Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

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Grammatical Term

Definition

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Letter

There are 26 letters of the alphabet in the English language. These letters also make specific sounds, with some making more than one sound.

Word

A word is a unit of grammar: it can be selected and moved around relatively independently, but cannot easily be split. In punctuation, words are normally separated by word spaces.

Sentence

A sentence is a group of words which are grammatically connected to each other but not to any words outside the sentence.

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Full stop

A full stop marks the end of a sentence.

Capital letter

Capital letters are used to start sentences. In addition to starting sentences, capital letters are used for names of people and places, and expressions of time, such as days of the week.

Adjective

A word that describes a noun.

Adjectives are sometimes called ‘describing words’ because they pick out single characteristics such as size or colour. This is often true, but it doesn’t help to distinguish adjectives from other word classes, because verbs, nouns and adverbs can do the same thing.

Consonant

A sound which is produced when the speaker closes off or obstructs the flow of air through the vocal tract, usually using lips, tongue or teeth.

Most of the letters of the alphabet represent consonants. Only the letters a, e, i, o, u and y can represent vowel sounds.

Vowel

A vowel is a speech sound which is produced without any closure or obstruction of the vocal tract.

Vowels can form syllables by themselves, or they may combine with consonants.

In the English writing system, the letters a, e, i, o, u and y can represent vowels.

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Singular

Referring to just one person or thing.

Plural

When more than one person of thing is being described.

Punctuation

Punctuation 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.

Question mark

A question mark signals the end of a sentence that asks a question.

Exclamation mark

An exclamation mark indicates the end of an exclamation, which is a sentence that expresses a writer’s strong emotions. It can also be used for emphasis.

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Noun

A part of speech that refers to as person, place or thing.

Nouns may be classified as common (e.g. boy, day) or proper (e.g. Ivan, Wednesday), and also as countable (e.g. thing, boy) or non-countable (e.g. stuff, money). These classes can be recognised by the determiners they combine with.

Verb

A part of speech that describes the action of a noun or pronoun, or a state of being.

The surest way to identify verbs is by the ways they can be used: they can usually have a tense, either present or past (see also future).

Compound

A compound word contains at least two root words e.g. whiteboard, superman.

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Adverb

A word that modifies the meaning of an adjective, verb or other adverb.

Noun phrase

A noun phrase is a phrase with a noun as its head, e.g. some foxes, foxes with bushy tails.

Statement

A sentence that conveys a fact or piece of information.

Question

A sentence that asks for information.

Exclamation

A sentence that expresses a strong emotion, such as surprise, or a raised voice, and ends in a exclamation mark.

Command

A sentence that gives an instruction.

Tense

(past, present)

The present tense is used to express a constant or repeated action that is happening right now.

 

The past tense expresses an action that began and ended in the past.

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Apostrophe

Apostrophes have two completely different uses:

  •   Omission: showing the place of missing letters (e.g. I’m for I am)
  •   Possession (e.g. Hannah’s mother).

Comma

Commas clarify information by separating words, phrases or clauses. They are used to organise information into groups, sorting it so a sentence is understood correctly.

Suffix

A suffix is an ‘ending’, used at the end of one word to turn it into another word. Unlike root words, suffixes cannot stand on their own as a complete word.

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Clause

A grammatical unit that contains a subject and a verb. Sentences are made up of one or more clauses.

Subordinate clause

A subordinate clause contains a subject and a verb, but it does not make sense on its own. It depends on a main clause for its meaning. Subordinate clauses often explain or add more information about where or when things happen, or how they are done.

Inverted commas (speech marks)

Inverted commas, also known as quotation marks or speech marks, are always used in pairs. Besides indicating speech or a quotation, they can also be used to signal unusual words.

Determiner

A word used in front of a noun to denote something specific or something of a particular type. Articles are also determiners.

Examples: those, many, my, his, few, several, much

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Conjunction

A word or phrase used to connect words, phrases and clauses.

Preposition

A word that indicates the relationship between two people or things, usually in terms of where they are.

Examples:  with, under, on , behind, over, across

Prefix

A group of letters attached to the start of a word that can change the original word’s meaning.

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Adverbial

An adverbial clause is a type of subordinate clause that behaves like an adverb. It gives additional information about how, when, where and why something is happening. Adverbial clauses start with subordinators such as because, although, after, while, as and until.

Fronted adverbial

A word or phrase that normally comes after the verb may be moved before the verb: when this happens, we say it has been ‘fronted’. For example, a fronted adverbial is an adverbial which has been moved before the verb.

When writing fronted phrases, we often follow them with a comma.

Direct speech

Text that represents spoken words and is written in inverted commas.

Simile

A phrase that compares one thing to another using as or like.

Word family

When words share the same root – such as employ in the words employee, employer and employment – they are known as a word family.

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Dash

Dashes perform the same function as brackets, surrounding additional information in a sentence. Whereas brackets must always be used in pairs, only one dash is required of the interruption comes at the beginning or end of a sentence.

Reporting clause

Speech reports consist of two parts: the reporting clause and the reported clause. The reporting clause includes a verb such as say, tell, ask, reply, shout, usually in the past simple, and the reported clause includes what the original speaker said.

Example: Then a man shouted, “Get out of there, fast!”

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Synonym

Words that have the same or similar meanings.

Antonym

Two words are antonyms if their meanings are opposites.

Bullet point

Bullet points are used to create lists. Bulleted items appear in technical documents, websites or presentations as a way of condensing important information into brief phrases or sentences.

Standard English

Standard English can be recognised by the use of a very small range of forms such as those books, I did it and I wasn’t doing anything (rather than their non-Standard equivalents)

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Pronoun

A word, such as I, some or who that takes the place of a noun.

Possessive pronoun

These show ownership and replace possessive noun phrases. Examples: mine, yours, his, hers, its, our, yours, theirs

Relative pronoun

These link one part of a sentence to another by introduction a relative clause that describes an earlier noun or pronoun. Examples: who, whom, whose, which, that, what

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Modal verb

A modal verb is used with an action verb to express a command, an obligation or a possibility. Example: could

Cohesion

A text has cohesion if it is clear how the meanings of its parts fit together. Cohesive devices are words used to show how the different parts of a text fit together. In other words, they create cohesion.

 

Some examples of cohesive devices are:

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Relative clause

A relative clause is a type of subordinate clause. Like adjectives and adjectival phrases, relative clauses describe nouns and pronouns. Unlike adjectives, they can only be places after the noun or pronoun they are modifying. Relative clauses always start with one of the relative pronouns who, whom, whose, which or that, which acts as the subject or the object of the clause.

Ellipsis

Three full stops in a row are called ellipses. An ellipsis indicates that a sentence has been left unfinished, as when a speaker drifts into silence or is cut off abruptly. Ellipsis can also represent omitted text within quotations.

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Parenthesis

Brackets (also called parenthesis) allows writers to interrupt the normal run of a sentence and insert additional information. Brackets are always used in pairs around the extra text.

Bracket

Brackets (also called parenthesis) allows writers to interrupt the normal run of a sentence and insert additional information. Brackets are always used in pairs around the extra text.

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Colon

A colon connects a main clause with another clause, a phrase or a word. It can be used to provide an explanation or for emphasis, or to introduce a list or quoted material.

Semi-colon

Semi-colons can be used to indicate a close relationship between main clauses or to separate complex items in a list. They also precede certain adverbs when they are used as conjunctions.

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Active

When the subject of a sentence is performing to the action of the verb, and the object is receiving. Example: The snake attacked the boy.

Passive

In a passive sentence, the word order is revered so that the subject is receiving the action and the object is performing it. Example: The boy was attacked by the snake.

Subject

The person or thing that is performing the action of the verb.

Object

The person or thing (a noun or pronoun) that is receiving the action of a verb.

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Hyphen

Sometimes two terms need to be shown to be connected, so that they are treated as one.

Ambiguity

The possibility of interpreting an expression in two or more different ways. E.g. they are cooking apples.