7.1 Glossary - Key language concepts


Understanding words used to describe language and grammar will help you to improve your understanding of English more rapidly. This is a glossary of the most important terms used on this course.

Browse the glossary using this index

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F

finite subordinate clause

A subordinate clause which contains a finite (tensed) verb.

finite subordinate clause main clause
Even though Bogota has a population of 11 million people, it does not have a train or metro network.
Since it is a public holiday, there won't be too much traffic on the roads.

 

Compare these to non-finite subordinate clauses, which do not contain a finite verb: 

non-finite subordinate clause main clause
Despite having many beautiful beaches, there is not much tourism in the region.

finite verb

A finite verb is one that occurs in a position in a sentence that shows tense. Therefore, finite verbs can change their form by inflection:

  • He wants to study at the best university in his country.

In the example above 'wants' is finite because it is showing the present simple tense and third person by adding an 's'. However, 'to study' cannot change form and is an example of a non-finite verb in this context.


G

gerund

A noun formed with '-ing' which is used to make a noun phrase or part of a noun phrase. The gerunds in the sentences below are highlighted with italics.

  • Smoking is bad for you.
  • We spent the whole day making desserts.
  • Winning the lottery has always been my number one dream.

I

infinitive

The most simple form of the verb. This is nearly always in its present simple form, e.g.

  • go, have, want

Or we say the infinitive 'with to' for

  • to go, to have, to want

intransitive verb

An intransitive verb is a verb which cannot be immediately followed by an object noun phrase:

  • My friends have arrived.
  • He died suddenly.
  • They escaped from prison.

On the other hand, transitive verbs must be immediately followed by a noun:

  • She wrote a letter.

Online dictionaries usually indicate whether a noun is transitive [T] or intransitive [I]. Some verbs can be both depending on the sense and context that they are being used in.


L

linking word

Linking words, also known as connectors, help to link ideas expressed in clauses or sentences together.

Example linking words although, however, even so, as a result, therefore, as long as etc.

Adding a linker to the improves the cohesion by connecting the ideas expressed in the sentences more explicitly:

  • We do not have much money. My wife still wants to buy a car.
  • Despite not having much money, my wife still wants to buy a car.

M

main clause

A clause which consists of at least a subject and verb and which can stand alone, e.g. it does not require another clause for it to be complete, unlike a subordinate clause which does. Some common patterns:

main clause
Many plant and animal species are dying.

 

main clause conjunction main clause
Many plant and animal species are dying and this is a tragedy.

 

subordinate clause main clause
As the temperature of the world continues to increase, many plant and animal species are dying.

modal verb

A kind of verb that reflects functions like possibility, obligation, advice, predictions etc. These verbs are always followed by an infinitive without 'to'.

  • We should leave now.
  • We must buy a new car.
  • We will go shopping tomorrow.
  • We could go to the cinema this evening.

N

non-finite clause

A subordinate clause which does not contain a finite verb. Here are some of the main kinds:

non-finite subordinate clause with gerund main clause
Knowing what my friend is like, he'll probably arrive late.
Despite having many beautiful beaches, there is not much tourism in the region.

 

non-finite subordinate clause with past participle main clause
Painted by Picasso in 1937, Guernica portrays the horrors of war.

 

verbless non-finite subordinate clause main clause
In the 1960s in my country, there was a lot of political unrest.

 

Compare these to finite subordinate clauses which contain a finite verb:

finite subordinate clause main clause
Even though Bogota is a city of 11 million people, it does not have a train or metro network.

non-finite verb

A verb in a sentence that cannot be changed (inflected) for tense, person etc. These verbs usually follow finite verbs. In the following sentence 'have' is finite and 'been' and 'planning' are non-finite:

  • I have been planning to move abroad for a while now.


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