agent and subject : the word subject refers syntactically to the word in a sentence or clause that

39  Download (0)

Full text



Accent and dialect

Accent refers solely to the way words are pronounced, e.g. in the south of England, it is normal to pronounce the word path as p-ar-th, but in the Midlands and the North, the phoneme 'a' is articulated as a short vowel and pronounced as in, 'cat'. The accent known as 'Received Pronunciation' is considered as a prestige accent and is one frequently heard on television and radio news bulletins, for example.

Dialect refers to choices of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation made by people in different geographical regions or social contexts. The dialect known as 'Standard English' is generally considered to be a prestige dialect and is the choice of many teachers, business people, newsreaders, etc.

Active and passive voice

This is an important stylistic choice. A typical English sentence will be cast in what is called the active voice, e.g. 'The teacher led the lesson'. In such a sentence, the subject (S) is also the agent of the action told by the verb (V). This action is transferred to the object of the sentence (O).

A different type of sentence construction is possible. In this, the subject position can be filled not by the agent but by what, in the active sentence, was the verb's object, e.g. 'The lesson was led by the teacher.' The grammatical subject position is now filled by the noun phrase, 'the lesson' and the agent becomes a part of a phrase that follows the verb, introduced with the preposition 'by': 'by the teacher'. This is called a passive construction.


By fronting the object in place of the subject, the force of the sentence can be changed and the role of the agent can be diminished. Passive constructions are popular in newspaper

headlines as it gives a concise, authoritative and impressive style but one that does not risk 'pointing the finger' of blame, e.g. 'Woman murdered in gangland shooting'. Here the subject is not even mentioned. See also voice.

Adjective (adjectival)

A word class which contains words that can add more detail (i.e. modify) to a noun or pronoun with which they often form a noun phrase, e.g. 'The busy teacher' (pre-modification).

Adjectives can also post-modify a noun, as in: 'The dinner was awful'. Adjectives are gradable depending on whether a

comparison is made with one other thing or many other things: big, bigger, biggest difficult, more difficult, most difficult.

Agent The grammatical agent is the participant in a clause or sentence that carries out the action told by a verb. In the following sentence, the 'cat' is the agent: 'The cat sat on the mat'. In the passive form of this sentence, 'The mat was sat on by the cat', the 'cat' remains the agent, but the subject now becomes 'mat'.

It is easy to confuse the two terms agent and subject: the word subject refers syntactically to the word in a sentence or clause that is grammatically linked to a verb and which makes the verb finite. For more, see active/passive.

Agreement In English grammar, it is necessary that certain linked words 'agree' with each other, for example, a verb is given an inflexion (suffix) to allow it to 'agree with' its subject when in the 'third person', e.g. he talks (not he talk).

Adverb (adverbial)

A class of words that add usually extra detail about the way an action occurred (i.e. the verb) but which can also modify another adverb or an adjective, e.g. 'The girl worked especially hard.' 'He was just too much!' Adverbs can give detail concerning time (soon), place (there) and manner (nearly).


time, place or manner - in a clause. A sentence or clause can contain several adverbials (which, unusually for an English syntax, can be located in various places). Adverbials are usually 'optional' elements in a clause - its central meaning being reasonably unaffected if they are left out.



each day I exercise in the gym in town ADVERBIA

L manner





Ambiguity This means 'more than one possible meaning'. The rules of grammar exist to allow a structure of words to be created that has a single meaning, i.e. to be unambiguous. Here is an ungrammatical sentence that was an actual warning notice at the bottom of an escalator: 'Dogs must be carried on the escalator'. What does this mean? Are you allowed to ride on the escalator without a dog in your arms?

Archaic (archaism)

If a word is described as archaic, it suggests its use is now old-fashioned. Many words in poems are still used that seem archaic, and many formal words may seem to be so, especially in a religious or legal register. Such words may not be really archaic - it may simply be that you are unaware of these particular registers. Take great care when writing about language in A2 change not to label a word archaic simply because you haven't heard of it - better to say 'formal'.

Article One of a class of words, akin to adjectives, called determiners. The definite article is the and the indefinite article is a or an.


text seems geared towards an educated and sophisticated adult audience'. For module 1 in your exam, audience is one way to categorise similar texts.

Auxiliary verb English verbs are limited as to what they can indicate alone, i.e. through their own morphology. Morphological inflexions can be used, for example, to show that an event occurred in the past (e.g.

cooked) and in the present (e.g. cook); they can also show third person agreement (e.g. she cooks) and continuous action (e.g. cooking).

More often, the main verb needs to be linked with a secondary verb form which accompanies it to create a verb phrase. These

secondary verbs are called auxiliaries. Auxiliary verbs are used, for example, to give a sense of time to the main verb (e.g. 'He will be working soon.') or to create a question, 'Have you won?', 'Do you believe it?', 'Could it be true?'.

Common auxiliary verbs are forms of to be

(is/am/was/are/were/will), to have (has/had/have) and to do (does/did).

Some auxiliary verbs are used to indicate that an action is not real but simply an idea or possibility. These are called modal

auxiliaries, e.g. may, might, would, could, should.

Clause (clausal)

A clause is a key grammatical structure and this means that clauses are things that you need to have, at the very least, a basic grasp of. Thought of at its simplest, a clause can be considered as a short 'sentence' - one that occurs either on its own (e.g. "I ate the jelly") or together with other clauses to make a longer sentence (e.g. "because I was hungry").

 A clause, then, is a group of words that is either a whole sentence or is a part of a sentence.

 Clauses are built up from individual words or from small clusters of words called phrases.


I was hungry".

A clause can be what is called independent. This mean it is acting as a simple sentence, as in the example, "I ate the jelly".

Independent clauses can also exist as a part of a larger sentence when they are called not an "independent clause" but a main clause.

Another common type of clause exists just to help out the meaning of a main clause. This second kind of clause is, therefore, dependent on its main clause for its meaning. An example would be the dependent clause, "because I was hungry"; you'll see here that there is an extra word at the start of the clause: "because". It is this extra word that stops the clause being able to be independent or to be a main clause; the word "because" forces the clause to be dependent on some other main clause, e.g. "I ate the jelly because I was hungry". This words acts to subordinate its clause and so is called a subordinator. Subordinators create dependent clauses - more often, these days, called subordinate clauses (sometimes reduced to "sub-clauses").

There are many subordinators. Look at this example: "He hit him even though he was a friend":

He hit him even though he was his friend. MAIN CLAUSE DEPENDENT (subordinate) CLAUSE An important kind of clause acts as if it were an adjective - it adds extra information about a noun or noun phrase. These clauses are called relative or adjectival clauses. They can seem confusing because they can be inserted in between their main clause, e.g. "The girl who wore a red dress left early." This sentence contains one main clause "The girl left early" and one dependent or relative clause, "who wore a red dress".


pronoun because it introduces a relative clause.  Other relative pronouns are "that" and "whom".

 Sometimes the relative pronoun can be missed out to create an elliptical relative clause, e.g. "The joke [that] he told was funny"; here the relative clause is "he told".

The structure of clauses is fairly fixed in English syntax (S = subject V = verb O = object C = complement A = adverbial). In certain dialects and in poetry the syntax can be varied and the sense still kept, e.g. "A ballad Alison sang".

 S+V: Alison / sang.

 S+V+O: Alison / sang / a song.  S+V+C: Alison / is / a good singer.  S+V+A: Alison / sings / in the choir.

 S+V+O+O: Alison / sang / her mum / a ballad.

 S+V+O+A: Alison / sang / the song / from the song-book.

Cohesion (cohere / coherent / coherence)

Many patterns of words exhibit a quality known as cohesion. This means that they form coherent units. Phrases are an important coherent grammatical unit. Words that cohere are cohesive: they appear to act not as individual words but as a single unit, e.g. 'inside out', 'at three o'clock', 'the awful creature', 'has been eating', 'in a traditional manner'. These examples of coherent groups are all phrases, but clauses, sentences and discourses are also, if they are to be effective in communicating ideas and facts, coherent.

At the level of discourse, the reader or listener also needs to be able to link the different sentences and paragraphs (or stanzas in a poem, etc) in a logical way. This is achieved by many linguistic means including graphology, semantics, pragmatics, narrative structure, tone, lists, pronouns, proper nouns, repetition of either logical or similar ideas, use of synonyms, and so on. The analysis of the cohesive qualities (i.e. the coherence) of a text is the analysis of discourse structure.

Collocation (collocates /


collocated) lexical partnership, e.g. 'fish and chips', 'salt and pepper', 'don't mention it', 'it's nothing...', 'Oh well!', 'bangers and mash'... and so on. Many idioms or idiomatic phrases exhibit collocation, e.g. in a jiffy.

Colloquial / slang


A 'colloquy' is a formal word for 'conversation', so colloquial

language means the everyday language or register we adopt when chatting to friends, for example, e.g. 'Hello Fred, how's the new mother-in-law these days?'.

Slang is a particular form of colloquial language used by certain social groups, e.g. 'Hey-up Fred! How's the new battle-axe then?'; 'Hey that's some cool dude there!'

Complement A word, phrase or clause that follows a verb and which simply adds further information concerning, usually, the verb's subject.

Complements usually follow stative verbs such as 'to be' to create a statement (i.e. a declarative sentence), e.g. 'He is happy'. Here the adjective 'happy' is the subject complement. However, in the sentence, 'He made me happy', the adjective happy is called an object complement as it gives more information about the verb's object, me.

Conjunction A word used to link words, phrases and clauses. Common

conjunctions are and, but, or, either... or, neither...nor. These can link 'equal units' such as words, phrases or main clauses. A special kind of conjunction that can link 'unequal' independent and

dependent clauses is called a subordinating conjunction. There are many of these, e.g. if, when, where, unless, etc. Also see sentence and clause.

Connotation / denotation (connote / connotative denote / denotative)

The denotation of a word is its direct, literal or specific meaning (as can be found in a dictionary). If a word also has implied or

associated meanings when used in a certain way, these are called the word's connotations. The word 'bat' in this sentence is being used with its denotation: 'A bat is a flying mammal.' however, the word, 'bat' can also take on extra meanings, often metaphorical, e.g. 'He went like a bat out of hell'.


denotations: 'a cricket bat', 'a vampire bat', 'They bat next' (as well as other slang and dialect meanings): words that have several denotations are called polysemic. Polysemy is an area of semantics and pragmatics.


(contextual / contextualise)

Context is always an important aspect to consider whenever you analyse a text. Context refers to those particular elements of the situation within which the text is created and interpreted that in some way or another affect it (for example, the effects of time, place, ideology, social hierarchies, relationships, etc.).

Importantly, language has two potentially important contextual aspects: the context in which it was created and that in which it was interpreted. For example, a letter from a manager to one of his staff will be affected by context such as the situation itself, the power relationship that exists between the manager and the worker, the historical conditions and so on. Another example, when you speak to your parents or when you speak to a friend on the phone you will see that context naturally affects the linguistic choices - the style - of the discourse in important ways. Also see register.

Copula / linking verb

Verbs that act to link a subject to a complement, for example, the verb 'is' in, 'The rabbit is soft and furry' are called 'copulas' or 'linking verbs'.

Determiner One of a small group of words - a word class - that precedes and pre-modifies a noun and creates a noun phrase, e.g. a, the, some, this, that, those, each.

 Determiners include the three 'articles' (i.e. a, an, the) and similar words: e.g. some, those, many, their. Each of these are said to determine the number or 'definiteness' of their noun, e.g. 'That man is the one!'


Discourse / discourse analysis / discourse structure / discourse community / discourse communities

When we use language, what we are doing is trying to express thoughts and ideas that are in our head to a someone else.

Sometimes this will be to a known person, sometimes to an unknown audience. Conversation is the obvious example of the former, media texts of the latter.

We are very sophisticated communicators (and of course use more than just language!). This makes discourse a massively subtle, sophisticated and complex area of study, in fact. But, even a basic understanding of it can help push your marks up to the highest bands. Aspects of communication that affect the discourse include genre, context, audience and purpose ('G-CAP'). All of these, and especially the first three, will act as a 'constraint' on what we say or write. Context is an especially important aspect of discourse analysis as the social and hierarchical aspects of life often bring all kinds of pragmatic meanings into the discourse.

A discourse occurs whenever we put thought into language. This could be for a whole range of reasons - we might be in a

conversation, writing a novel, producing a piece of homework, holing someone to ransom, texting a friend... all kinds of reasons. The result of this 'conversion' of thought and ideas into language is the production of a discourse between the parties involved. And these discourses can ne productively analysed as an analysis at the level of discourse will reveal many interesting and subtle areas of language use.

Discourse, therefore, is no more than language - a kind of 'text' - but considered as a part of the original context of its use. When considering discourse, therefore, you need to consider all of the important aspects of context that affected either its creation, its reception or its interpretation. And remember that discourses or spoken - planned, spontaneous, to a known audience, an unknown audience, historical, etc..


of their user's personal, cultural, social and historical situation. Discourse analysis comments on these contextual aspects.

 Commenting on the social circumstances of a text means taking account of aspects of its social and cultural context.

When analysing a text, it can be fascinating (and gain many extra marks because of its subtlety) to dig deeper than the surface

meaning of the words to try to reveal interesting contextual aspects of the text's users. To make this clearer, you can imagine that our own society is far more liberal-minded than, say, the society of a century ago. This aspect will show up in the texts written in these periods through a variety of aspects including word choice and grammar. Similarly, aspects of social hierarchy and social power always manifest themselves within texts. Imagine a conversation between a patient and a doctor, for example - again, discourse analysis seeks to reveal this.

We can, somewhat artificially perhaps, but useful, 'lump together' certain discourses and see that they contain broadly similar elements because of the context, for example, in which they occur. Thus the idea of a 'discourse community' or discourse communities can be used, similar to the idea of a 'register'. Young people, to take an example, tend to use language that shares many similar features, and they can be called a 'discourse community'. In this instance, this is similar to the idea of sociolect, also - but not all discourse

communities share a sociolect.


Discourse structure can be a useful part of discourse analysis and is generally rewarded highly in your exams. Analysing a text at the level of its discourse structure sets out to reveal the various

methods used, effects created and purposes intended by the language user to create a coherent and unified stretch of

language. A text aimed at a child, for example, will have a much more obvious structure with clear 'linguistic signposts' to guide the child through it. If you compare such a text with, say, a broadsheet newspaper article, you will immediately notice that the means of linking ideas in the latter will be far more complex, sophisticated and subtle. Discourse structure, therefore, is one of the elements of style: those choices a language user makes to suit context, genre, audience and purpose.

Element An element is a distinct grammatical unit - a 'building block' or segment of a sentence there are three important grammatical elements: word, phrase and clause. Some of the elements of a discourse or text are their sentences, paragraphs, chapters and so on.

Elision (to elide)

Elision is the omission of one or more sounds from a word, e.g. a vowel, consonant or a whole syllable. It is used to create a word or phrase that is easier or more casual to suit an informal context, for example, e.g. the word 'comfortable' is usually elided when spoken. Ellipsis


Grammar allows some words to be missed from a grammatical construction (i.e. for sentences to be grammatically abbreviated) and yet for the sentence still to be meaningful, e.g. 'I bought half a dozen eggs and [...I also bought...] six rashers of bacon.' The reader or listener is able to 'add back in' the elements that have been left out and thus understand what is meant.

Ephemeral A term that means 'lasting for a short time', i.e. transitory. In the study of language change, it refers to fashionable words that drift in and out of fashion. Speech is often considered to be an ephemeral thing in contrast to the more permanent nature of writing.

Finite / non finite


enjoy exercising'. In each of these sentences, the form of the verb is termed non-finite.

Alternatively - and every complete grammatical sentence has one at least by definition - the verb can be made finite. This simply means that it is 'attached' grammatically to a subject word. This subject is usually either a noun or noun phrase. Look at this example: I exercise to keep fit'). In this latter case the subject/verb combination work together to create a clause.

Form and content

Form means the sound, shape and appearance of something, e.g. two forms of the word please, are pleases and pleased. The form of the sentence, e.g. 'He pleased himself.' can be explained by referring to two kinds of structure: that of its individual words (i.e. their morphology) and the way its words relate to each other (i.e. their syntax). The study of both of these aspects of sentences is called grammar the study of the form of a text is called discourse analysis.

The content is the meaning contained by a word, phrase, clause or sentence and this is involved with its function. The separation of form, function and content is a theoretical way of discussing the effect of each even though all three are inextricably linked.

Function The function of a word is what it 'does' in its sentence, e.g. its function is to act as a subject, object, verb, etc. The function of a sentence is what it is intended to 'do', e.g. to make a statement, ask a question or give a command or order.

Genre (generic)

Genre is a way of categorising texts according to similarities they share with those we already know. More generally, genre is a way of making the unfamiliar seem more familiar and hence, be more easily and quickly recognisable. New things might be unwanted,


build houses, store food, name things and so on. We must feel secure. Your bedroom might not seem to reflect your instinctive ordering mentality, but it most certainly does: firstly, it is a defined space (it is a piece of the world that is more secure because it is contained) and, although your belongings may look like pure chaos to an untrained observer such as mum and dad, you know precisely what is in that heap of clothes, CDs, magazines, English Language homework and whatever else.

What has this to do with language study? Well, surprisingly, we impose order and give labels even to things as unthreatening as language and media texts (you wouldn’t want a romantic film to turn into 'The Chain Saw Massacre'). So, texts that share content (e.g. chain saws, fondling couples), function (e.g. to frighten, to arouse), and form (e.g. books, films) are categorised and 'made safe'. But because, as they say, familiarity breeds contempt, genres can and do change – but slowly (see Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs for evidence).

Genre is an important idea because it affects the production as well as the reception of texts. Writers know what we expect from a particular genre, and – to keep us receptive and comfortable (and hence – importantly for language study – more easily influenced or persuaded) – they will stay broadly within a particular genre’s expectations. Typical genres of fiction are adventure, detective and horror, and of non-fiction, reports (e.g. newspaper, school),

biographical writing, advertising, recipes, etc. Taking account of genre allows you to comment on effective genre indicators

('signifiers') and stylistic devices within a text. Of course, genre is an ideal way of categorising similar texts.


(grammatical / grammaticality)

Grammar is the set of rules that tells how words can be put into a sequence and a form that allows their meaning to become

unambiguous in a sentence. The order of words in a phrase, clause or sentence is called its syntax and the form of words is called morphology (for example, to show plural we add the morpheme s, to show possession, we add the morpheme 's).


(graphological) students to pay it little attention as it can lead to analysing the images and diagrams in a text - a habit that loses many marks in a language exam. But it needn't be that way at all as, properly applied, a graphological analysis can be very useful and subtle.

Originally, graphology applied only to the appearance of a person's handwriting; for your course, however, it applies to any aspect of the form and appearance of a text that modifies meaning in any way.

It is the graphological qualities of any written or printed text that we first notice.

This means you would do well to consider analysing a text at the level of its graphology before looking at other methods of analysis such as lexis or grammar. The graphological features of a text determine subtle and important aspects such as genre and ideology: how we react to the text itself. Graphological features, therefore, carry pragmatic force and are an important part of our society's discourse.

For example, a text's layout, presentation, use of paragraphs, lists, 'bullets', font choices, underlining, italics, white space, colour, etc. can all create different kinds of impact, some of which will cause the reader to react differently for example, graphological aspects can create important pragmatic perceptions of power and influence. Head / head


All phrases have what is called a head or head word. This is the word within the phrase that determines its grammatical function (and which acts to provide its most general meaning); other words within the phrase act in a modifying capacity. For example, in the noun phrase 'the old-fashioned door', the head word is the noun, door - the remaining words within the phrase act to modify this head word; in a verb phrase such as 'might be hit', the head word is the finite verb hit and in a prepositional phrase such as 'on the table', the head word is on.

Ideology (ideological)


the many important 'belief systems' that are adhered to by groups or whole societies. They form a society's and individual's 'world view' or 'mind set' concerning how things are and ought to be. A society is a group of people who share certain key values and ideas; these values and ideas are called that society's ideologies.

Texts are created by speakers and writers who share society's beliefs concerning 'what is right' and 'what is wrong' or about 'the way things should be for the best' in society. These ideologies mw be 'hidden' because they seem 'natural' or 'common sense', as the result of 'progress' in our 'advanced' society, and so on.

If we closely examine and consider some important ideologies, it can be seen that those ideas act to reinforce the structure of our society. Some thinkers - called Marxists - conclude that this might not be a healthy thing for a society as it helps maintain what they call society's status quo - ideas that maintain the existing social hierarchies and power structures (with, for example, the wealthy holding the reigns of power, and the poor being attached in

important ways to those reigns, perhaps?).

This 'political' way of considering the effect of ideologies arose in the theories of the key nineteenth century philosopher, Karl Marx. Marx recognised that those with power naturally enough wish to hold on to their status (those who 'own the means of production', i.e. the powerful, he called the bourgeoisie lesser mortals are the proletariat or the masses). Marx thought that the bourgeoisie were able to create and reinforce particular 'ways of thinking' that would act to reinforce and maintain a society’s status quo and hence, existing hierarchies of status and power.


not support.

Marx felt that such ways of thinking act not only to keep the

powerful in power but also to create the conditions necessary for the masses to justify their own lower position in society. The means by which ideas can support the status quo is called hegemony.

Prevailing ideologies become a part of us as we grow up we become 'conditioned' into thinking that the way our society operates is for the best. This 'social conditioning' is created through the family, school, religion, law and – very importantly for language study – the mass media indeed, the media receive much of the focus of Marxist criticism because it is considered a major means through which powerful elite groups can increase their hegemony over others. It is hegemony that causes us to view our capitalist, consumerist 'social-democracy', with its hierarchies of status and power, its elitism, its individualistic self-centredness, its poverties and its suffering… as 'the best of all possible worlds'.

In studying a text for its hegemonic or ideological power, you must learn to look for what is termed 'ideologically loaded' language. Such language is that which has judgemental value as well as meaning. Look out for such language and consider its seductively persuasive effect as it subtly 'ideologically positions' you as reader. Many ideologically loaded words have their judgmental value because their meaning is relational: they exist as 'binary pairs', e.g.

'master/mistress', 'housewife/working mother', 'middle class/working class', 'freedom fighter/terrorist', 'hero/coward', 'normal/abnormal', 'gay/hetero', 'feminine/feminist, 'The West/the East', etc. Some linguists maintain that all language – all meaning – is an 'ideological construct'.

CLICK HERE if you need more help.

Idiomatic language (idiom / idiomatic phrase)


make them up, e.g. 'He wants his pound of flesh.' 'You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' 'That's real cool' 'No way, José', 'He's a pain in the neck!', etc. Each of these are idioms - or idiomatic phrases. You will notice that idioms always exist as fixed collocations which do not work if the phrase order is altered at all. For example, we cannot really say, 'He scratched my back and I scratched his...'. Imperative A command sentence which uses the second person plural form of a

verb but misses out the subject pronoun 'you'. It gives orders, e.g. Leave now! Sit down.

Infinitive A form of a verb without tense and often introduced by 'to' infinitive forms can replace noun phrases as subject or object of a verb, e.g. Object: He likes to eat subject: To fish is a very relaxing way to spend the morning.

Inflection (inflexion / inflect / inflects / inflected)

The way words can change their form to show, for example, that they are singular or plural (e.g. table becomes tables) and to indicate tense (e.g. change becomes changes/ changed/ changing) or possession (The cat's whiskers).

Intensifier Intensifiers are a special kind of adverb. An intensifier is used when the semantic value of another adverb or adjective needs to be altered. Examples of intensifiers are: very, quite, absolutely and extremely but there are many more.

Intensifiers act to pre-modify their adverb or adjective. Can you identify the intensifier in this sentence: 'It's a terrifically bad accident.'?

Interjection A word class that is used to show emotion, e.g. 'Ouch!', 'Hey!' Intransitive A verb is called intransitive when no action transfers from their

subject to an object, e.g. we swam like a fish they sang beautifully he died. A transitive verb always takes an object - the thing that takes its action, e.g. He hit his thumb with the hammer.


carefully chosen lexis. The study of such meaning falls within the area known as pragmatics.

Latinate This term refers to those many rather formal words in English that derive from either Latin or French. These words entered the

language most notably during the period following the Norman Conquest (1066). King William I spoke a northern French dialect that itself was heavily influenced by the classical Latin language of

ancient Rome; he insisted that the nobility of newly conquered England learn to speak French and, from this, many French/Latin words entered the language. The Latinate equivalent now sits

alongside the original Old English/Anglo-Saxon term and tends to be used in more formal occasions. Examples are motherly (Anglo-Saxon)/maternal (Latinate); inn (Anglo-Saxon)/hotel (Latinate). As a rule of thumb, if you can pronounce the word in a French accent it is Latinate! A text that relies heavily on Latinate words will be aimed at a more educated audience.


(lexical item / lexemic / lexicon)

A lexeme or lexical item is a word - or occasionally phrase - in its most basic form, like the head words found in a dictionary that are listed each as separate entries. An example is the word 'spell'; from this lexeme there can be several derivations, e.g. spelled, spelt, spelling, etc. These inflected forms of the root word are not counted as lexemes. The word 'crane', as an example, is two lexemes, one meaning a large bird and the other a machine for lifting.

Also included under the heading of lexemes are the so-called phrasal verbs; these are short phrases whose meanings are different from their constituent lexemes, e.g. 'see to', 'break down', 'put up with', 'wind up'.

Idiomatic phrases that carry meaning as a unit are also counted as lexemes, e.g. 'give over, 'rain cats and dogs', etc.

The collection of lexemes that forms a person's vocabulary is called his or her lexicon. A dictionary is another kind of lexicon.


(dynamic) and stative verbs


Lexis (lexical)

Lexis means the vocabulary of a language as opposed to other aspects such as the grammar of the text. Lexis is clearly an

important aspect of creating a suitable style or register (i.e. when choosing language and language features to suit a particular genre, context, audience and purpose).

Lexis and semantics are very close and often used interchangeably.

Lexical cohesion occurs when words have an affinity for each other as in collocations.

Linguistic Referring to the study or ways of language and the use of words to create meaning.

Modifier / Modification / Pre-modification /


Modification describes the grammatical process through which the meaning of a head word within a phrase can be altered, refined or modified. This is done by the addition of one or more words. The result of the modification of a word is the creation of a phrase e.g. in the noun phrase, 'A criminal act', the head word (the noun 'act') is modified by the noun 'criminal'.

Nouns can be both pre-modified (by linking with one or more adjectives, e.g. A tall dark stranger' or with other nouns, e.g. 'oven glove') as well as post-modified, e.g. 'The man with an ice-cream. Prepositional phrases can also act as modifiers when they act as the complement of a verb, as in, 'He's in a mess'.

Mode 'Mode' refers to the channel of communication of a text. A text might be spoken or written, for example, or it might show features of being 'mixed mode' is the sense that it contains features of both speech and writing, as in text messages and email.

Mood (modal / modality)


Mood is often created in a verb phrase through the use of a modal auxiliary. This kind of auxiliary verb usually creates the effect of suggesting that the action told of by the verb is not real but is potential.

Morphology / morpheme (morphological)

The suffix "morph-" is to do with shape, and morphology concerns the form and shape of words. It is an important aspect of grammar (along with syntax); morphology is the study of the way words are formed. The smallest part of a word that can exist alone or which can change a word's meaning or function is called a morpheme (e.g. un-, happy, -ness).

A bound morpheme is an affix, i.e. usually a prefix or a suffix, e.g. un-, -tion. These are 'bound' called because they must be attached to another morpheme to create a word. Morphemes that can exist alone as a complete word are called free morphemes, e.g. happy.

Narrative & Myth Whilst it's true to say that a narrative is no more than a story, the important realisation from an analytical viewpoint is that when we tell or write a story, we all tend to use a very similar form and structure, no matter what the story and whether it is imaginary or not. Narrative is easily one of the most common varieties of social discourse and a day will not pass without you reading or hearing a story - or constructing one of your own.


tackled by the 'hero' during the development or rising action of the narrative; this leads to a climax of action followed by a winding down and tying up of loose ends called the

d�nouement; during this final part of the story, there is the formation of a new equilibrium and a final resolution. Typically, by the end of the narrative, the protagonist's life will have changed in some way and he or she will have learned something useful about life.

From early childhood, we become accustomed to making sense of the complex events of the world through the simplifying and satisfying means of narrative, not noticing the way the form and structure of narrative orders and simplifies reality, most

particularly the way it positions people as either wholly 'good' (= heroes and helpers) or wholly 'bad' (= villains and accomplices). The fact that this is merely a point of view and a massive over-simplification of the realities of life passes us by as we become absorbed by and relate to the characters and events of the

narrative. It has been suggested that we might even be born with such basic structures and forms embedded within our

subconscious; they certainly have an enduring and unshakeable impact upon our psychology. Certainly, it is clear that as human beings we do have a need for security, control and order within our lives and narrative, along with genre, are two very

important means by which order and security can be created in what is, in reality, a disordered and even potentially dangerous universe.


Nonce word 'Nonce' is an archaic word meaning, 'for the one time'. A 'nonce word' is a word that is coined for a particular occasion. Nonce words sometimes catch on and enter everyday usage, initially as neologisms or new words - they are especially common in pop culture, e.g. 'poptastic'; Linguist David Crystal mentions the word 'floodle' someone once used to mean a stretch of water bigger than a puddle but smaller than s flood.



A noun is any word that can form the head word in a noun phrase or be the subject or object of a verb. Semantically speaking, a noun is any word that 'labels' or 'names' a person, thing or idea.

There are several types of noun: common noun (e.g. computer, sandwich, cats), proper noun (proper nouns are names for individual nouns, e.g. Coke, London, Simon), abstract noun (abstract nouns are 'ideas', e.g. death, hunger, beauty), concrete nouns (concrete nouns are solid objects in the real or imaginary world, e.g. bread, butter, clock) collective nouns (collective nouns name groups of individual or things, e.g. parliament, audience collective nouns are often treated as if they were singular, e.g. 'The choir is singing well.'), mass (or non-count) nouns (mass nouns exist as an undifferentiated mass, e.g. card, beer, milk, cake), and count nouns (count nouns exits as countable items, e.g. bottle, pencil).

Orthography (orthographic)

Orthography is the term used in linguistics used to refer to the way that words are spelled.

Participle (participial)

Words made from verbs that are used either with an auxiliary to create a verb tense (e.g. was eaten) or as an adjective to describe a noun (e.g. an eating apple) or as a noun to label a thing (e.g. the singing was loud). Notice that because the participles all derive from verbs, they always retain the idea of action in their meaning.


person plural pronoun the person or people spoken to is referred to as the second person pronoun, i.e. 'you' (both singular and plural) the person or people spoken about is referred to as the third person pronoun, i.e. he / she / it (third person singular) or they (third person plural).

Phonetics Phonology Prosody Phoneme

(phonemic)Diphth ong


Phonetics is the study of the way people physical produce and perceive the different sounds we use to create speech. These sounds are called phonemes and are created by the various 'organs of speech' in the body, including the tongue, the soft and hard palate, lips, pharynx, etc. Phonetics, unlike phonology, is not concerned in any way with the meaning connected to these sounds.

Phonology is the study of the way speech sounds are

structured and how these are combined to create meaning in words, phrases and sentences. Phonology can be considered an aspect of grammar and, just as there are grammar 'rules' that apply to the syntax of a sentence and the morphology of words, there are phonological rules, too.

Even in very early childhood, children are said to be able to produce (i.e. they can articulate) the full range of sounds needed to create all of the words used in any world language, yet as language acquisition progresses, those phonemes that do not apply to their mother tongue become forgotten. This is so much so that in later life, if a second language is then attempted, the pronunciation of non-English phonemes needs to be re-learned - this time at a wholly conscious level, as opposed to the ability to pronounce each English phoneme without any conscious thought. Even 'non-words' such as 'erm', 'uh?', etc. use English phonemes.

An important part of phonology is the study of those sounds that form distinct units within a language. The smallest unit of sound that can, in itself, alter the meaning of a word is called a


phoneme is given a symbol so that the accurate pronunciation of any English word can be represented in writing. Here is the (American) English phonetic alphabet - version of the International Phonetic Alphabet or IPA:

The extra sounds we have above the number of letters we have available in part explains the complexities of English spelling (see orthography). Consider the word might, in which there are three phonemes m-ight-t (represented as m/ai/t using the Phonetic Alphabet), changing just a single phoneme can completely change the meaning of this word, e.g. mate, m-a-te (represented as m/ei/t phonetically).

Some of the extra sounds are there because we use phonemes that are called diphthongs. If the tongue has to move


called a glide.

Phonology also covers the study of important sound features such as rhythm, pitch, tone, melody, stress and intonation. These phonological features of language are aspects of

prosody - they are referred to as the prosodic or suprasegmental features of language.

Phrase (phrasal)

A phrase is a key grammatical unit. In terms of its meaning, a phrase expresses one complete element of a proposition. It will be made up of one or more words and occupy a particular syntactic slot within its clause or sentence, e.g. as subject,

predicate or object. A useful rough and ready 'test' for a phrase is that it can be 'replaced' in its clause or sentence by a single word that is roughly its equivalent. Thus in the sentence, 'That old guy over there has been patiently waiting for three and a half hours already', the noun phrase, 'The tall man over there' could be replaced by 'he'; the verb phrase 'has been patiently waiting' could be replaced by 'waited', the prepositional phrase 'for three and a half hours' could be replaced by 'ages'!

 A phrase acts as a unit with individual meaning, but without sufficiently completeness to be a clause or sentence by itself.


A noun phrase always has a noun as its head word e.g. "a cat"; "the naughty cat"; "that furry black mangy old cat".


(sometimes called a verb

A verb phrase always has a verb as its head "drink"; "has drunk"; "has been drinking";

"seems"; "will be"; "might have been"; "explained "has been explaining".

Adjective phrase (or adjectival phrase)

An adjective phrase always has an adjective as its head word, e.g. "gory", "absolutely foul".

Adverb phrase (or adverbial phrase)

A phrase with an adverb as its head word, e.g. soundly; too evidently; as quickly as possible Prepositional phrase (a

special kind of adverbial

A phrase which has been constructed from a


phrase) single unit of meaning, e.g. "up the road"; "across the street"; "round the bend".

Phrases - with words - are the basic building blocks of clauses and sentences. A phrase can always be split into two parts: its head word which is linked to some kind of modification of the head word. The head word is the central part of the phrase and the remaining words act to modify this head word in some way, e.g. "The peculiarly strong creature" - can you see that the head word of this noun phrase is the noun, "creature"?

As suggested above, a phrase does, in fact, act just like an individual word. The next example sentence contains three phrases and a single main clause. Can you recognise which are the phrases and which is the clause?

In a frenzy, without thinking, he grabbed him by the neck.

You might like to think that, between each word of the three phrases above, there exists a kind of �word glue� that gives the phrase its coherent quality. The phrases "In a frenzy", "without thinking" and "by the neck" all can be seen to exist as individual units of meaning, i.e. as individual phrases.

 Notice that the clause in the above sentence cannot be called a phrase because it is built around a verb (i.e. a verb phrase), "he grabbed him"

Pragmatics (pragmatic)

Pragmatics is an aspect of how language generates meaning - and as such, it falls under the 'umbrella' of semantics, which is the study of meaning. Semantics is often, simplistically, said to be the the study of surface 'sentence meaning' and pragmatics to be the study of the deeper, inferred 'social force' of language.


handwritten or printed page). When this meaning is conveyed semantically, the encoded meaning - the words, phrases and sentences we create - can be easily de-coded without particular thought of the context. Sometimes, however, a deeper, inferred meaning is also encoded within language, and this creates a pragmatic force within the text. Thus, pragmatics operates whenever we write or say one thing semantically but mean to infer extra force to our text or utterance.

 Pragmatics is an absolutely key aspect of any A-level textual analysis as it is so very revealing of important linguistic aspects.

 If you ignore the pragmatic force of language in your analyses, you will lose many marks.

An example will make this clearer. If you think about the phrase, 'Give him one!', the meaning this contains will very much depend upon the social situation in which it is used. It is the noun 'one' that, in certain social situations, will carry different levels of force: it is a pragmatically loaded word, where its precise meaning can only be inferred by the context of the language use.

 Pragmatic meanings can be inferred in this way because, owing to the context of the language use, we are able to 'read into' a word the extra meaning -

the utterance's pragmatic force - conferred on it by the way it is used within a particular social situation.

Pragmatics can allow language to be used in interesting and social ways: knowing that your listener or reader shares certain

knowledge with you allows your conversation to be more


number of words needed to make meaning clear - and hence contributes to a more lively style.

Here are a few examples that require more than a semantic analysis to reveal the intended meaning of the text's words and phrases, but where the pragmatic meaning is perfectly clear:

'BABY SALE - GOING CHEAP' (poster seen in shop window - but no babies are for sale).

'Quick! Fire!' (and you know you must run).'Pass the salt' (and you know it's not an order).

'Are you going into town?' (and you know it's a request for the person to come with you).

'He's got a knife!' (and you don't ask how sharp it is)'I promise to be good.' (and you don't expect a repeat of

the bad deed).

'The present King of England is bald.' (said on TV, yet you can work out what is meant even though we have a queen).

'Another pint...?' (and you know you've already had one).

'I said, 'Now!'' (and you know when).

'Gosh - it's cold in here!' (and someone shuts the door or window).

An important area of pragmatics is in the study of language and power. The implicit understanding of a power relationship between, say, two speakers, is often indicated by the meanings implied by the language used. This meaning can be very context dependent.

Predicate The predicate is all that is written or said in a sentence or clause about its grammatical subject, e.g. The young choir boy [subject] sang every song in the book [predicate].


Preposition (prepositional)

A small word or phrase that begins a longer adverbial phrase (called the object of the preposition) that acts to tell about place, time or manner and relate this aspect to some other word in the sentence, e.g. in, on, by, ahead of, near.

Progressive / continuous

A verb form created from the present (i.e. -ing) participle to tell of a continuing event � e.g. he is laughing his socks off.

Pronoun A word used often - but not always - to replace a noun, e.g. Alex, when the teacher came into the classroom, you mean you really didn't see her? See also person.

Purpose Purpose is the reason why a text was created. This may be, for example, to entertain, explain, instruct, persuade or inform. The purpose of a text is its writer or speaker�s controlling idea: the message they wish the text to leave with the reader or listener. When you consider a text�s purpose, you need to recognise how the writer has chosen stylistic devices to bring about a particular series of effects on the reader. One of the most common purposes is to persuade � and it can be one of the most difficult to

determine because professional writers are experts at making persuasion appear to be information: quite a different thing (as wartime propaganda has shown). Audience is also a way to categorise texts.

Referent A referent is the word to which another word in a sentence or text refers. It is an important element of textual cohesion. For example, a pronoun must have a referent noun which is already understood (this noun is called the pronoun's antecedent) or its meaning will be unclear or ambiguous.

Referents can be exophoric (when the referent is outside of the text), endophoric (when the referent is within the text),


Register When context results in a commonly recognisable style to be produced, the resulting style is called a register (e.g. an informal register, a medical register, a scientific register). Context can be an effective way to categorise texts.

Relative clause A kind of clause (a group of words built around a subject and verb) that is a variety of adjectival clause. Relative clauses are used to give extra detail about the subject or object noun of a main clause in a sentence. e.g. A main clause might be, �The butcher sold me some sausages.' and a relative clause could be, ' who works in Tesco's' . The sentence could then become, 'The butcher, who works in Tesco's, sold me some sausages.'

A relative clause usually begins with a relative pronoun such as: that, which, who, whom, although 'that' is often elided as in: 'He knew [that] we were going early.'.

Repossession Repossession is a term used in the study of language change. It is used to describe a word that has fallen out of general use because it is deemed politically incorrect begins to be reused by the

minority group it once referred to, e.g. the use of the word 'queer' to refer to a homosexual.

Root words A free morpheme to which can be added a affix (a prefix or suffix) that acts to change the root word's meaning or function.

Semantics (semantic)

Semantics is the study of word and phrase meaning (but also see pragmatics). In the new exam specifications for A-level English Language (from 2008-9), it has been combined with lexis.


 An important area of semantics is in the use of idioms or idiomatic language.

Semantic/lexical field or set

This term refers to a relationship that exists between some of the words or phrases used in a text. This might be because the words have all been chosen from a similar area of knowledge or interest, e.g. the lexical field/set of agriculture includes: farm, farming, tractor, meadow, crop, etc. Semantic or lexical fields can be important in the use of metaphor. A metaphor is a figurative use of language in which a thing from one semantic field is described in terms of a different semantic field. For example, in the following description of a football match, the semantic/lexical field of war is used to create particular rhetorical effects: 'The home side gunned down the opposing side with consummate ease'.

Semantic value The semantic value of a unit of something is the meaning it contains. By forming words and structuring sentences following the rules of standard grammar, the semantic value of the sentence and its words and phrases will be clear and unambiguous.

Sentence A sentence is a sequence of words constructed in accordance with the conventions of standard grammar. Such a group will have a sense of completeness and a clarity of meaning. It will usually be constructed around a noun phrase acting as the subject of a finite verb, i.e. it will contain at least one main clause. The rules of grammar concern the order of words in a sentence, technically called its syntax and the form of the words, called their morphology.

Sentence 1) below shows standard syntax and morphology (i.e. standard grammar):

1). 'The cat sat on the mat.'


2). 'The cat sitted the mat on.'

Sentence 3) shows non-standard syntax:

3). 'The cat on the mat sat.'

A group of words that is a sentence is made obvious to the eye (i.e. in writing) by an opening capital letter and a final full stop, question mark or exclamation mark. It is made obvious to the ear (i.e. in speech) by the use of pauses. It is made obvious to the mind because it makes sense alone.

A sentence may loosely be said to be a coherent group of words that expresses a single complete thought about something (or someone).

A sentence can be one of three main types:

1. A simple sentence is a sentence that contains a single subject and verb, i.e. an independent clause .

2. A compound sentence is a sentence that contains more than one main clause. These clauses must be linked by co-ordinating conjunction or a semicolon.

3. A complex sentence is a sentence that contains a mixture of clause types. A complex sentence must contain (as all

sentences) at least one main clause but will also contain a second kind of clause acting as a dependent or subordinate clause. Subordinate clauses often begin with a subordinating

conjunction such as however, although, even though, because, etc. There is also a special kind of sentence, often used in speech, called a 'minor sentence'.


1. It can make a statement. This is called a declarative

sentence, e.g. 'I am overweight.' Declaratives usually follow the word order SV (subject first, verb second)

2. It can ask a question. This is called an interrogative sentence, e.g. 'Am I overweight?' and indicated by a question mark. Interrogatives usually follow the word order VS (verb first, subject second)

3. It can demand an action. This is called an imperative

sentence, e.g. 'Sit down, please.' indicated by a lack of subject (but 'you' is implied).

4. It can make an exclamation. This is called an exclamatory sentence, e.g. 'What a mess!', indicated by an exclamation mark.

'Minor sentence' A minor is a sentence without a subject and/or verb. Exclamations are an example, �Not on your life!' Poets and writers use them to create the effect of real conversation.

Sociolect A sociolect is a variety of language used by a particular social group; a dialect is a variety of language used in a particular geographical region; and an idiolect is the variety of language used by a particular individual.

Sign / signifier / signified

A sign is anything that creates meaning. Words are an important kind of sign composed of symbols called letters. The brain

recognises a word and unconsciously gives it an agreed meaning, but, in fact, the word is merely a symbolic code, one that we learn, mostly during childhood, to 'decode' to find its meaning. Standard English This is the agreed standard national dialect of English. Standard


Stem The 'core' part of a word to which prefixes and suffixes can be added, e.g. interest which can become uninteresting by adding affixes, the prefix un- and the suffix -ing.

Structure (structured / structural)

The structure of something refers to the form of the complete item - such as a sentence or a text - and the way its individual parts have been put together to create a coherent (interrelated) whole. In a phrase, clause or sentence the individual words are related both by their grammatical structure and their semantic properties in a text, the relationship and connections between its structural parts (e.g. its sentences and paragraphs) is considered using discourse analysis.

Style (stylistic)

Style is the result of the choices a writer (or speaker) makes regarding aspects of language, language features and structure with regard to creating a text or discourse that will suit a particular genre, context, audience and purpose. Three key aspects of style that are often worthy of comment are a text's degree of formality or informality, its use of standard or non-standard grammar and its discourse structure. Some skilled writers also develop distinctive, individual aspects of style, which may also be called a 'voice' - akin to a person's spoken idiolect. Subject and object The word 'subject' needs care as it has a particular - and very

important - meaning that is quite distinct to grammar and which is different from its everyday, non-grammar meaning.


Some typical word orders of simple declarative sentences are: SV (subject-verb), SVO object), SVC (subject-verb-complement) or SVA (subject-verb-adverbial).

Some types of verb transfer their action from their subject onto something else (the thing receiving the action of the verb is called its object). These are called transitive verbs. In the above sentence, the verb 'gave' is transitive as action transfers to the object, the noun 'a present'.

Verbs are called intransitive if they do not transfer action, but, instead, act to tell what their subject is doing, e.g. 'He is

working.', 'It died.' Some verbs can be either transitive or intransitive according to their usage in the sentence, e.g. 'He is singing.' (intransitive) and 'He is singing a song.' (transitive).

A few special verbs (stative verbs) have no sense of direct action but, instead, act to make a statement about their subject's state of being. These verbs are called copular or linking verbs, e.g. He seems ill, She is clever, he was a criminal, it appears dark, etc.. The word that follows a stative verb has no action passing on to it so it cannot be called an object; instead, it is termed a complement.

Confusingly, Some verbs can take two objects:

'I gave Sally a present.' (i.e. 'I gave a present to Sally')

In this type of sentence, the object is 'a present' (= the thing given; this is called the DIRECT OBJECT); but there is a second 'object' - the 'receiver' of the direct object. This is termed the INDIRECT OBJECT. Notice that all sentences of this type can be re-written as shown using the word 'to'.

Subjunctive Verb mood used to show a hypothetical situation, e.g. If it were possible, I would do it.


adjective by adding the suffix (or 'adjective marker') -y, as in lucky.

Synonym / antonym

A word that has a closely similar meaning to another word. English has very few true synonyms (e.g. sofa / couch / settee), but many near synonyms, e.g. house - dwelling - home - abode - pad. The existence of synonyms allows variety of word choice according to style and register. A list of synonyms is available in a thesaurus.

An antonym is a word with directly 'opposite' meaning, e.g. black/white good/bad.

Syntax (syntactic / syntactical)

Syntax is the most important aspect of English grammar. It refers to the way words are put together in a group to create meaning as phrases, clauses or as a sentence. Studying the syntax of a sentence involves investigating the structure and relationships of its words.

Standard syntax refers to the syntax of a particular dialect of English called Standard English - this is the syntax you will read in most written texts and hear from teachers in lessons,

newsreaders and in any other more formal context.

Non-standard syntax is a normal part of much spoken English and is common in regional dialects. Syntax does not have to be standard for meaning to be clear such as here in the screen play from the film Star Wars when Yoda speaks:


Ready, are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained! A Jedi must have the deepest

commitment, the most serious mind. (to the invisible

Ben, indicating Luke)


to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things. (turning to Luke)

You are reckless.

Tense Tense refers to the way the time of an action can be directly indicated in a verb by changing its form (i.e. morphologically). English only has two verb tenses - present tense 'I leave.' and past tense, 'I left.'. However, we have many other ways of creating the idea of tense by using auxiliary verbs or other structures that indicate the time of an action. For example, each of the following grammatical structures suggests a future event, or a future aspect (the 'will' construction is often, but loosely, called 'the English future tense'):

I will leave in the morning.

I am going to leave in the morning.I shall leave in the morning.

I leave in the morning.I am leaving in the morning.

Text (textual)

Within linguistics, the word 'text' means any continuous and coherent sequence of writing or speech. See also discourse. Utterance A linguistic term that refers to a spoken text of any kind. Verb


Combined with its subject, the verb becomes the central element of a sentence or clause.

 A main verb is the head word of a verb phrase - sometimes called a verb chain, e.g. 'He hit him hard.'  A lexical verb is the part of the verb chain that suggests

the action involved, e.g. He might have hit him.  A verb that tells of a 'state of being' is a copular or


Verbs that work along with a subject are called finite (e.g. the girl looked). But verbs do not have to work with a subject within a sentence - these are called a verb's non-finite forms (e.g. I like to run). Non-finite forms of verbs can act as other parts of speech:

 The infinitive from of the verb (often used with 'to'), e.g. 'He used to love me.'

 The ed participle form (usually ending with the suffix -ed):

o 'Only the cooked apples should be used.'  The -ing participle form:

o 'He used cooking apples' (adjective). o 'The cooking was superb' (noun).

o 'He will be cooking this evening' (continuous aspect).

Verb chain / phrase

A verb chain has a head word that is a main verb along with one or more 'helper' or auxiliary verbs. Many grammarians reserve the term verb chain for the verb elements alone and use the term verb phrase to include any adverbials that function to modify it, e.g. The car was parked / on the pavement.

Grammatically, a verb chain is always directly linked to and usually follows its subject, usually a noun phrase. The two grammatical units create a clause.

In a verb chain, the main verb can be inflected to show tense (e.g. eat, eaten, ate), agreement (e.g. I eat, she eats) or

continuous action (e.g. He is eating). It can also be pre-modified with an adverb (e.g. He is quietly eating). The auxiliary verbs in a verb chain can be inverted to form a question (e.g. Do you eat spaghetti?).


active clause the subject and object of the main verb are in their usual position, i.e. SVO, 'Alex caught the thief' however, in a passive sentence, the object is transferred to the subject position, e.g. 'The thief was caught by Alex.' This can have the effect of emphasising the object or diminishing the effect of the subject. in fact, in a passive construction, the subject can be hidden completely, e.g. 'The thief was caught.'