The Englicious Glossary includes the new National Curriculum glossary terms, which are shown against a white background. However, there's much more to be found here:

  • we have added many entries that we feel are important, but cannot be found in the NC Glossary (e.g. connective), and
  • in many cases we have added information to the often very brief NC entries that need further explanation (e.g. clause and phrase).

Please note that in line with our practice throughout the site, we use capital letters for function terms such as Subject, Direct Object, Indirect Object, Modifier, etc. Although this convention is not followed in the documentation published by the Department for Education we have also done so in the text that forms part of the National Curriculum Glossary.

Tip: Within our units and resources, Glossary items appear highlighted within the text. When you hover over them, or click on them in the Slideshow, a popup is generated.

declarative clause

The most common clause type, which usually has regular grammatical ordering with the Subject before the verb phrase, and which is usually, though not exclusively, used to make a statement.

definite article

In English the word the is called the definite article. The indefinite article is a(n). Both belong to the word class of determiner.


The way that language can refer or 'point' to different things in different contexts. For example, the demonstrative pronoun that in spoken English can refer to a specific thing in the real world at a particular moment, but it can be used to refer to different things by different people in different times and places. Personal pronouns like she and it also show deixis, and are said to be deictic.

demonstrative pronoun

One of a small set of pronouns (this, that, these, those) which are used to 'point to' ('demonstrate') something which can be identified from the context (e.g. This is nice).


The process by which one word is derived from another. For example, the adjective readable is derived from the verb read by the addition of an ending (or suffix), while the verb butter is derived from the noun butter without any change of form.

derivational morphology

Branch of morphology concerned with how words are formed from other words. For example, from kind we can derive words like unkind, kindly, kindness and unkindness by adding elements at the start or end of the word.


A descriptive approach to language aims to describe the way people actually use the language. It contrasts with a prescriptive approach, which aims to give people rules for how they should use the language.


A determiner specifies a noun as known or unknown, and it goes before any modifiers (e.g. adjectives or other nouns).

Some examples of determiners are:

  • articles (the, a or an)
  • demonstratives (e.g. this, those)
  • possessives (e.g. my, your)
  • quantifiers (e.g. some, every).
  • the home team [article, specifies the team as known]
  • a good team [article, specifies the team as unknown]
  • that pupil [demonstrative, known]
  • Julia’s parents [possessive, known]
  • some big boys [quantifier, unknown]


  • home the team, big some boys [both incorrect, because the determiner should come before other modifiers]

'Determiner' is a word class label. It's a cover term for a range of word classes that are also known by other names, as the National Curriculum entry makes clear. Determiners typically occur before a noun within a noun phrase to indicate the type of reference the noun has, e.g. the, a/an, this, that, many, all. The so-called cardinal numerals, e.g. one, two, three, as in I ate three bowls of spaghetti, are sometimes included in the class of determiners. However, their classification is disputed, because there are also reasons for regarding them as nouns, for example the fact that we can pluralise them, as in They travelled in twos and threes. The ordinal numerals, e.g. first, second, etc. are adjectives. In a few cases determiners occur outside noun phrases, e.g. I don't like chocolate that much.


A type of grapheme where two letters represent one phoneme. Sometimes, these two letters are not next to one another; this is called a split digraph.

  • The digraph ea in each is pronounced /i:/.
  • The digraph sh in shed is pronounced /ʃ/.
  • The split digraph i–e in line is pronounced /aɪ/.

Direct Object

A function label for an element in the clause which typically comes after the verb phrase and identifies the person or thing that undergoes the situation described by the main verb. For example, in Greg stroked the dog, the function of Direct Object is filled by the dog. See also Object, which is the term preferred in the National Curriculum.


A label for the main use (or discourse function) of an imperative clause, that is, getting someone to do something. For example, Be quiet is an imperative that would typically be used as a directive. However, other clause types are also sometimes used to issue directives, e.g. the interrogative clause Could you be quiet?.

discourse function

This term refers to how a particular expression is used on a particular occasion. The discourse function of a sentence depends on the context, for example Can you give me a call? might be a command or a question. Discourse functions include commands, statements and questions.

discourse marker

Discourse markers (also called pragmatic markers) are usually short words, phrases or clauses that are used by participants in spoken language to signal various meanings such as agreement, anger, surprise, etc. They can also signal a change in speaker (turn-taking) or the desire to terminate a conversation. Examples are ah, oh, well, yeah, oh my god, etc.

discourse structure

The way in which a text is organised, including the words and grammatical elements that link portions of a text to each other.


A term which refers to the arrangement of words, phrases, and so on in sentence structure. For example, in observing that in English sentences noun phrases typically occur in Subject position, Direct Object position, and after prepositions, we are talking about the distribution of noun phrases.

ditransitive verb

A verb that takes an Indirect Object and a Direct Object, as in the following sentence: Simone sent me a letter, where me is the Indirect Object, and a letter is the Direct Object.


This term refers to the insertion of the dummy auxiliary do to add emphasis, to form interrogative sentences, etc. in sentences which do not already contain an auxiliary. For example, if we want to change the following sentence into an interrogative form we need to add do:

  • Denise opened the file
    ~Did Denise open the file?

dummy auxiliary do

An auxiliary verb that is inserted by do-support to add emphasis, to form interrogative structures, etc. It is called dummy because it does not carry strong lexical meaning. Instead, it has a grammatical purpose only.
Englicious (C) Survey of English Usage, UCL, 2012-15 | Supported by the AHRC and EPSRC. | Cookies