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.

negated modal verb

A modal verb with a negative element tagged onto it. E.g. can’t, won’t, mustn’t, etc.

neoclassical compound

A compound consisting of two combining forms derived from classical languages (Latin and Ancient Greek), e.g. bio- + -logy. See compound.

NICE properties

NICE is an acronym for the four properties that identify auxiliary verbs: negation, inversion, code and emphasis.

nominative case

The form which some pronouns take when they function as Subject, e.g. they, I in They like chocolate, I won a prize. Sometimes called subjective case. Contrasts with the accusative case as in them, me.

non-count noun

A noun which can't be counted, such as furniture or software. We can't talk about *one furniture or *two furnitures, for instance. Because many non-count nouns refer to an undivided mass (e.g. lemonade, coal), they are sometimes called mass nouns. Nouns which can be counted, like chair, are called count nouns.


A term applied to a verb to indicate that it does not carry tense, and also applied to a clause or sentence that does not contain a finite verb.

nonreferential it

The it that we find in expressions pertaining to the weather (e.g. It is raining) or in constructions which exhibit extraposition (e.g. It is wonderful to see you.). See also referential it.


Nouns constitute one of the major word classes, which includes words for people, animals, and things (teacher, rabbit, desk) and also many words for abstract concepts (kindness, mystery, technology).

The surest way to identify nouns is by the ways they can be used after determiners such as the: for example, most nouns will fit into the frame “The __ matters/matter.”

Nouns are sometimes called ‘naming words’ because they name people, places and ‘things’; this is often true, but it doesn’t help to distinguish nouns from other word classes. For example, prepositions can name places and verbs can name ‘things’ such as actions.

  • Our dog bit the burglar on his behind!
  • My big brother did an amazing jump on his skateboard.
  • Actions speak louder than words.

Not nouns:

  • He’s behind you! [this names a place, but is a preposition, not a noun]
  • She can jump so high! [this names an action, but is a verb, not a noun]

Nouns may be classified as common (e.g. boy, day) or proper (e.g. Ivan, Wednesday), and also as countable (e.g. thing, boy) or non-countable (e.g. stuff, money). These classes can be recognised by the determiners they combine with.

  • common, countable: a book, books, two chocolates, one day, fewer ideas
  • common, non-countable: money, some chocolate, less imagination
  • proper, countable: Marilyn, London, Wednesday

Typical nouns share a number of grammatical properties, such as the ability to form a plural (teachers, kindnesses) and to occur after a/an or the (a teacher, the kindness of strangers).

See also noun phrase

noun phrase

A noun phrase is a phrase with a noun as its Head, e.g. some foxes, foxes with bushy tails. Some grammarians recognise one-word phrases, so that foxes are multiplying would contain the noun foxes acting as the head of the noun phrase foxes.

  • Adult foxes can jump. [adult modifies foxes, so adult belongs to the noun phrase]
  • Almost all healthy adult foxes in this area can jump. [all the other words help to modify foxes, so they all belong to the noun phrase]

See also expanded noun phrase.


A grammatical term for the contrast between singular and plural. This contrast is seen in many nouns (e.g. spider/spiders) and pronouns (e.g. I/we).


Cardinal numerals, e.g. one, two, three, as in I ate three bowls of spaghetti, are often said to belong to 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.
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