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.


A feature of spoken language used to cover a pause or break in speech. For example, many speakers say uh, uhm, or er, and so on to fill pauses in speech. Fillers can be observed and studied in corpora.


Finite verbs are verbs that carry tense and relate to a subject.

Every sentence typically has at least one verb which is either past or present tense. Such verbs are called ‘finite’. The imperative verb in a command is also finite.

  • Lizzie does the dishes every day. [present tense]
  • Even Hana did the dishes yesterday. [past tense]
  • Do the dishes, Naser! [imperative]

Verbs that are not finite, such as participles or infinitives, cannot stand on their own: they are linked to another verb in the sentence.

Not finite verbs:

  • I have done them. [combined with the finite verb have]
  • I will do them. [combined with the finite verb will]
  • I want to do them! [combined with the finite verb want]

Note that the term finite is applied to a verb to indicate that it carries tense, and also applied to a clause or sentence that contains a finite verb.


A term often used in the analysis of literary texts, where a particular linguistic feature 'stands out' against the norms of ordinary language. Foregrounding can be achieved via any part of the language system: phonology, lexis, grammar, semantics, etc. It is done by creating patterns (known as parallelism) or breaking away from established patterns (known as deviation).


The structural categories we can assign an element or group of elements to, such as word classes, phrases, and clauses. Form is distinct from the function that an element or group plays within a larger structure. For example, a group of words with the form of a noun phrase can have different functions in the clause, such as Subject or Direct Object. The term 'form' is also used to refer to the 'shape' or morphology of words.

fronted adverbial

See fronting.


A word or phrase that normally comes after the verb may be moved before the verb: when this happens, we say it has been ‘fronted’. For example, a fronted adverbial is an adverbial which has been moved before the verb. When writing fronted phrases, we often follow them with a comma.

  • Before we begin, make sure you’ve got a pencil. [Without fronting: Make sure you’ve got a pencil before we begin.]
  • The day after tomorrow, I’m visiting my granddad. [Without fronting: I’m visiting my granddad the day after tomorrow.]


The part that a word or constituent plays within a larger structure - for example, Subject, Object and Adverbial are functions within the clause. Function is distinct from form, which concerns structural categories such as word classes. Functional elements can be 'filled' by different formal elements - for example, in The boy ate the biscuits, the boy is both a noun phrase (form) and the Subject (function). The same noun phrase can operate as the Object (function) in a different example, such as She told the boy.

Functional labels always begin with a capital letter.

function word

Another term for grammatical word.


Future time can be expressed in many different ways in English, but English does not have a future tense.

Reference to future time can be marked in a number of different ways in English. All these ways involve the use of a present tense verb. See also tense. Unlike many other languages (such as French, Spanish or Italian), English has no distinct ‘future tense’ form of the verb comparable with its present and past tenses.

  • He will leave tomorrow. [present-tense will followed by infinitive leave]
  • He may leave tomorrow. [present-tense may followed by infinitive leave]
  • He leaves tomorrow. [present-tense leaves]
  • He is going to leave tomorrow. [present tense is followed by going to plus the infinitive leave]
Englicious (C) Survey of English Usage, UCL, 2012-18 | Supported by the AHRC and EPSRC. | Privacy notice Cookies