verbs that must take a direct object. Some verbs are transitive, others are intransitive, meaning that they cannot have a direct object. There are also a lot of common verbs, such as speak, which can be either transitive or intransitive depending on context.
/ become / sit
down / move
be / eat / know.
A verb is a word that describes an action, a process, or a state of being. Verbs which describe actions or changes of state are called dynamic verbs: those which describe a condition or state of being are called stative verbs.
Key words used in relation to verbs: active / passive / indicative / interrogative / tense / transitive / intransitive.
Aarts, B. (2019). Teaching English grammar: The Englicious approach. Languages, Society & Policy. 2019.
Rossiter, Andrew. (2022) A Descriptive Grammar of English - Linguapress, revised 2023
Wyse, Dominic (2022) How grammar is taught in England should change. in The Conversation, April 2022.