Sunday, August 19, 2012

Glossary of Grammatical Terms

Absolute Adjectives
When talking about comparatives and superlatives, one sometimes hears the basic, ungraded form of the adjective referred to as its absolute form--in this approach, the term absolute adjective would apply to that form--e.g., nice as opposed to nicer or nicest. An alternative usage applies the term absolute to those adjectives which are not gradable, with the adjective absolute as one possible example. In yet another usage, the term absolute adjectives is applied to nominal adjectives.
Absolute Phrase
In some traditional grammars, this term is used to describe sentence adverbials consisting of a noun followed by a particple phrase or an adjective phrase. These can be turned into independent clauses by adding a tense be verb in front of the modifier. When the participle phrase includes being or having, they can be removed--in the case of being, at least, they almost always should be.
Accusative Case
Same as objective case. The term comes from the grammar of Latin and other languages in which it used to denote the case of direct objects of transitive verbs and, in some languages, objects of prepositions. In English this case is used for indirect objects and is now sometimes found as the "subject" of gerund phrase.
The default voice of transitive verbs--in English, any transitive verb not part of a passive construction.
A word whose usual function is to modify a noun. (But see nominal adjectives.) Its most common positions are attributive and predicative and most adjectives can appear in either.
Attributive adjectives are part of the the noun phrase in which they appear. In English, this generally means the premodifying position unless the adjective itself is modified by a phrase, but there are a few expressions in which adjectives conventional follow their noun--e.g. "attorney general."
Predicative adjectives serve as subject complements (predicate adjectives) and object complements. A few adjectives (e.g., "afraid," "awake") can only appear in such positions.
In some traditional approaches, determiners are treated as a special kind of adjective.
See also absolute adjectives.
Adjective Clause
A relative clause or, more correctly, a relative clause in a postmodifying or extraposed position and serving an adjectival function.
Adjective Phrases (AdjP)
A phrase headed by an adjective. It may include degree words as specifiers and clauses or prepositional phrases as complements.
A sentence function (modifying nouns) normally served by adjectives--a word or phrase serving such a function in a given sentence. Structures serving this function may be labelled adjectival
An optional constituent of a phrase or sentence, though still part of the phrase or sentence. The most common adverbials are generally used as adjuncts, and some users restrict the term to adverbs or adverbials, but see noun adjunct.
Term used in traditional grammar for a wide range of words, including conjunctive adverbs, degree words, and various kinds of adjuncts. Some linguists prefer to narrow its use by making some of these categories separate parts of speech.
Adverb of Frequency
Adverbs like often and seldom are most at home at the beginning of verb phrases, where they serve as the specifier of a VP.
A word, phrase, or clause serving one of the various functions regarded as characterizing adverbs.
Adverbial Clause
A subordinate clause serving an adverbial function.
Adverbial Complement
An adverbial used as a complement, especially of a verb. Adverbial complements of linking verbs are known as predicate adverbials. Traditional handbook grammar has no good name for adverbial complements required by some non-linking verbs--e.g. "down" in "Put it down."
Adverbial Relative Clause
A sentential relative clause.
The thematic role of the initiator of an action. Sometimes restricted to animate beings.
When two words or phrases share a common feature. Subjects and verbs are expected to agree in number and person.
Agreement Phrase. Alternative label of Inflection Phrase (IP).
Picking up the last words of a clause at the beginning of the next, which may be either a new sentence or occasionally an appositive--e.g., He was a jerk, but a jerk with money, or What I do know, I know well, or He was a jerk, a jerk with money.
Analytic Language
An ideal type of language in which each word would consist of a single morpheme, with no affixes or inflections of any kind. Chinese is probably as close as an actual language gets to being an analytic language. Still one can speak of languages become more or less analytic, as opposed to its opposite, synthetic.
Figure of speech involving repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of a set of clauses--think Martin Luther King's I have a dream .... Reverse of epistrophe.
Applies to reference back to an antecedent. Opposite of cataphoric.
A previous expression being referred to. Most used for nominals being represented by later pronouns.
Anticipatory It
The dummy pronoun it introduced by extraposition has no antecedent but can be regarded as referring to the extraposed clause. Also known as the impersonal it or preparatory it.
Sometimes used for epistrophe, though better kept for the repetition of words in reversed order. More frequently used to refer to the answering portion of choral odes in Greek drama, or to the dance moves associated with it.
Clause statihg the consequence or result in a conditional sentence.
Appositive (Noun Clause)
A noun clause (or other nominal) which follows and has the same reference as its predecessor--e.g., the teacher, Mr. Scheisskopf. Can be used of any such nominal which simply redefines its predecessor, rather than adding additional information (as a relative would). Appositives may be either restrictive or non-restrictive and are usually punctuated accordingly.
Appositive Genitive
Apposition may be expressed with a genitive expression--in English, usually an of-genitive--e.g., the merry month of May.
Appositive Relative Clause
Sometimes used for non-restrictive relative clauses. This usage is confusing, since appositive noun phrases may be restrictive, and it tends to blur the distinction between the relative relationship and apposition.
Argument (of Verb)
The functional elements of a sentence can be viewed as consisting of a verb and its arguments, either obligatory or optional (oblique). English declarative sentences require a nominal subject argument. Intransitive verbs require no other arguments. Transitive verbs require both a subject argument and one or two additional nominal objects arguments. Linking verbs require a subject argument and subject complement (or predicative)--an additional nominal, adjectival, or adverbial argument. Optional arguments are adverbials, and adverbials are optional arguments except with those few verbs which require adverbial complements.
A part of speech which can only occupy the determiner slot. There are only three articles in English : a, an, the
Term for a verb form or stucture which shows how the action of the verb is viewed. English has two constructions to show aspect, perfect and progressive, both of which are often dealt with instead as kinds of tense.
Attributive Adjective
See adjective.
Attributive Noun
Same as noun modifier.
Auxiliary Verb
A verb used to help express aspect, voice, or modality for the main verb of its clause. Also known as a helping verb. English has both modal and primary auxiliaries.
Bare Infinitive
The base form of the verb, especially when used to express the subjunctive or in clauses of watching or seeing.
Base Form of Verb
The form of a verb used in infinitive phrases, following modal auxiliaries, and in forming a present participle (by attaching -ing to it. For all verbs but be and have, the base form is used to form the third-present singular by adding -s, and for all verbs but be the base form is used for all other present tense forms. In most verbs, the base form is also used in forming the past tense and past participle. When used as the main verb of a clause which would otherwise show tense, it can be called the bare infinitive, and that name or infinitive form is sometimes used for the base form in all uses. Since it is the form of the verb which we use to look the verb up in the dictionary, it can be called the dictionary form, citation form, or lexicographic form. It has a variety of other names as well, including simple form, root (or verb root), stem, and of course, basic form.
Alternative term for recipient.
Standard English begins proper nouns with a capital letter and also capitalizes the first word in a sentence. All letters in an acronym may be capitalized. Some writers capitalize abstractions or words being used in some unusual way.
Cardinal Number
The numbers we count with: one, two, three, etc.
A language's way of indicating relationships between nominals and other nominals or verbs. Some languages inflect nouns to show a variety of cases. English has only the possessive case for nouns, though it has retained a nominative vs. objective distinction for some pronouns. Other traditional case relationships are indicated in English by sentence position and the use of prepositional phrases.
Applies to reference forward to a later expression. Less common in English than anaphoric reference.
Catenative Verbs
Verbs which can be followed by other verbs (as infinitives or gerund phrase).
Central Determiner
Articles, demonstratives, and possessive pronouns are always central determiners in Standard English. They are generally mutually exclusive but may be preceded by predeterminers and followed by postdeterminers.
Citation Form (of Verb)
See base form.
A grammatical structure with a subject (almost always expressed) and predicate. Some use the term only for cases in which the tense/modal element is included, and others use it for structures with non-finite verbs. In the more restrictive use, clauses are opposed to more phrases. In linguistic approaches in which sentences are just another kind of phrase structure, the distinction ceases to be important.
Cleft Sentence
A sentence which has been reordered for emphasis by adding a new subject and some form of be.
Closed Class of Words
Any of those categories of words which rarely add new members--for example, articles or prepositions.
Collective Noun
A noun which refers to a group (like army, group) of things or people as a collective entity. Collective nouns often take singular verb forms.
Comma Splice
A punctuation error, normally caused by punctuating by length of pause taken in speech rather than according to sentence structure. In theory, clauses with full subjects and predicates must either be joined by a conjunction or separated by a period, a semi-colon, or (perhaps) a dash. Use of a comma to separate clauses which could be sentences by themselves is considered an error, though even strict authorities may allow it with very short clauses, especially those parallel in structure, as in I came, I saw, I conquered. Comma splices are common in contemporary creative writing and increasingly frequent in expository prose found in sources generally considered guides to standard English, but some grammarians still regard it as a serious error.
Common Noun
A noun which is not a proper noun.
Many basic English adjectives and adverbs can be inflected for the comparative by adding the -est ending, indicating that the property referred to is relatively high. Better and worse are comparatives created by suppletion, the use of a form from an originally unrelated word. Most new adjectives use a phrasal comparative with more instead of the inflection.
An over-used word in grammar, along with its counterpart, object. In the kind of linguistic analysis followed here, it most precise use is as an element in a phrase which provides information about the head required in a particular use. English complements follow their heads. The usual complement in a PP, for example, is an NP. Traditional grammar sometimes speaks of subject complements, defined here as the complements of linking verbs, or object complements.
Complementizer (C)
The pre-subject position in clauses, heading a complementizer phrase (CP) and taking an IP as its complement. Also used for words which originate in that position as introductory elements in clauses--e.g., the that in a that- clause.
Complementizer Phrase (CP)
A phrase or clause with a C as its head and an IP as its complement.
Complete Subject
The complete nominal subject. If it is an NP, this includes all determiners, premodifiers, postmodifiers, and complements of the head noun, which is known as the simple subject.
Complex Sentence
A sentence including a subordinate clause or, in technical use, a clausal nominal.
Complete Thought
Some would say that a sentence is a "complete thought," but this definition has not been thought through.
Complex Transitive
A kind of predicate in which a verb is followed by both a direct object and an object complement or a verb which may be used in such a predicate.
Compound Noun
Words made by combining existing words can be thought of as compound words, particularly when the combination is perceived as a single unit, whether spelled as such (ballpark) or not (dog house). Some believe in treated all structures with noun modifiers as compound nouns.
Compound Pronoun
Used of reflexive pronouns (like myself) in both reflexive and intensive uses.
Also applied to indefinite pronouns formed by adding -body, -one, -thing, or -where to words like some..
Compound Sentence
A sentence in which two or more independent clauses are linked by a coordinating conjunction.
Compound Subject
Two nominals (usually NPs) joined by a coordinating conjunction and functioning as the subject of a clause.
Conditional Clause
Normally refers to a subordinate clause, usually beginning with it in a conditional sentence.
Conditional Complementizer
The words if and whether when used to introduce a conditional clause acting as a nominal.
Conditional Sentence
A declarative sentence with a subordinate construction, normally an if-clause, indicating the conditions under which the main clause will be true. The clause giving the conditions is called the protasis and it may refer either to conditions whose verity is as yet unknown or to conditions already believed not to be the case. The result clause is called the apodosis.
Possibly included in this category are zero conditional sentences, which are used to express universal truths. In such sentences, both clauses are in the present tense. Unlike other conditional sentences, these may be headed by when or whenever as well as by if.
Conglomerate Prepositions
Applied to multi-word prepositions.
Briefer name for a conjunctive adverb..
Word class including coordinating conjunctions and, in traditional use, subordinators.
Conjunctive Adverbs
Sentence adverbials which normally link their sentences or clause to a preceding one (e.g., however, therefore). Also called conjuncts, a term which has the advantage of including prepositional phrases which serve the same function (e.g., even so). Easily confused with conjunctions but punctuated differently in formal written Standard English.
Contact Clause
A relative clause with no relative pronoun as a result of that-deletion.
Control Verbs
See raising verbs.
Coodinating Conjunction
Word category used to join two words or phrases of the same kind and equal status. The most important are and, but, and or.
Coordination Test for Phrases
Phrases (and other sentence constituents) can be joined with a like group of words by a coordinating conjunction.
Same as coordinating conjunction. Its use implies that these are to be treated as a separate word class.
The verb be. Sometimes also used to refer to other linking verbs.
Name for expressions reinforcing coordinating conjunctions (e.g. both....and) and subordinating conjunctions.
Count Noun
A noun which can be counted and thus has both singular and plural number (and usually forms), as opposed to a mass noun.
Dangling Modifier
A modifying element whose implied subject does not match the noun it seems attached to.
In some languages, a case assigned to recipients or beneficiaries. In English, sometimes used of ditransitive verbs or indirect objects.
Declarative Sentence
An independent clause that makes a statement. Unless there has been obvious inversion or extraposition, an English declarative sentence has a subject and predicate in that order. Most English sentences are declaratives.
Definite Article
The word the
Degree Word
The specifier position in AdjP, AdvP, and PP, and words which characteristically occupy that position, like "very." Many manner adverbials can also serve this function. Sometimes called intensifiers or intensifying adverbs.
Reference depending on contextual clues--e.g.,here, now, them. The context may be within the text or discourse, as with pronouns in anaphoric or cataphoric reference.
The words this and that and their plurals, these and those are the demonstrative pronouns. When used in the determiner position, they are sometimes called demonstrative determiners instead.
Dependent Clause
All clauses which are included within the main clause of a sentence, including nominal clauses, relative clauses, and subordinate clauses.
Descriptive Grammar
An attempt to account for the ways in which a given language puts together words in sentences whose meaning can be at least partly shared by the speaker and his listeners
As a phrase structure position, the specifier of an NP or the head of a DP, depending on whether one accepts the DP-Hypothesis. Regarded as a part of speech, it includes articles, demonstratives, possessive personal pronouns, and quantifiers (including numbers). Determiners (or sometimes just articles) can also be called noun markers in traditional grammars--or even limiting adjectives, since some traditional grammars lump them in with adjectives.
Dictionary Form (of Verb)
See base form.
Direct Object
The main nominal complement of a transitive verb, traditionally thought of as the object of its action.
Sentence adverbials which comment on the desirability, probability, or style of the clause to which they are attached.
When we classify words into one word category or another by the kinds of functions they can serve in sentences, we are defining those categories by "distribution"--that is, by syntactic clues.
Ditransitive Verbs
Verbs like give which can optionally take an indirect object as well as a direct object. Also known as dative verb.
Can be a main verb but is usually an auxiliary, with different grammars counting it as a primary auxiliary or as a modal. See Do-INSERTION below and the emphatic do.
A rule that inserts do into the I slot when it is needed to realize the tense, as in INVERSION.
Double Genitive
An of genitive rendered redundant by using a possessive NP (or a independent possessive pronoun) as the complement.
Double Modals
Standard English treats the modal auxiliaries as mutually exclusive, but some non-standard dialects permit combinations like might could
Would replace the usual NP-analysis by assuming that such structures are Determiner Phrases, headed by a determiner. One can also treat the determiner/pronouns as instances of a "determinative" class, in which case DP would refer to phrases like nearly all.
Dummy Subjects
A subject (often the anticipatory or impersonal it which adds no semantic information to a sentence and exists only because English requires that the subject position be filled.
A category of verbs (and adjectives) which can be used with the progressive.
An older term for interjection, now seldom used as such for obvious reasons.
Emphatic DO
An auxiliary do may be inserted as a tense-bearing operator to bear stress in cases where there is no other auxiliary verb to do so. Calling this emphatic tense seems unnecessary. A tenseless, imperative form of do serves something of the same purpose in double imperative expressions like "Do go there" or "Don't go there." In earlier English, certainly in Shakespeare, such uses of do did not necessarily convey any special emphasis, functioning as relatively neutral alternatives to the simple present and past tenses.
See epistrophe.
A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is repeated for emphasis at the end of a series of phrases or clauses--e.g., government of the people, by the people, for the people or When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. Also known as epiphora or antistrophe. Opposite of anaphora.
Repetition in succession of a single word--again, again, and again. Can also be called palilogia.
Exclamatory Sentence
Also called exclamative. An unusual sentence type with an intensifying What or How introducing a sentence (e.g., "What a mess this is") or partial sentence ("How messy").
Existential There Sentences
Called "existential" because the there which begins it functions less as a locative than as an assertion that a condition exists. The notional subject is postponed till after there is or there are though continuing to govern, at least in Standard English, the number of the verb.
Term sometimes applied to the thematic role of the one who perceives or experiences a state.
In everyday usage, this refers to obscene and profane words, particular when used as interjections, but it can be used for words which occupy syntactic positions but do not add semantic meaning, as in the anticipatory it or the existential there.
Extraposed Relative Clauses
A postmodifying relative clause which has been moved to the end of the main clause or sentence.
Post-position to the end of a clause or sentence. Used particularly to move longer nominals from the front of a clause, where they can create confusion about what the verb is, to the end, leaving a dummy subject it behind.
First Person
Me. See person.
Free Relative
Another name for nominal relative clause.
Fused Sentence
A type of run-on sentence in which two sentences are run together with no intervening punctuation or conjunction--in effect, a comma splice without the comma
English does not inflect its verbs to express future time, forming what is called the "future tense" with the modal auxiliary will. Future time can be expressed in many other ways in English as well.
English has special forms for gender only in the thid-person singular pronouns, which distinguish between masculine (he/him), feminine (she/her) and neuter (it). When referred to by pronouns, proper nouns in English generally carry their real-life gender. When treated figuratively as animate beings, some objects (e.g., winds, ships) can be treated as having masculine or feminine gender.
A more general (and thus less misleading) term for possessives
Gerund, Gerund Phrase
A present participle used in a nominal position. A gerund with its complement and/or specifying subject is called a gerund phrase. The "subject" of a gerund phrase is usually in the possessive (genitive) case, serving in effect as the determiner of the phrase, but one does find the objective (accusative) case on occasion, and that seems especially natural when the gerund phrase is serving as a direct object. Direct object gerund or gerund phrases cannot be made passives.
Another term from Latin grammar, gerundive, is sometimes applied to some or all present participles as premodifiers, but most authorities avoid the term, since English participial premodifiers are not really equivalent to the traditional gerundive found in Latin and some other languages, which implies that something should or must undergo the action specified. Some Latin gerundives of this sort have become independent words in English, like agenda, but English generally uses passive infinitive phrases for this meaning –agenda, for example, would be translated as "to be done." English present participle modifiers usually have the noun modified as the subject of underlying sentences–e.g., overflowing cup implies the cup is overflowing–leaving underlying passive to be expressed with past participle premodifiers–e.g., the frightened cows implies the cows are frightened or Something has frightened the cows. There are, however, a handful of present participle premodifiers which are equivalent to passive infinitives–e.g., chewing gum is gum to be chewed as opposed to chewed gum which is gum that has been chewed. Using gerundive for such cases may not be entirely inappropriate.
An informal passive construction using a form of the verb get as the auxiliary, in place of be.
A common irregular English verb. Ditransitive verbs can be thought of as "verbs like give."
A common irregular English verb, unusual in that its past tense form (went) comes from a different Old English verb entirely (wendan), a process known as suppletion
Gradable concepts (generally adjectives or adverbs) can be placed along a scale and so allow for intensification (following degree words like too) or comparison (more or less). They are said to have gradability. It is considered bad form to use words like very with non-gradable concepts--e.g., in theory, something is either unique or not, so that one should not describe it as very unique or more unique. Purists who get very upset about this sort of thing show more logic than common sense, but it is well to humor them in one's own writing.
Group Genitive
Arises when the possessive marker ('s is applied not to a noun phrase as a whole and attached after a post-modifying element--e.g. the King of England's palace.
The constituent of a phrase which determines its nature and properties. A noun is the head of a noun phrase, a verb is the head of a verb phrase, and so on.
Helping Verbs
Another name for auxiliary verbs.
A misapplication of a misunderstood grammatical rule in a failed attempt to be "correct."
Denotes both a verb mood and the sentence type of a sentence with the main verb in that mood. The mood is indicated by the use of the base form of the verb. Imperative sentences do not require surface subjects or complements, though they may have them.
Impersonal It
The dummy subject introduced by extraposition or impersonal verbs has no real antecedent and thus no person to represent, so it can be called "impersonal."
Impersonal Verb
Some verbs can't take a real subject. In English, these are mostly weather verbs, and the language is so insistent on sentence order that it supplies dummy subjects, as in "It rains a lot." There are null subject languages which do not.
Incomplete Sentence
A nicer name for sentence fragment. I use an occasional "incomplete sentence" for effect; your writing has "sentence fragments."
Indefinite Article
The words a and an.
Indefinite Pronouns
The words some, any, either, no, neither can serve as pronouns or central determiners. As a pronoun, one is usually an indefinite pronoun. One can also form indefinite pronouns by adding one, body, or thing to some, any, no, and every. In informal speech you is occasionally used as an indefinite pronoun, with a wider range of meaning than the mere second-person--e.g. "You just can't win." The use of his and him as de facto indefinite pronouns referring to animate beings who might be either male or female is traditional but worth avoiding, since the assumptions involved may offend some readers.
The unmarked or default mood of an English verb.
Infinitive Phrase
A non-finite (untensed) phrase or clause in which the base form of the verb is preceded by the infinitive marker to.
Independent Clauses
A clause which could stand by itself as a sentence.
Independent Possessive Personal Pronouns
The form of a possessive personal pronoun used when serving a nominal (as opposed to determiner) function: mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs.
Indirect Objects
A sentence function reserved for an NP which is the recipient or beneficiary of the action of the verb in sentences in which there is also a direct object.
A change in a word's form to signal a change in its grammatical relationships, as in the possessive for nouns or tense for verbs.
Inflection Phrase (IP)
A phrase headed by the INFL category. It gets its name from the use of inflections in English to express tense, the most common content of the INFL position. It is usually equivalent here to an independent clause, as defined in traditional grammar..
A word used by itself or in the middle of a sentence as an emotive exclamation. Think Ugh! Hello and goodbye are also counted as interjections. Because such words are almost exclusively interjections, interjections constitute one of the eight traditional parts of speech. Many words that are used as interjections, however, can also be used in other ways, like the many profane or obscene interjections we call expletives. Interjections are als sometimes called ejaculations.
Degree words are sometimes called intensifiers or intensifying adverbs
Intensive Pronouns
Term applied to reflexive pronouns when used as intensifying postmodifiers in noun phrases.
Interrogative Adverbs
Another name for interrogative pronouns, or for those which serve adverbial functions in the clauses they introduce.
Interrogative Pronouns
The WH- words (including how) when used to introduce interrogative sentences or clauses. Those serving adverbial functions can also be called interrogative adverbs.
Interrogative Sentence
A sentence whose form indicates it is intended as a question, whether through simple INVERSION, the use of WH-interrogatives with INVERSION, or the Tag-Question structure. Questions indicated simply by rising intonation (or a question mark) at the end of a declarative sentence are sometimes included as interrogative sentences, since they are so in function though not in form.
The thematic role of the entity by means of which an action is accomplished. In some languages, nouns are inflected for an instrumental case. In English this relationship is generally expressed through prepositional phrases.
A complete VP consisting entirely of one verb would be an intransitive predicate and the verb would be called an intransitive verb. Some linguists speak of intransitive prepositions when words that can head a PP are used by themselves in adverb functions.
As a kind of movement to make yes/no questions, this moves a tense-bearing operator from the I position in front of the subject.
It also applies in WH-questions, though its operation may be obscured by WH-MOVEMENT when the phrase with the interrogative pronoun is also the subject.
In TAG-questions, the INVERSION is of the operator in the tag and a pronoun referring to the subject. The term also applies to sentences in which the normal sentence order has been inverted for emphasis--e.g., "A mighty man was he."
Inverted Pseudo-Cleft
A form of cleft sentence in which the noun-phrase to be stressed becomes the subject and a form of be is the main verb is followed by a WH-clause containing the rest of the original sentence.
Isolating Language
Same as analytic language.
A form of cleft sentence in which the noun-phrase to be stressed is placed after an it-subject and a form of be, while the rest of the sentence is placed in a relative clause.
The form by which a word with more than one form is generally known and cited. For verbs, this would be the base form.
Lexicographic Form (of Verb)
See base form.
Limiting Adjective
Old term for determiner.
Linking Verb
Be and other main verbs which "link" the subject with a class or attribute and so take subject complements rather than direct objects.
A place adverbial or the thematic role normally played by one.
The basic, default forms are said to be unmarked, while all others are marked. In English, the present tense is unmarked, and can be used to refer to past or future time as well as the present. The past tense is marked and used only for past time.
Mass Noun
Nouns which treat their referents as a single mass entity, and which therefore generally have no plural form, as opposed to count nouns, which have number. Also known as non-count nouns or uncountable nouns. They cannot have numbers or indefinite articles as determiners, but can be used with the indefinite determiner some and various quantifiers. Many mass nouns can occasionally be used as count nouns in special situations.
Modal Auxiliary
A set of auxiliary verbs which occupy the tense/modal (I) slot and are not inflected for agreement in number with the preceding subject: can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, and would are the principal modals. Do is not always included among the modals but resembles them in being followed by the base form of the verb. Modals are not inflected for number. The principal modals are sometimes thought of as inflected for tense, the pairs being can-could, may-might, shall-should, and will-would, with must, ought to, and such rarer modals as need and dare always being present. A majority of linguists, however, seem to treat modals as tenseless. Their uses certainly do not seem closely tied to past or present real time.
In many languages, verbs can be inflected for "mood," representing the speaker's attitude toward the action of the sentence. English handles most such nuances through its modal auxiliaries and adverbials, but it retains some distinctive forms for the imperative and subjunctive. Unless so marked, English verbs are assumed to be in the indicative mood, which as the default mood carries no special meaning. Other languages have a wider range of verb moods--Proto Indo-European, for example, had a separate optative mood for a wish or hope, a meaning modern English expresses through the subjunctive or, more often, modal auxiliaries.
Multi-Word Verb
Function like one verb but is composed of two separate words, usually a normal verb and a particle.
Any expression which can serve a sentence function normally served by a noun or noun phrase--for example, subject and object.
Nominal Adjective
A word normally used as an adjective but given a nominal use--e.g., in "The poor will always be with us," the adjective poor heads the subject noun phrase and serves as the simple subject. Nominal adjectives retain other adjective qualities. One could, for example, speak of the very poor. Nominal adjectives function as mass nouns or plural count nouns. They can also be called substantive adjectives.
Nominal Relative Clauses
A relative clause used in a nominal position like subject.
Nominative Case
The case of pronouns (and in theory, nouns) used as subjects and, in formal writing, as subject complements. In personal pronouns, the nominative forms of the first person (I, we), the animate third-person singular (he, she), and the third-person singular differs from the objective forms (me, us, him, her, them, though no such distinction is made with the second-person (you) and third-person neuter singular (it). The nominative case is sometimes also called subjective case..
Non-Count Noun
A more descriptive term for mass nouns.
A post-modifying element in an NP which can be eliminated without rendering ambiguous the identity of what is being discussed. It is used particularly of relative clauses. Non-restrictive relative clauses must be set off by punctuation (usually commas), and other non-restrictive post-modifiers may be. The opposite of restrictive
A word which by itself or with modifiers can occupy a nominal position like subject or object. Most nouns can be inflected to show the possessive case and the plural.
Noun Adjunct
See noun modifier just below.
Noun Clause
Term sometimes used for clausal nominals like that- clauses and WH- clauses.
Noun Marker
See determiner.
Noun Modifier
A noun used to modify another noun. May also be called noun adjunct, attributive noun, noun premodifier.
Noun Phrase (NP)
A phrase headed by a noun. The specifier for an NP is called a determiner.
A feature of nouns, pronouns, and verbs. Some languages have a dual number, but English distinguishes only between singular and plural. Cardinal and ordinal numbers also compose a word category capable of serving as a nominal or postdeterminer
Used in traditional grammar for the complements of transitive verbs, the direct object and the indirect object, and the complements of prepositions.
Object Complement
The second complement taken by a complex transitive verb, it has the same relationship to the first complement (the ) as a subject complement does to the subject, hence the name. Can also be called objective complement or object predicative.
Object complements are often adjectives, in which case they are sometimes termed resultative adjectives, but nominals (e.g., "Call me Ishmael") are frequent as well.
Since object complement structures imply a missing "to be" joining them to the direct object, they can be thought of as special cases of small clauses, tenseless clauses serving as the complement of a main verb, a category which would also include bare infinitive clauses like "him fly" in "I saw him fly."
Object Predicative
Another name for an object complement.
Object Raising
An operation in which the subject of complement clause is raised to become the object of the main clause, with the complement clause becoming an infinitival nominal--e.g., "Bill asked that Greg leave" becomes Bill asked Greg to leave." Parallel in many ways to subject raising as involving one kind of raising verbs.
Objective Case
A separate case in English only for pronouns, where it is used for all cases in which the pronoun is serving as a complement. It can also be used for the subject of gerund phrases. Also called accusative.
Obligatory Adverbial
A required adverbial complement--for example, a predicate adverbial.
A prepositional phrase with of taking as its complement an NP that would otherwise be a possessive NP.
Omitted Relative
Refers to a relative pronoun gone via that-deletion or the clause left behind by that process.
Open Class of Words
A part of speech which is constantly being added to by the creation and borrowing of new members. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs are all open class parts of speech.
The modal or other verb which carries the tense/modal element in yes/no questions and negative sentences.
In more advanced linguistic settings, the term can be applied to WH-words and quantifiers in determiner or topic marker positions.
Optative Mood
A verb mood expressing desirability. If one thinks of mood as requiring inflection of the verb, English has folded this use into the subjunctive. In practice, modern English uses various modals for this meaning more often than not.
See epizeuxis.
Ordinal Number
Numbers indicating place in some order, as first, second, last
Term applied to prepositions (and sometimes adverbs) which are part of phrasal verbs. When used for prepositions, it has the advantage of allowing one to confine prepositions to the role of heading prepositional phrases.
Part of Speech
A category of words, a word class. Traditional grammar recognized eight parts of speech: the verb, the noun, the pronoun, the adjective, the adverb, the preposition, the conjunction, and the interjection.
Parts of Verbs
See verb.
A verb structure in which the subject position is occupied by what would normally be a complement of a transitive verb.
Past Participle
A verb form which functions as part of the structures for perfect aspect (when preceded by a form of have) and passive voice (when preceded by a form of be). In a noun phrase, it can serve as a premodifier or head a postmodifying participle phrase. In regular English verbs it is formed with the same -ed as the simple past, but it is sometimes called the -en or +n participle because of irregular verbs which form it in that way--e.g., been, gone.
Another term applied to the semantic role of theme.
A verb aspect indicating that the verb's action is or was completed (depending on whether present or past perfect) at the time indicated by the main tense. It is made up by a form of have followed by a past participle of the next verb in the expression.
Phrasal. Periphrasis is the uses of phrases to express relationships which might otherwise be expressed by a single word or its inflections.
Comparison expressed with more or most would constitute the periphastic comparative and periphrastic superlative.
The emphatic do and its less meaningful early modern English predecessor may be called the periphrastic do.
Future "tense" formed with the modal will would be the periphrastic future, a periphrastic tense.
Quasi-modals formed with phrases--like going to, have to--can be called periphastic modals
An attribute of personal pronouns with which any verb they govern must agree.
First person (I, me, we, us) includes the speaker(s). In some languages, the pronoun system specifies whether the first person plural includes those addressed, but in English we and us can be either inclusive or not, with the exception of the contracted us in let's, which always includes those addressed.
Second person (you) includes the person(s) addressed. English no longer includes a separate singular second person pronoun, and you agrees with base form of verbs as if it were plural. Informal English does have ways to specify that the you is to be taken as plural--e.g. "you all" or "you guys."
Third person is everything else. For purposes of agreement, English expressions are assumed to be third person unless a pronoun is present that explicitly identifies them otherwise.
Personal Pronouns
A small set of words in which English retains distinctions in gender, person, and case which it has otherwise abandoned. The term is sometimes limited to the pronouns expressive the nominative (subjective) and objective (accusative) case (I/me/, you, he/him, she/her, it, we/us, and they/them), but the possessive pronouns (like my/mine) clearly serve as the possessive case for these, and the reflexive pronouns obviously derive from them. There is some duplication of forms. In the table below, repeated forms are italicized. The archaic second-person singular (thou, thee, thy, thine, thyself) is not included. See also nominative, objective, number, gender, person and reflexive pronouns.
personnumber & gender personal possessive reflexive
nominativeobjective dependentindependent
1stsingular Imemyminemyself
plural yourselves
3rdmasculine singular hehim
himself feminine singular she
hersherself neuter singular
plural theythemtheirtheirsthemselves
Phrasal Verb
A verb + particle multi-word verb. May be restricted to cases in which the particle serves as an adverb and may (when transitive) move behind the direct object.
In traditional grammar, a phrase is a meaningful structure less complete than a clause but more complex than a single word. If one treats clauses as inflection phrases (IPs) and complementizer phrases (CPs), the distinction disappears, since the structure--specifier, head, complement--is the same.
Phrase Structure Trees
A way of visually presenting the structure of phrases and larger units.
Place Adverbs
Adverbs which indicate the location, source, destination, or direction of the action of the verb modified or, when predicative adverbs (A HREF="#subcomp">subject complements), of the subject. Also called locatives.
More than one. See number.
Polysynthetic Language
See synthetic language.
Possessive Adjective
Term applied to the possessive personal pronouns used as determiners--my, your, his, her, its, our, their--by those who don't like to count them as pronouns and refuse to distinguish between determiners and adjectives.
Possessive Case
The case of English nouns and pronouns used to convey possession and a variety of other relationships.
Possessive Determiner
Term applied to the possessive personal pronouns used as determiners--my, your, his, her, its, our, their--by those who don't like to count them as pronouns.
Possessive personal pronouns and possessive nouns.
Words which may occupy the determiner position in a noun phrase, either by themselves or following a central determiner like the.
Optional modifying words, phrases, and clauses which follow the head noun in a noun phrase..
Words which can be used in the determiner position, either by themselves or preceding a central determiner like the.
Predicative (Complement)
Required complements which need not be nominals, like subject complements and object complements, which can, in fact, sometimes be called subject predicatives or object predicatives. Some authorities use it for obligatory adverbial complements more or less required by certain verbs--e.g., to the store in He went to the store is generally needed to complete the meaning of the sentence. In a sentence like Fish are able to fly, the infinitive complement of the adjective is more or less required as well, though some such phrases (like is able to) can be interpreted as quasi-modal constructions. See also predicate just below.
Predicative Adjective
See adjective.
The verb and its complements (or objects) and adjunct modifiers (optional adverbials), if any--the VP. In traditional usage, includes all auxiliary verbs as well. In linguistic grammars, the predicate may be divided between a tense element (or tense/modal) element and the following verb phrase headed by the verb.
Some linguists use the term to refer to phrases which are true of something. Predicative complements are predicates in this sense.
Predicate Adjectives
An adjective or adjective phrase serving as a subject complement.
Predicate Adverbials
The traditional term for a word, phrase, or clause used as a place or time adverbial in the subject complement position. Not all grammars recognize such expressions as subject complements. In such cases, one may find terms like obligatory adverbial or adverbial complement used in its place. These terms can also be used for other situations in which what looks like an adjunct adverbial seems to be required to complete the meaning of a verb--for example, adverbials of place after motion verbs like go.
Predicate Nominal
See predicate nominative below.
Predicate Nominative
An NP or other nominal used as a subject complement. With pronouns, this in theory requires the nominative case, though the result may sound excessively formal. Also known as predicate nominal or predicate noun
Predicate Noun
See predicate nominative.
Optional modifying elements in a noun phrase which come between the determiner (if any) and the head noun.
Preparatory it
Same as the anticipatory it.
A closed class of words like in and by which serve as heads of prepositional phrases. Some authorities recognize multi-word prepositions (e.g., out of), some of which may be termed conglomerate prepositions Some locative prepositions also appear as adverbs, in which use they can also be regarded as intransitive (object-less) prepositions. Some temporary prepositons also appear as subordinating conjunctions, in which use they can be regarded as prepositions with clausal complements. Prepositions also appear with phrasal verbs, in which use some prefer to regard them simply as particles.
Prepositional Phrase (PP)
Usually a preposition and its complement, most often a noun phrase. May have a degree word as a specifier.
Prepositional Verb
May be used for verb+particle multi-word verbs when the particle seems to function primarily as a preposition.
Prescriptive Grammar
A grammar intended to say what the rules for correct use of a language should be. A prescriptive grammar may deplore certain usages as illogical or unnecessary even when such usages are common among speakers of a language's prestige dialect.
Present Participle
Formed by adding ing- to the base form of the verb. Used to form the progressive aspect. By themselves or as heads of phrases, present participles may modify nouns or serve as nominals--in the later case, though, they are called gerunds and some texts distinguish them sharply from participles. See also gerund, gerundive.
The simple past tense form of a verb. Also spelled as preterite or praeterite.
Primary Auxiliary
When be and have are used as auxiliary verbs, they are sometimes referred to as the "primary" auxiliaries. Do is sometimes considered a primary auxiliary, since like them it displays tense when used as an auxiliary and can be used as a main verb.
An verb aspect with a form of be as an auxiliary followed by the present participle of the next verb in the expression. It generally indicates that the action of the verb is or was in progress at the time indicated by the tense of the expression as a whole, but it has a variety of other uses.
A word category which can take the place of a nominal as a subject, object, or predicative but differs from nouns in significant ways. This category is used as a catch-all including demonstratives, the personal pronouns, relative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, and various indefinite pronouns. Among the personal pronouns, possessive and reflexive pronouns are sometimes treated as a separate category or even subdivided between reflexive and intensive pronouns. Some grammars also add a category of reciprocal pronouns.
Pronoun Reference
Pronouns should agree in number, gender, and person with the nominal referred to, and it should be clear what that nominal is.
Proper Adjective
An adjective taking a capital letter even when not modifying a proper noun, either because it is itself derived from a proper noun or because it has the same kind of reference as a proper noun.
Proper Noun
The name of an individual person or thing.
The conditional clause in a conditional sentence.
Do and do so sometimes substitute for verbs and verb phrases in a way parallel to the relationship of pronouns and nominals.
A form of cleft sentence in which the noun phrase to be stressed becomes the subject complement, a form of be is the main verb, and the rest of the original sentence because a WH-clause subject nominal.
Another term for degree word or intensifier.
Most quantifiers can serve as both postdeterminers and pronouns--for example, enough, few, less, many, more, much, or several. As determiners, some are used only with count nouns (e.g., few, many) and some are used only with mass nouns (e.g., less, much).
A verb or phrase that functions like a modal--for example be going to for will. Unlike true modals, they can be used with other modals or quasi-modals in the same verb sequence. Also called semi-auxiliaries.
Raising Verb
Verbs which engage in subject raising or object raising. Related to (and sometimes used to include) control verbs, in which the subject or object raised is semantically as well as syntactically a subject or object in the main clause.
The thematic role of the recipient or beneficiary of the action. Particularly used for indirect objects of active ditransitive verbs.
Reciprocal Pronouns
The phrases each other and one another function like pronouns in replacing compound nominals and are sometimes listed as reciprocal pronouns, though this rather confuses the distinction between word categories and functions.
Another term borrowed from mathematics, this refers to structures and operations which can be endlessly repeated. English has many such, which is why we can say that it can produce an infinitive number of sentences.
Reduced Relative Clause
A relative clause that has undergone WHis-DELETION.
Reflexive Pronouns
A closed class consisting of myself, himself, yourself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. Ourseslf and themself are acceptable variants, but hisself and theirselves are non-standard. They can also be called compound pronouns. Used as -self or -selves to a personal pronoun base, the refexives are still sometimes treated as a separate category of pronouns. Their principal use is to refer back to a nominal in the same clause with the same reference--e.g. I hurt myself or George hit himself As in these examples, reflexives are normally used when one might otherwise use a pronoun in the objective case. Using them when the reference is clear from earlier remarks but not part of the same clause is not uncommon but not yet fully acceptable--e.g, George sent a letter to myself.
The same pronouns can be used for emphasis as intensifying postmodifiers in noun phrases--e.g., George himself sent me a letter. So used, they can be called intensive pronouns and are sometimes treated as a separate category by those who like to multiply categories.
Relative Adverb
An adverbial pronoun like where or when used to introduce a relative clause.
Relative Clause
A clause introduced by one of the relative pronouns, or such a clause after it has undergone that-DELETION. Normally used to post-modify nominals, though such clauses may be extraposed and one also finds occasional nominal relative clauses and sentential relative clauses. In postmodifying positions, relative clauses can also be introduced by relative adverbs.
Postmodifying relative clauses are considered adjectival and are sometimes called adjective clauses. Since sentential relative clauses modify the entire preceding clause, they are considered adverbial and are sometimes called adverbial relatives. Nominal relatives, of course, serve nominal functions
Relative Determiner
The relative pronouns whose and which can serve as relative pronouns while in the determiner position. In such cases, WH-MOVEMENT moves the entire noun phrase to the beginning of the relative clause.
Relative Pronouns
A subset of WH-pronouns used to introduce relative clauses and nominal relatives. The pronouns serve as subjects or objects within the clause they introduce or as determiners within a noun phrase serving as subject or object. See also relative adverb.
WHO, WHOM, and WHOSE are used for human and human-like antecedents. WHOM is the objective case, but WHO is replacing it in everyday practice, except when the pronoun is the object of a preposition. WHOSE is increasingly used for non-human antecedents, though some still regard that as unacceptable.
WHICH may be used for all non-human antecedent, despite some efforts to confine its use to non-restrictive clauses. THAT is confined to restrictive clauses, and it has always been used for both human and non-human antecedents, though some handbooks would restrict it to non-human antecedents.
WHAT may be regarded as a compound relative equivalent to that which, since it conflates the antecedent and the relative pronoun.
Lists of relative pronouns vary somewhat. THAT and/or WHAT may be omit ted, and compound WH-pronouns like WHOEVER etc. may be included.
Linguists sometimes speak of a zero relative pronoun when talking about relative clauses that have had a restrictive relative pronoun deleted.
A term usually applied to postmodifying relative clauses, though in theory applicable to most post-modifiers of nouns. A restrictive relative is information necessary to help the listener or reader identify the particular instance of the modified NP which is under discussion--e.g., "the student who came late" makes it clear we are talking only about the one student who was late to class--as opposed to other students who might be around. Restrictive relative clauses are not set off with commas. The opposite of non-restrictive
Restrictive Relative Deletion
The relative pronoun of a restrictive relative clause may be omitted if it is not the subject of the relative clause, a process sometimes called that-deletion.
Resultative Adjectives
Because they follow and refer to a direct object, object complement adjectives can be regarded as a kind of postmodifying adjective, albeit one resulting from the action of a verb. This approach does obscure their relationship to other kinds of object complements.
Reverse WH-Cleft
The same as an inverted Pseudo-Cleft sentence.
When used of verbs, this sometimes refers to the base form.
Run-on Sentence
A punctuation error resulting from the failure to separate sentences correctly. Often equated with the fused sentence, but some authorities include comma splices as a kind of run-on.
Second Person
You. See person.
Semantic Role
Alternative term for thematic role.
Another term for quasi-modals.
Sensory Verbs
A set of verbs which are normally transitive but can be used as linking verbs taking subject complements (usually AdjP), particularly feel, look, smell, sound, taste.
Sentence Fragment
A clause which either (1) lacks one of the required constituents of an independent clause (as a tensed verb or a subject), or (2) is introduced by a subordinator which marks it as a dependent clause.
A grammatically complete expression in a given language. English has different forms for declarative, exclamatory, imperative, and interrogative sentences.
Sentence Adverbial
A word or phrase which modifies an entire independent clause or sentence. Sometimes restricted to disjuncts.
Sentential Relative Clauses
A relative clause almost always headed by which and serving as a sentence adverbial modifying and commenting on the entire previous clause or sentence.
In Biblical Hebrew this meant an ear of corn or a torrent of water. Its modern use reflects an incident in the book of Judges where the tribe of Ephraim had lost a battle to the Gileadites: "Then the Gileadites took the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. Whenever one of the fugitives of Ephraim said 'Let me go over', the men of Gilead would say to him, 'Are you an Ephraimite?' When he said 'No', they said to him, 'Then say Shibboleth,' and he said 'Sibboleth,' for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand of the Ephraimites fell at that time." It is used in our society for points of usage (including pronunciation) which are used to distinguish groups, usually in a negative way. Since such distinctions tend to be wholly arbitrary, it is also used to refer to strongly held common beliefs of little merit.
Simple Form (of Verb)
See base form.
Simple Subject
The head noun of a subject noun phrase, with which the tensed verb should agree in number.
Only one. Clausal nominals are treated as single objects in English and therefore singular in number.
Small Clause
See object complement.
In English, the constituent of a phrase which comes before the head. (Optional elements like premodifying adjectives in NPs are excluded.)
Split Infinitive
Arises when another word or phrase comes within an infinitive phrase between the infinitive marker to and the verb. The structure thus carries a minor cost in clarity, which may be offset by its making clearer which verb is being modified.
Verbs expressing a state or condition and thus not usually found in the progressive aspect. May also be used of adjectives of the same character, which are not usually found as subject complements with progressive forms of be as the main verb.
Stem (of Verb)
See base form.
Stranded Preposition
A preposition left behind when its nominal complement is fronted by WH-movement.
In a declarative sentence, the NP or nominal which would normally come before the verb and with which the verb agrees in number and person. Used by extension for the equivalent expression in imperative or interrogative forms of the statement.
Subject Complement
The complement of a linking verb, so called because it provides an attribute of the verb's subject. Also known as subject predicative or predicative complement. The most common subject complement is a predicate adjective. All grammars recognize predicate nominatives as subject complements, and most count adverbials of time and place as predicate adverbial subject complements.
Subject Predicative
Another name for a subject complement
Subject Raising
Certain English verbs can raise the subject of their complement clause to serve as the subject of the main clause, turning the main clause into a verbal nominal--e.g. "It seems that Joe is stealing too much" becomes "Joe seems to be stealing too much." Verbs which often do this include seem, appear, begin, continue, and happen. Such verbs are one form of raising verbs.
Subjective Case
Another term for nominative case.
In English, this mood may be used to express that an action is only hypothetical or wished for. In the present tense, the subjunctive is marked by the use of the base form of the verb where it would not otherwise appear. In the past tense, the only surviving inflection is the use of the plural were where one would normally find was. The use of subjunctive forms marks prose as rather formal, sometimes overly so.
Subordinate Clause
A clause which serves as a dependent constituent of another clause.
Subordinating Conjunction
A word introducing a dependent clause if one regards it as a kind of conjunction. Alternatively called subordinator. They are sometimes used to introduce constituents other than clauses, though a full clause is usually implied--e.g., "if any" implies "if there are any."
A word class used to introduce a dependent clause--i.e., another term for a word traditionally classified as a subordinating conjunction.
Substantive Adjectives
See nominal adjectives.
Many basic English adjectives and adverbs can be inflected for the superlative by adding the -est ending, indicating the high end of the property referred to. Best and worst are superlatives created by suppletion. Most new adjectives use a phrasal superlative with most instead of the inflection.
A term for the process whereby a word has borrowed ("supplied") an inflected form by borrowing from a different word entirely. English examples include the complicated forms of be, the past tense of go (went), and the comparative forms of good (better, best) and bad (worse, worst).
Syntactic Expletive
See expletive
How sentences are formed in language
Synthetic Language
A language with many affixes and inflections, as opposed to an analytic language. At the extreme end, a polysynthetic language might have single words which could express meanings that would take a long sentence in English.
Tag Questions
A question form which turns statements into questions by appending auxiliaries and pronouns--e.g., "isn't it?" or "have you?"
English inflects verbs for present or past tense only, categories loosely (but only loosely) tied to the time of the action of the verb. The notion of tense is sometimes extended to include progressive and perfect, and the term "future tense" is sometimes applied to expressions beginning with the modal auxiliary will.
A noun clause with that as the complementizer.
The optional deletion of that as a complementizer or of any restrictive relative pronoun. In relative clauses, this cannot be applied to relative clauses in which that is the subject.
The theory that each argument of a verb can play only one thematic role and that each role can be played by only one argument.
Thematic Role
The semantic role played by a constituent of a particular IP.
The thematic role played by someone or something undergoing the effect of the verb's action. >=
Third Person
Everyone and everything other than you and me. See person.
Time Adverb
An adverb or adverbial indicating a point in time or duration.
An empty place marked with a t in PS-trees, left when a sentence constituent has moved
Tense Phrase, an alternative label for Inflection Phrase (IP).
When a predicate needs a nominal complement to complete its meaning, it is a transitive predicate, and its verb is said to be transitive. Verbs which can, as used, take other complements or no complements are not transitive. Prepositions with complements may also be regarded as transitive if one distinguishes between transitive and intransitive prepositions.
Uncountable Noun
See mass noun.
Probably the most frequently cited example of a non-gradable adjective. Use it as such, but do not make oneself obnoxious by correcting those who do not.
A term used by some linguists to refer to the number and kind of arguments taken or allowed by a verb.
A word used in such a way that it can be inflected for the past and the 3rd-person singular and to form present and past participles. It can head the complement of an infinitive phrase. Notice that most of the modal auxiliaries are not true verbs by this definition, which is why linguists often treat them as a different word class altogether. For all English verbs but be, one can predict all uses if one knows the base form, the third-person present singular, the simple past (preterite), and the past participle; for regular verbs, just knowing the base form allows one to predict the rest. The present participle is completely predictable from the base form but is often included when the principal parts of English verbs are listed. The table below shows the principal parts for a representative set of verbs:
Base Form3rd Per Pres SingSimple Past (Preterite)Present ParticiplePast Participle
Notes: The pattern of walk is used for all regular English verbs. Be is the most irregular of all English verbs. Unlike all others, its third person singular form is not related to the base form, and it uses forms other than the base form (am, are) for other present singular persons and the plural. It also distinguishes between singular (was) and past (forms) of the simple past. Go is the only other verb whose past form (went) is completely unrelated to the base form. Some other irregular verbs use -n endings for past participles, form the simple past and/or participle by vowel change, or repeat the base form. The remaining verbs on the table above illustrate some of the possibilities.
Verb Phrase (VP)
A phrase headed by a verb.
Verb Root, Verb Stem
See base form.
Very Test
Gradable adjectives and adverbs combine easily with degree words like very as a specifier. Degree words can also serve as specifiers in prepositional phrases.
Traditionally, the case of a noun used to indicate the persons or other entities being addressed. English has no inflection to mark the vocative use of nominals, but it does set them off with commas.
Refers to the kind of subjects and objects taken by a transitive verb. English expresses the passive voice with a special structure; the default is active voice.
A clause containing a fronted WH-word (e.g., who, when, but also how).
The same as a pseudo-cleft sentence.
Moving a WH-word to the front of the clause, as when forming relative clauses or WH-questions.
See WH-word.
A WH-clause in which the fronted WH-word is being used as an interrogative pronoun.
English uses a set of words beginning with Wh- for various purposes. Who, whom, which, whose and (in some grammars) what are used as both relative pronouns and interrogative pronouns.
Some additional wh-words, like when, where, and the honorary wh-word how are used mainly as interrogative pronouns and are generally called relative adverbs when used to head relative clauses--since they serve as advebials in the clauses they introduce, some may prefer to call them interrogative adverbs (or pro-adverbs) when used in interrogative sentences.
One sign that wh-words function as pronouns or pro-adverbs is that they can be in echo questions--e.g. I called Tom. You called who? or He came tonight. He came when?
Many of these, like when and where, can also head adverbial clauses, serving then as subordinating conjunctions.
Relative clauses in which the relative pronoun is followed immediately by a form of be, whether as a main verb or auxiliary, can have both the pronoun and the be deleted. Many non-clausal pre- and postmodifiers can be thought of as reduced relative clauses and products of WHis-DELETION.
X-Bar Theory
Given any phrase (CP, NP, etc.), which we may call XP, its structure will be binary, with the X-bar portion being the head and its complement, which serve within the XP as the complement of the specifier.
Yes-No Questions
A common question form, which assumes that the answer will be either "yes" or "no"--e.g. "Does time fly?"
Zero Conditional
See conditional sentence.
Zero Relative
A relative clause which has undergone That- DELETION may be said to have a zero relative as its pronoun.

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