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GLOSSARY OF GRAMMATICAL TERMS


ABBREVIATION  A shortened version of a written word or phrase used to replace the original (e.g., a.s.a.p., bldg., m.l.s., mr., mrs., chapt., a.c.). Abbreviations may be used wherever acceptable. The commonly used abbreviations vary by industry or field of study or endeavor.

ACCENT  A symbol used to indicate emphasis, stress, or pitch on a particular letter or syllable, or another distinction in pronunciation. Accents include a French grave, acute, circumflex, or cedilla, or any similar mark.  

ACTIVE VOICE  The form of the verb (voice of verbal inflection) in which the grammatical subject of the sentence is represented as performing the action expressed by the verb (e.g., the cow jumped over the moon. The stock market slumped. He arose shortly after sunrise.). The active voice is the opposite of the passive voice. See PASSIVE VOICE

ADJECTIVE  A word that describes or modifies a noun (e.g., tall man). It is termed a modifier, because it adds something to (modifies) a noun. An adjective can precede a noun (black cat) or follow it (The prize made the winner rich. The meal was delicious). An adjective is sometimes used to modify groups of words, such as noun phrases (the astonishing turn of events) or noun clauses (it appeared obvious that the contestant was drunk.)

ADVERB  A word or clause that typically describes or modifies a verb (He ate noisily), but can also modify an adjective (She is extremely short) or another adverb (He sang exceptionally poorly). In fact, an adverb can be used to modify anything, except a noun. This includes phrases (almost out of sight), participles (a well-earned vacation) clauses, and pronouns (nearly everyone).

ALLITERATION  The repetition for effect of the same initial letter in successive words within a group of words. The letter is usually, but not necessarily, a consonant (e.g., Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers).

ANAGRAM  A new word or phrase created by changing the sequence of the letters in another word or phrase (e.g., ten and net, God and dog). Also, the transposition of the letters to form the new word or phrase. See also ANASTROPHE

ANALOGY  The comparison of two things, which are alike in some respects, in order to explain or clarify an idea or object by showing how similar it is to something familiar. Although a simile and analogy are somewhat similar, a simile normally is a more artistic likening done for effect and emphasis. In contrast, the analogy serves more to explain a thought process or reasoning, or the abstract, in terms of the tangible. See also METAPHOR  SIMILE

ANASTROPHE  The inversion of the normal word for effect. A change in the usual order in which words appear in order to achieve an effect. The normal sequence of words in English is subject followed by verb, and then object. See also ANAGRAM

ANTECEDENT  The word, group of words, or clause to which a pronoun in a sentence refers. The antecedent may follow the pronoun, although it usually precedes it (e.g., William telephoned to say he would be late) (They encountered Tom and said hello to him.).

ANTONYM  A word that has the exact opposite meaning of another (e.g., parallel is an antonym of opposite, poor is an antonym of excellent). See also HOMONYM  SYNONYM

APPOSITIVE  A noun, noun phrase, or noun clause that follows a noun or pronoun and identifies or explains it, or supplements its meaning. Commas sometimes set off the appositive (e.g., a biography of the genius, Benjamin Franklin) (Sales of his book, Profiles in Courage, sold widely following his tragic death.) (We teachers like to be right). See also NON-RESTRICTIVE CLAUSE

APOSTROPHE  The sign (') used to create the possessive form of a noun. This is usually accomplished by adding an apostrophe to the noun followed by a letter s. The apostrophe is also used to denote the plural form of certain abbreviations and letters (e.g., several C.P.A.'s). Finally, the apostrophe is used in contractions to show where letters have been omitted (e.g., don't), although this should be avoided in formal prose. See also CONTRACTION    PUNCTUATION

ARCHAISM  The use in literature of what is archaic, such as words, expressions, spelling, or construction. Thee, quoth, and methinks are examples of archaic words, terms that are no longer in general use.

ARTICLE  The three articles (a, an, the) are adjectives that indicate whether a noun refers to a specific thing or to merely one of many things (e.g., to a particular chair or to any chair). The definite article (the) is used with a specific thing. An indefinite article (a, an) is used with any one of many things. That is, the definite article indicates definiteness, whereas the indefinite article indicates indefiniteness.

AUXILIARY VERB  A verb that accompanies another verb in order to help to express the person, tense, mood, voice, or condition of the latter verb. The verbs to have, to be, to do, with, can, may, and shall are commonly used auxiliary verbs. An auxiliary verb is also termed a helping verb. See also VERB

BRACKETS  Punctuation marks used in pairs to enclose a subsidiary thought. They are the left ([) or right (]) bracket characters on the standard computer keyboard. Brackets are used in writing and printing to enclose parenthetical writing, interpolations, quoted material or excerpts, etc. (e.g., "My age [67 years] is my only secret," insisted William.) See also PUNCTUATION

CLAUSE  A group of words that contains both a subject and a verb, but represents only part of a compound sentence or complex sentence. The clause may express a thought completely on its own (e.g., I run every morning). In this case, it is termed an independent clause. Alternatively, it may not express an idea completely without the aid of an independent or main clause (e.g., when I am in town) In this last case, it is called a subordinate clause.

Adjective clauses, adverb clauses, and noun clauses are three types of subordinate clauses. An adjective clause modifies a noun or pronoun in the independent clause (e.g., The man, who was also a gambler, usually carried large amounts of cash). An adverb clause modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb in the independent clause (e.g., Shortly after the sun sets, twilight begins). Finally, a noun clause acts as a noun in an independent clause (e.g., whoever finishes first can take the rest of the day off). See also INDEPENDENT CLAUSE  COMPLEX SENTENCE  COMPOUND SENTENCE  SENTENCE   SUBORDINATE CLAUSE

CLICHÉ  A trite, overused and worn out expression or phrase conveying a popular thought or idea, which has become part of our language, but is no longer fresh or original. It has long lost its originality and impact due to overuse. (e.g., The early bird gets the worm.) A writer, who uses clichés, may be perceived to be coasting - putting insufficient effort into his craft. A figure of speech that is overworked becomes a cliché. See also FIGURE OF SPEECH  JOURNALESE  STYLE

COLLECTIVE NOUN  A noun that refers to individual persons or items as a group, such as number, total, audience, or clergy. A collective noun can be considered to be singular or plural (e.g., The number of rejects was extremely high. A number of attendees to the convention have already left). See also NOUN

COLLOQUIALISM  A colloquial expression. Colloquial language. A familiar expression found in ordinary speech and acceptable in everyday conversation, although not suitable for formal writing or speaking (e.g., a burger, coke, and double fries). See also STYLE

COLON  A punctuation mark used to mark a significant break in a sentence. It creates a stop within a sentence that is almost as abrupt as that caused by a period.  The colon indicates that the text following is a summary, expansion, or implication, etc., of that, which it precedes. Alternatively, a colon is used to separate numbers in ratios (e.g., 2:1) or groups of numbers that refer to different things, such as hours from minutes (e.g., 7:15), or to mark the beginning of lists. See also PUNCTUATION

COMMA  A punctuation mark (,) is the equivalent of a brief pause. It used to mark a division in a sentence, as may be caused by a word, phrase, or clause, particularly when accompanied by a pause. The comma also separate items in a list, designates thousands in numerals, and separates types of information in bibliographic and other data.  Commas are used for clarity and to make sentences less unwieldy. Comma is derived from the Greek komma for segment or clause, which designated a portion of a sentence. It appeared as a full slash mark or solidus (/) in early manuscripts, but later shrank to today's size. See also PUNCTUATION

COMPLEX SENTENCE  A sentence consisting of one independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses (e.g., The dog quickly discovered the cat, which had left the safety of its hiding place). In the preceding example, the independent clause has been underlined. The subordinate clause is written in italics. See also COMPOUND SENTENCE

COMPOUNDING  The act of joining two words to create a new word. Examples of words so formed include walk-out, blackout, and doghouse.

COMPOUND PREDICATE  A compound predicate consists of two or more predicates that share the same subject (e.g., Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted a great deal of legislation to reform America's institutions and get citizens back to work and subsequently led the country through the Second World War). See also CONJUNCTION    PREDICATE

COMPOUND SENTENCE  A sentence that consists of two or more independent clauses and no subordinate clause. A comma and a conjunction separate the independent clauses. (e.g., I finished my work for the day, and now I am ready to go out. See also COMPLEX SENTENCE 

CONJUNCTION  A word (e.g., and, but, or) used to connect words, phrases, or clauses. Subordinating conjunctions (e.g., whether, unless) join subordinate clauses to main clauses. Correlative conjunctions (e.g., either…or, neither…nor) are used in pairs to join alternatives or equal elements. Coordinating conjunctions are normally used to join like with like, such as a noun with another noun, an adjective with another adjective, an adverb with another adverb, etc. (e.g., a fork and a knife, hot but dry, quickly but quietly, Jack and Jill). Common coordinating conjunctions include and, but, for, or, nor, either, yet, and so. See also CLAUSE    PHRASE

CONSONANT  Generally, a letter with a "hard" sound: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z. That is, any letter except a, e, I, o, or u. Consonants originally were letters or letter sounds formed with the breath at least partially obstructed. They were combined with a vowel (a letter with a "soft" openmouthed sound) in order to form a syllable. Hence, the term derives from consonans, Latin for sounding with. The consonants w and y sometimes act like vowels. Further, some consonants (e.g., g and h) are not pronounced. See also VOWEL  

CONTRACTION  A term used to describe a word formed by combining two words into one and replacing the letter(s) omitted with an apostrophe (e.g., can't, don't, I'm). The three common constructions of contractions are:

  1. A verb plus not (e.g., can't, don't, didn't, wouldn't, couldn't, wasn't)
  2. A pronoun plus a verb (e.g., I'm, he's, she's, we're, you're, they're)
  3. A noun plus a verb (Bill's - formed from Bill+ is)

DASH  A short horizontal typographical mark (-) that indicates a break between thoughts, sets off a parenthetical clause, marks an omission, or substitutes for a colon. There are two main kinds of dashes, an em dash and an en dash. An em dash is longer than an en dash and much longer than a hyphen. The em dash is a full square of type in size. An en-dash is only one-half of a square of type in size and resembles a hyphen. An em dash is used mainly to denote a sudden change in tone, or to set off a clause or phrase, instead of using parentheses. The main use of an en dash is to represent missing, but implied, items of a series. For example, 2-4 denotes the numbers 2 through 4. See also ELLIPSIS   HYPHEN

DICTIONARY  A reference book that contains a selection of the words of a language, usually arranged in alphabetical order and expressed in the same or another language. It provides the meaning of each entry, its abbreviation, and information about pronunciation and various spellings. In addition, the dictionary may give grammatical forms, etymologies, synonyms and antonyms, and illustrative quotations. The word, dictionary, comes from the Latin word dictionaries for a collection of words. In word processing, the term also applies to a list of words contained in the computer's spell checking program. See also GLOSSARY  THESAURUS

DIRECT OBJECT  A word, phrase, or clause that tells what the action of the verb accomplished or sought to accomplish. It represents the result or objective of the action (e.g., He closed the door. She did whatever was asked. I'll see you later," he responded.) See also INDIRECT OBJECT 

DOUBLE NEGATIVE  The construction produced by using two negatives in a clause or sentence. This results from combining the negative form of verb (e.g., can't, won't, dislike), or "not," with a negative pronoun (e.g., nobody, nothing or nobody), a negative adverb (e.g., never, hardly, rarely), a negative conjunction (e.g., neither, nor), or "not." Some obvious examples of double negatives are:

I didn't see nobody                      She is not unattractive

It wasn't uninteresting            It's not impossible.

The use of double negatives is generally associated with uneducated users. Consequently, their use is usually avoided in written and spoken language. See also NEGATIVE

ELLIPSIS  A set of three dots, periods, or dashes in a row. They are used between two sentences or phrases to indicate that a word or phrase has been omitted. An ellipsis is also used when bits or quips of information have been taken from a long quotation or when wanting to signify a trailing off in thought or to leave it to the reader's imagination to complete. When the ellipsis appears at the end of the sentence, a period precedes it. Consequently, there are four dots instead of three. See also DASH   PERIOD  PUNCTUATION  

EMOTIVE LANGUAGE  Words that have an emotional content. Most ideas can be expressed in a manner that is positive or negative, welcoming or threatening, depending on the word selected. See also STYLE

EUPHEMISM  The use of a polite, agreeable, or inoffensive word or expression in place of one that is harsh, rude, or offensive. Also, to use pleasant or inoffensive language to soften or mask upsetting truths (e.g., to pass on instead of to die). Also, the word(s) so used. See also STYLE

EXCLAMATION POINT  The mark used in writing after an exclamation. It is often used to indicate intensity of emotion or loudness, etc. The mark evolved from the Roman habit of saying "lo" as an exclamation. In order to save time in writing, scribes wrote the two letters together, with the "I" on top and the "o" beneath it. Eventually, the "o" was filled with ink and became a dot. See also PUNCTUATION

FIGURATIVE  Of the nature of, or involving, a figure of speech, particularly. a metaphor. Metaphorical, not literal. Figurative language uses words in uncommon or imaginative ways. It often exaggerates or overlooks reality in order to make a point (e.g., He has become as big as a horse, rather than He has gained a great deal of weight).

FIGURE OF SPEECH  An expression or use of language, such as a metaphor, simile, personification, antithesis, etc., in which words are used in other than their literal sense to create a picture or image, or for other special effect. An imaginative or figurative expression. See also ANALOGY  FIGURATIVE  IMAGERY  IRONY  METAPHOR  METONYMY  SIMILE

GERUND  The present participle of a verb that is used as a noun. The verb form that ends in "ing" when used as a noun. Although the gerund is used like a noun, it retains certain characteristics of a verb, such as the ability to take an object (e.g. Preparing lasagna is time-consuming or Golfing is his first love). The same word can be used as an adjective (I spied the running figure) or part of a verb (She was knitting). See also PARTICIPLE

GLOSSARY  A list of terms used in a book or publication covering a technical or specific field and their definitions. A glossary appears in the back matter of the book. Also, a feature of a word processing program that stores frequently used words or text for future insertion in documents when needed. See also DICTIONARY THESAURUS

GRAMMAR  The formal system for describing the structure of a language or the rules of its use. We combine words into larger units. Grammar covers the system of rules that specify such combinations. The rules that specify how others want us to use our language. See also SYNTAX

HOMONYM  A word that is pronounced the same as another word, but that has a different meaning. The two words may be spelled differently. Hare and hair are examples of homonyms, as are bear and bare, and mat and matte. See also ANTONYM  SYNONYM

HYPERBOLE  Obvious and extravagant overstatement of fact. Intentional exaggeration in order to sell a product or service, or for effect. Also termed hype.

HYPHEN  A punctuation mark (-) used to join two words together, to indicate where a word has been broken between syllables at the end of a line, or to separate parts of a compound word. The normal hyphen, optional hyphen, and nonbreaking hyphen are three types of hyphen. Both normal hyphens and nonbreaking hyphens are visible. The normal hyphen is used as part of the usual spelling of the word. It is also termed required hyphen or hard hyphen. Nonbreaking hyphens do not permit a line break. That is, the word cannot be broken into parts at the end of a line. An optional hyphen only appears if a word is split between syllables at the end of a line. It is also called a discretionary hyphen or soft hyphen. See also DASH  SYLLABLE

IDIOM  An expression whose meaning cannot be concluded from the normal meanings of the words that comprise it, or from the rules of grammar of the language. Examples of idioms used in North America include bust or flat broke, flush, pushing up daisies, and give me a break.

IMAGERY  Rhetorical images. Figurative descriptions or illustrations using metaphors, similes, or other methods of description. See also FIGURE OF SPEECH   METAPHOR  SIMILE

IMPERATIVE  A term applicable to the mood or form of a verb that is used when giving command or making a request. (e.g., Close the door as you leave the room. Put up your hand when you have the answer. Please be home by midnight.) See also INDICATIVE   MOOD  SUBJUNCTIVE

INDICATIVE  A term applicable to the mood or form of a verb that is used when making a conventional clear-cut statement or asking a question: (e.g., The train left at noon. The old toaster no longer functions. What classes are you taking this semester?)  See also IMPERATIVE  MOOD  SUBJUNCTIVE

INDEPENDENT CLAUSE  A clause - a group of word containing both a subject and a predicate - that can stand alone as a complete sentence. It expresses a complete thought. In contrast, a subordinate clause is incomplete and requires an independent clause to express the idea fully. (e.g., I prefer French cuisine, although Italian food is fine.) An independent clause is also termed a main clause. See also CLAUSE   SUBORDINATE CLAUSE

INDIRECT OBJECT  A word, phrase, or clause that gives the secondary goal of the action of the verb. It typically answers the question, "To or for whom, what, or which?" (e.g., She gave him a hug. He bought her flowers.)  See also DIRECT OBJECT 

INFINITIVE  A verb form that possesses characteristics of both verb and noun and is usually preceded by "to" (to start, to leave, to sing). Although the preposition announces the infinitive, it does not form part of the infinitive itself. The infinitive form of a verb is typically used in constructions that are subordinate to another verb. (e.g., I made him do it.) See also SPLIT INFINITIVE

INTERJECTION  A term used in reference to an exclamation, particularly as a part of speech, such as Oh! Wow! Dear me! An interjection typically relates to state of mind and has no relation with other words.

INTERROGATIVE  A term applicable to a sentence or construction that asks a question. Also, a pronoun or adverb, etc. that provides a line of questioning, such as "who" in Who was that person? or "what" in What did you buy?

INTRANSITIVE VERB  A verb that has no direct object. An intransitive verb is neither an auxiliary verb nor a linking verb. Although the verb involves an action, the action is not done to anyone or anything else (e.g., He runs every morning. She shopped until she dropped. They danced until dawn.). Many verbs can be transitive or intransitive depending on their use. See also AUXILIARY VERB  LINKING VERB  TRANSITIVE VERB  VERB 

IRONY  The utterance or use of words to express something that differs from, and is often the direct opposite of, their literal meaning. A. figure of speech, or mildly sarcastic or humorous use of words, to imply the opposite of the literal meaning. (e.g., Oh sure! That's what I really need.) See also FIGURE OF SPEECH    LITERAL  SATIRE

JOURNALESE  Loose, slangy, cliché-ridden writing characterized by faulty or unusual syntax, new contrived words, etc., used by some journalists who feel that it typifies the journalistic style. See also CLICHÉ  SLANG  SYNTAX STYLE

LINKING VERB  A verb that connects a subject to its predicate without expressing action. Linking verbs describe or rename their subjects. They include the so-called sense verbs (to feel, to look, to taste, to smell), to be, to appear, to become, to seem, and to sound. With the exception of to seem, linking verbs can be transitive or intransitive. The verb to be can be a linking verb or an auxiliary verb. (e.g., he is the owner, she seems healthy, it tastes great, the food on the bottom shelf smelled terrible, it sounds interesting)  See also AUXILIARY VERB  INTRANSITIVE VERB  TRANSITIVE VERB  VERB

LITERAL  In accordance with the primary or strict meaning of the word, statement, or text. Not figurative or metaphorical. The most straightforward meaning. A literal translation is one that attempts to follow the words of the original very closely and convey the exact meaning of the text. True to fact and without exaggeration. See also FIGURE OF SPEECH   IRONY  METAPHOR        

METAPHOR  The use of a word or phrase with an object or concept, to which it does not literally apply, in order to suggest comparison with another object or concept. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one idea or action is conveyed by a word or phrase that normally indicates a different idea or action. It is an unstated comparison of one thing with another. Metaphors are the most frequently used figures of speech. Unlike a simile or analogy, a metaphor asserts that one thing, instead of saying that it is like another (e.g., The moon was a silver coin upon the surface of the lake.) See also ANALOGY  FIGURE OF SPEECH IMAGERY  MIXED METAPHOR  SIMILE 

METONYMY  A figure of speech in which the name of one thing or concept is used in place of the name of something associated with it or which it symbolizes. Examples are crown for king and bottle for strong drink. See also FIGURE OF SPEECH

MIXED METAPHOR  The use, within one sentence or paragraph, of two or more metaphors, each of which is contradictory to, or incompatible with, the other. See also FIGURE OF SPEECH  METAPHOR

MODIFIER  A word or phrase that is used to restrict or limit the meaning of another word or phrase. For example, in the phrase, green Honda, green modifies Honda. It narrows the meaning of the phrase from all Honda vehicles to only Honda vehicles that are green in color. See also ADJECTIVE  ADVERB

MOOD  A reference to the moods or modes expressed through verbs by the writer. The verbs reflect the writer's mood about what he writes. Verbs have three possible moods. The indicative mood describes ordinary statements of fact or questions (I have only one examination remaining.). The subjunctive verb is used to express a wish or something that is contrary to fact (If I graduate, you won't see me here again.) The imperative mood is used for a request or a command. (Bring my dinner!)  See also INDICATIVE  IMPERATIVE  SUBJUNCTIVE 

NEGATIVE  A modifying word or expression that is used to assert that something is not true (e.g., he will not leave, the cat appears to be unhappy, she never asked for assistance, he scarcely had enough money for bus fare). Commonly used negatives are no, never, and not. However, other words, such as hardly and scarcely, add a negative connation. The term, negative, also describes words, such as unhappy, unappealing, disinterested, etc. The opposite of such words are happy, affirmative, or positive. See also DOUBLE NEGATIVE

NEOLOGISM  A new word or phrase, or new use of a word or phrase. Also, the introduction or use of new words or phrases. Finally, the use of a word or phrase in a new sense, or for a new meaning. See also DICTIONARY  GLOSSARY  THESAURUS

NONRESTRICTIVE CLAUSE  A subordinate clause that is not essential to assure the certainty of the word it modifies. If the subordinate clause were omitted, the meaning of the main clause would be unchanged. The nonrestrictive clause is set off by commas from the rest of the sentence. (e.g., The hostess, who was a tall blonde woman with green eyes, led us to the drawing room.) A nonrestrictive clause is also termed a nonessential clause) See also APPOSITIVE  RESTRICTIVE CLAUSE

NOUN              Any of the category of words used to designate a person, place, thing, idea, quality, or action, such as Charles, Pittsburgh, grapefruit, privacy, durability, arrival.  Nouns may be singular or plural. A proper noun begins with a capital letter (e.g., Nashville, Nancy Drew, Nationair), whereas a common noun begins in lowercase (e.g., city, girl, airline).

Nouns are used as subjects of verbs (The owner prepared breakfast), direct objects (Tom painted the fence), objects of prepositions (The parcel was delivered to the address), indirect objects (The judges awarded Bruce first prize), predicate nouns (The employee reinvested his stock trading profits), objective complements (They chose Jill Burton as Homecoming Queen), and appositives (Frank Smith, sales representative). See also COLLECTIVE NOUN   PROPER NOUN

OBJECT  A noun, noun phrase, pronoun, or clause that follows a preposition, or on which a verb acts directly or indirectly (e.g., He petted the dog.  She gave him the gift. She did what was asked. They watched television after dinner. He opened the curtains.) Objects may be direct or indirect. A direct object is the result of an action, whereas an indirect object tells to whom or what it happened. See also DIRECT OBJECT   INDIRECT OBJECT

ONOMATOPOEIA  The use of words that, when pronounced, suggest their meaning. Such words appear to imitate the sound with which they are associated.  Examples include hiss, buzz, sizzle, pop, click, murmur, whisper, babble, and growl.

OXYMORON  A figure of speech in which two apparently contradictory terms are combined to produce an effect. Bittersweet is an example of an oxymoron. A paradox expressed in to two words, usually an adjective-noun or adverb-adjective, and used to emphasize a contrast, incongruity, or hypocrisy, or for effect. See also FIGURE OF SPEECH  

PARADOX  A statement or proposition that appears to be self-contradictory or unreasonable, but that expresses a possible truth. (e.g., The child is father of the man.) Also, a self-contradicting proposition.

PARAGRAPH  A distinct portion of written or printed matter that usually contains more than one sentence, but is shorter than a chapter, and deals with a particular idea. A paragraph begins on a new line and is usually indented. It is a subsection of a larger piece, article, manuscript, book, or text. To a word processing program, a paragraph is a unit of information that can be selected or formatted differently from adjacent paragraphs.

PARENTHESES  Punctuation marks used in pairs () to mark an explanatory interjection or remark that is inserted into a sentence, which is grammatically complete without the insertion. Parentheses set off subsidiary thoughts or phrases that represent asides. They are also used to separate several qualities or a group of elements in a formula, equation, etc. that are to be treated as a whole. Parentheses are rounded brackets that are used in similar manner to brackets. They are also called parens. See also BRACKETS  PUNCTUATION

PARTICIPLE  A verb form used as an adjective (e.g., rising sun, cooked food, broken lamp). It may be a present participle, past participle, or perfect participle. The present participle ends in -ing (e.g., charming, rising, falling, singing). The past participle usually ends in -ed (e.g., jumped, skipped, cooked, aged, shopped). The perfect participle combines having and the past participle (e.g., having cooked, having aged, having skipped). See also AUXILIARY VERB   MODIFIER  GERUND  POSSESSIVE

PARTS OF SPEECH  The eight categories by which words are classified based on their function in a sentence. These are noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, adjective, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. See also ADJECTIVE  ADVERB  CONJUNCTION  INTERJECTION  NOUN  PREPOSITION  PRONOUN  VERB

PASSIVE VOICE  The form of the verb (voice of verbal inflection) in which the grammatical subject of the sentence is not represented as performing the action expressed by the verb. Instead, it is represented as the goal of that action (e.g., the dishes were washed in the sink. Most sales were made in the easternmost territory. A great deal of money was lost in the stock market.). The passive voice is the opposite of the active voice. See ACTIVE VOICE

PERIOD  A punctuation mark that signifies the completion of a sentence and the pause that should occur between sentences. This pause is longer than that required by a comma. The period is also termed a full stop. The period is also used in abbreviations, such as U.S. or Ph.D., etc. Period is derived from the Greek periodos, which means cycle and therefore completion of a thought. See also ELLIPSIS   PUNCTUATION

PHRASE  A group of related words that does not contain both a subject and a verb and that functions as a noun, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, or verb. A phrase represents only part of a sentence. Consequently, it cannot convey a complete thought (e.g., spectacular sunrise, the old woman, in the boat, to the horizon, extending for miles, hanging at an angle, in place of, break away, in the interval, flapping in the breeze). In contrast to a phrase, a clause is a group of words that contains both a subject and a verb. See also CLAUSE   SUBJECT  VERB

PLURAL  The word form that denotes a quantity greater than one. In contrast, the singular form denotes only one. The endings of plural nouns usually differ from those of singular nouns. (e.g., cherries instead of cherry, windows instead of window, houses instead of house, mice instead of mouse, men instead of man, children instead of child) See also SINGULAR

POSSESSIVE  The form of a noun or pronoun that indicates ownership. The possessive form of a noun is usually created by adding 's to the word, or by preceding the word with the preposition "of" (e.g., Cynthia's mother, Bill's wallet, a dog's breakfast, the radiator's heat, home of Bill, his hat, her dress, their gifts, its color)

PREDICATE  One of the two principal parts of a sentence, the predicate contains the verb and the words used to further describe or clarify what is said of the subject. It is the action segment of the sentence (e.g., All members of the graduating class attended convocation. The writer received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He picked up his marbles and went home.). See also COMPOUND PREDICATE

PREFIX  An affix attached to the beginning of a word in order to modify its meaning. The prefix may be a syllable, a group of syllables, or a group of letters.

Examples include in- (as in inadequate), im- (as in impossible), pre- (as in presorted), post-, anti-, over-, di-, un-, and pro-. See also SUFFIX

PREPOSITION  A word that is normally combined with a noun, pronoun, adverb, or prepositional phrase. It typically precedes what it modifies (e.g., to town, in summer, from here, outside of the home, over the table, behind the barrier). However, despite popular belief, a preposition can be used at the end of a sentence. Some prepositions are also used as conjunctions, adverbs, and other grammatical elements.

Commonly used prepositions include about, above, across, after, along, among, around, as, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, by, except, for, from, in, in back of, in front of, inside, into, of, off, on, onto, out of, outside, over, past, since, through, to, toward, under, up, upon, with, within, without.

PRONOUN  Any word that can be used as a replacement for a noun, phrase, or clause and refers to something or someone. There are seven categories of pronouns:

  • A personal pronoun is used in place of beings and objects. It denotes person, number, and (sometimes) gender. They include subjects (I, you, he, she, we, they, it); objects (me, you, him, her, us, them, and possessive pronouns (my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs).
  • A reflexive pronoun is a pronoun that refers to itself. It is formed by combining a personal pronoun (my, your, him, her, them, it, our) with self or selves. The result is myself, yourself, yourselves, himself, herself, themselves, itself, ourselves). Reflexive pronouns are used to refer to the subject (He voted for himself) or for emphasis (They are newcomers themselves).
  • A demonstrative pronoun (this, that, these, those) points out something. It functions as adjective (Who was that masked man?) or by a noun (Stop that!).
  • An indefinite pronoun refers to an unidentified person(s) or thing(s) (e.g., Someone must pay for this.). This group of pronouns includes any, anyone, anybody, anything, all, each, every, everybody, everyone, everything, few, both, many, much, no one, nobody, none, one, other, somebody, someone, something. Many also serve as adjectives.
  • An interrogative pronoun is used when asking a question (who, whom, whose, which, what). It may be used by itself (e.g., What did I hear?) or combined with the suffix -ever (e.g., Whom do you suggest?)
  • A relative pronoun is a pronoun that introduces a subordinate clause (e.g., This is the cat, which caught the bird in our backyard). The relative pronouns are who, whoever, whom, whomever, whose, what, whatever, which, whichever, that.
  • A reciprocal pronoun. There are two - each other and one another.

PROPER NOUN  Any noun that gives the name of a specific being or thing. Proper nouns are usually capitalized (e.g., Philadelphia, Agatha, October, Microsoft Corporation, Tuesday, Columbia University, War of the Roses). See also NOUN

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE  A phrase that begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or pronoun. The latter serves as the object of the preposition. The prepositional phrase serves to link its noun or pronoun to the sentence. (e.g., They drove under the bridge. His desk was in the corner of the building. The dog rushed to his food dish.) See also PHRASE   PREPOSITION

PROSE  The-normal form of written or spoken language, as contrasted to poetry or verse. The language of common discourse or writing. See also EMOTIVE LANGUAGE

PUNCTUATION  The practice or act of using various conventional marks or characters, such as periods, commas, etc., in writing or printing to improve clarity. They aid comprehension by showing where to pause, slow, etc. Also, the various characters so used. The characters include question mark, exclamation mark, colon, semi-colon, apostrophe, hyphen, dash, parentheses, ellipsis, and quotation marks. See also ACCENT  APOSTROPHE  BRACKETS  COLON  COMMA  DASH  ELLIPSIS  EXCLAMATION POINT  HYPHEN  PARAGRAPH  PARENTHESES  PERIOD   QUOTATION MARKS

QUESTION MARK  A mark (?) that denotes a question. A question mark is used at the end of a direct question. It behaves like a period when accompanied by quotation marks. The question mark has its origin in quaestico, Latin for "I ask." This was shortened by space-saving scribes to become QO and later, the letter Q above the letter O. Subsequently, the Q was degraded into a squiggle and the O into a little round spot. The question mark is also called an interrogation point or interrogation mark. See also PUNCTUATION    QUOTATION MARK

QUOTATION (QUOTE)  A term that is used in reference to a passage or phrase from a book or speech, etc., and in particular to one that may be used in an article or as an endorsement of a product.

QUOTATION MARKS  Punctuation marks that are used to identify spoken or quoted words. Quotation marks stimulate interest by their location as well as shape. In the United States, it is normal to begin the quotation with "66" and end with "99." However, "99" is often flipped over left-to-right and used in place of "66." Single quotation marks are used for quotations within quotations. See also PUNCTUATION

RESTRICTIVE CLAUSE  A subordinate clause that is essential to the certainty of the word it modifies. If the restrictive clause is omitted, the meaning of the main clause will differ. Commas are not used to set off a restrictive clause from the rest of the sentence (e.g., All automobiles that are parked in the prohibited area in front of the school will be towed away). A restrictive clause is also termed an essential clause. See also APPOSITIVE   NONRESTRICTIVE CLAUSE.

RUN ON SENTENCE  A sentence that consists of two or more independent clauses that are joined together without suitable punctuation. The term applies also to sentences that, although technically correct, would be easier to read if separated into shorter segments. Although a person may speak in run-on sentences, he or she uses pauses and changes in emphasis and tone. This aids listener comprehension. However, this is not possible when writing. Consequently, it is desirable to avoid the use of unnecessarily long sentences.

SATIRE  A literary composition that exposes the failings of individuals or societies to ridicule. Satire is a manner of writing that uses irony, sarcasm, exaggeration, ridicule, or humor to expose or denounce foolishness, sin, or pomposity. It mixes a critical attitude with wit and humor in an effort to improve mankind and human institutions. Although the writer may introduce serious statements, he usually relies on a moral code understood by the readers. The satirist's goal is to show the hypocrisy of his target in the hope that readers will return to the real intent of it. Therefore, satire is indisputably moral even when no clear values are promoted in the work. See also IRONY   

SEMICOLON  A punctuation mark (;) used to denote a break in continuity that is greater than that, which a comma implies, but less final than that which a period creates. Semi-colons are often used to separate independent clauses in a series when commas will not add sufficient clarity. More commonly, the semi-colon is used in a sentence to separate the two main clauses, which are not joined by a conjunction. See also PUNCTUATION

SENTENCE  A group of words (or a single word) that expresses a complete thought. A sentence always contains a verb and, usually, has a subject. However, if the statement is an imperative, the subject may only be implied (e.g., Stop! Go!). Similarly, an interrogative sentence may consist of only a verb (e.g., Why? How? When?)

A simple sentence consists of one independent clause. Complex or compound sentences contain two or more clauses. All sentences begin with a capital letter and end with a period, question mark, or exclamation point. Sentences are categorized on the basis of their function (declaratory, interrogatory, or imperative) and structure (simple, complex, compound). The common sentence   

Is declarative and conveys information. It usually has a subject, verb, and object (She drove the family car). See also CLAUSE   COMPLEX SENTENCE  COMPOUND SENTENCE  PREDICATE  SUBJECT  VERB

SIMILE  A figure of speech in which one thing is likened to another (unlike) thing in one aspect by the use of "like," "as," etc. (e.g., He is as slow as a turtle). See also FIGURE OF SPEECH  IMAGERY  METAPHOR

SINGULAR   Only one. The word form that denotes one person, place, thing, or instance. A verb or noun is singular if it denotes only one person or place, etc. Anything more than that is plural. For example, in "He is confidant," both the subject and verb are singular. See also PLURAL

SLANG  Widely used and understood, but very informal in use in vocabulary and idioms, slang is more metaphorical, playful, and vivid than the normal language of polite usage (e.g., pinch for steal, smack for heroin, bike, for bicycle). It consists of entirely new words, as well as new meanings ascribed to existing words. With time, slang either passes into disuse or is accepted as part of standard usage. See also JOURNALESE   STYLE 

SPLIT INFINITIVE  A term that describes an infinitive when an adverb or adverbial phrase appears between the "to" and the verb stem (e.g., He decided to quickly leave). In the past, the use of split infinitives was frowned on. The common practice was for the adverb to follow the infinitive. Today, split infinitives are considered to be more acceptable. The use of a split infinitive enables the writer to emphasize the adverb. See also INFINITIVE

STYLE  The general way in which something is written. A particular writer's manner of expression. This may be characterized by long, flowing prose or short, clipped sentences. Alternatively, the choice of words, literary devices, or grammar, may constitute a distinguishing feature. Perhaps, the general style is plain, ornate, or emotive. A writer normally has his or her own style. The term, style, may also be used in reference to a publisher's or editor's style guidelines for its writers. In typography and printing, style also refers to the variations within a type family, such as without boldface, italic, underlined, etc.

SUBJECT  That part of the sentence or clause about which something is said. It is a word or group of words that identifies or describes who or what is doing what is being done. The subject is normally the doer of the action and typically consists of a noun or pronoun. However, a phrase or gerund also can serve as the subject of a sentence (e.g., He ate his breakfast. Darkness came early. You and I must leave now. Swimming is his sport of choice. What they want us unacceptable. Coming to work late must stop.) See also GERUND   NOUN  OBJECT  PHRASE

SUBJUNCTIVE  A term that describes the mood or form of a verb that is used to:

  2. Expresses a suggestion or demand (e.g., I insist that Marsha attend).

  3. Express a wish (e.g., I wish she would come soon)

See also IMPERATIVE   INDICATIVE

SUBORDINATE CLAUSE  A clause - a group of word containing both a subject and a predicate - that cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. It requires an independent clause to express the idea fully. A subordinate clause is also termed a dependent clause because it depends on an attached independent clause to complete the meaning. A subordinating conjunction or relative pronoun normally introduces the subordinate clause. (e.g., I prefer French cuisine, although Italian food is fine.) See also CLAUSE   INDEPENDENT CLAUSE  SENTENCE

SUBORDINATING CONJUNCTION  A conjunction that joins an independent  clause and a subordinate (dependent) clause Examples of subordinating conjunctions include although, because, since, until, and while (e.g., He has not visited them, since his wife died). See also CLAUSE   CONJUNCTION  INDEPENDENT CLAUSE  SUBORDINATE CLAUSE 

SUFFIX  An affix attached to the end of a word in order to modify its meaning or to change its grammatical function, as from an adjective to an adverb (e.g., from sad to sadly or light to lightly). The prefix may be a syllable, a group of syllables, or a group of letters. See also PREFIX

SYLLABLE  A segment of speech, typically produced with a single pulse of air from the lungs and consisting of a central part of relative sonority with or without one or more accompanying sounds of less sonority. That is, a word part that is pronounced as a single element. Also, a character or set of characters representing such an element of speech. A syllable consists of a vowel with (or without) one or more consonant sounds immediately before or after. (e.g., fine, but soon, that). Syllables that end in a consonant are closed syllables. Those that end in a vowel are open syllables. See also HYPHEN  WORD

SYNONYM  A word that is equivalent to another word and that can be substituted for it in a particular context, although the words do not have identical meanings. For example, the verbs type and keyboard are synonyms in the context of inputting data to a personal computer. A synonym is a word accepted as another for something. See also ANTONYM   HOMONYM

SYNTAX  The study of the rules for the formation of grammatically correct sentences and phrases in a language. Also, the rules or patterns of structure and content of statements. Finally, the specifications for the sequence and punctuation of command words, parameters, and switches for a programming language. That is, the statements, which tell the computer what to do and how to do it. See also GRAMMAR  PUNCTUATION 

TAUTOLOGY  The needless repetition of an idea or information, especially in different words, but without imparting additional force or clarity (e.g., single bachelor).

TENSE  The form of a verb that denotes the relationship between the action and time. The basic tenses (present, past, future) and variations tell if an action is taking place, took place, or will take place, etc. The progressive tenses also denote action either in progress (is walking), in the past (was walking), or in the future (will be walking). The perfect tense is used for action that began in the past and continues in the present (has walked), that was completed in the past (had walked), or that will be completed in the future action (will have walked)  See also VERB

TEXT  In word processing and desktop publishing, the main body of material on a page or in a manuscript, book, newspaper, etc., in contrast to headlines, headings, footnotes, tables, appendixes, illustrations, or other elements. Text is the main body of written or printed material of a publication. Words, sentences, paragraphs.

THESAURUS  A dictionary, encyclopedia, or other comprehensive reference book, especially a dictionary of synonyms and antonyms. A collection of words or concepts relating to, or associated with, a particular occupation, field of study, or field of activity, as exemplified by a thesaurus of legal or medical terminology. A thesaurus enables a user to quickly find the appropriate choice of word, or an alternative. See also DICTIONARY  GLOSSARY 

TRANSITIVE VERB  Any verb that acts on a direct object (e.g., She read the letter. He washed the dishes. He manages a small business. She teaches school.). See also INTRANSITIVE VERB  VERB

VERB  The word or words used to express action (e.g., ride, jump, speak), occurrence (e.g., is, exists, lives, understand), or state of being (e.g., feel, seem, is, be). It tells what is happening. It is the key element in the predicate, one of the two main parts of a sentence. A verb is called intransitive if it makes sense without an object or transitive, if it requires one. A verb is also termed a simple predicate. See also AUXILIARY VERB  INTRANSITIVE VERB  LINKING VERB  MOOD  TENSE  TRANSITIVE VERB 

VOWEL  A soft, open-mouthed speech sound produced without obstructing the flow of air from the lungs and represented in English by a, e, I, o, u, and sometimes y. Alternatively, the letter itself. See also CONSONANT

WORD  A unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds (or their written representation), which form a complete expression or can be differentiated from the elements that accompany it. In word processing, a word is a unit of information comprised of characters, that are treated as a single entity and which can be stored in one location. It includes any space at the end of the characters. See also SYLLABLE 


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