Topic: Professional development

Background material for teachers on an array of topics in English language and linguistics. These resources are designed to help teachers feel more confident in their knowledge of the English language, and more adept at leading Englicious lessons, starters, and projects in class.

Want to know more? Or would you like to ask all your questions in a face-to-face session? The Englicious team offers full-day CPD courses entitled English Grammar for Teachers, in conjunction with the UCL Institute of Education and UCL Life Learning. Forthcoming session dates can be found on the IoE and UCL Life Learning websites.

Verbs: Nonfinite and finite

Verbs can be divided into finite and nonfinite forms. Finite verbs carry tense. So, past and present tense verb forms are finite. Nonfinite verbs do not carry tense, and do not show agreement with a Subject. Put differently, they are not 'limited' by tense or agreement.

The infinitive form of a verb is nonfinite. It is the form which follows to:

Verbs: Tense

Tense is a grammatical notion that refers to the way in which a language encodes the real world notion of time. Typically this is done through endings on verbs called inflections. Verbs are the only word class that can carry tense inflections (though they don't always do so). Verbs that carry a tense ending are called finite verbs.

Word classes

Word classes are categories into which we place words. Traditionally these have been called parts of speech, but word class is now the term used by linguists, and by the UK National Curriculum.

The meanings of words can often be helpful in assigning words to a particular category. This is an effective approach for younger students, but older students can take a more sophisticated approach. 

Word classes: Interjections

Interjections are a group of words which are commonly used in spoken language to express emotions, reactions and so on. It is generally difficult to categorise them into one of the eight major word classes.

Examples include the following:

  • oh, wow, aha, ouch, tut-tut, ugh, oops, humph, hooray, yuck, whew, yikes, eek

Interjections can occur on their own, or in sequence (e.g. oh wow), and can also be attached to a sentence. These examples are all from informal conversations:

Word structure

The study of word structure is called morphology. Understanding word structure helps us:

  • improve spelling
  • expand vocabulary

In studying word structure, we start by looking at a few key concepts first:

  • root words
  • prefixes
  • suffixes

Root words are words, or parts of words, that can usually stand alone. The following are all root words:

Word structure: Compounds

Compounds are combinations of root words, i.e. words that can occur on their own, to form a new established combination. They are sometimes spelt as one word, but also with a hyphen or as two words.

In English compound nouns, e.g. bookcaselaptopsmartphone, and compound adjectives, e.g. dripping wettax-free, are very common.

Word structure: Derivation

Derivation is the process of creating new words. The technical term derivational morphology is the study of the formation of new words. Here are some examples of words which are built up from smaller parts:

Word structure: Inflection

Inflection is the process by which a single word takes different forms. For example, if we have the noun cat, we can add a plural ending to it to create cats. This is known as inflecting a noun and the ending we add is called a suffix.

What are the plural forms of the following nouns?


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