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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abstract noun

Abstract nouns refer to ideas or qualities, rather than a physical entity (concrete noun). The following are examples of abstract nouns:

  • belief
  • dedication
  • romance
  • unemployment
  • communication



An adverb is a word that gives additional information about an action or idea. They fall into several categories:

Category Example
manner carefully; slowly
frequency always; often
time and place now; here
relative time already; recently; soon
degree extremely; rather; very
quantity a lot; a little
focusing even; also; only; particularly
marking attitude apparently; fortunately

Source: Grammar for English Language Teachers p.29 (c) Cambridge University Press.

adverbial clause

A type of subordinate clause that adds information to a main clause. These clauses can be finite or non-finite. In the following examples, adverbial clauses are shown in italics:

  • I always complete essays with great care and detail.
  • Although there are arguments both for and against the issue, I think the arguments against are stronger.
  • I will go and study in England as long as I achieve 6.5 in the IELTS exam.
  • Before making a decision, I always ask my wife for her opinion.

auxiliary verb

These are verbs that help to make tenses, negative statements, questions etc. In English, 'be', 'have' and 'do' are auxiliary verbs. Here are the most basic rules:

  • be (e.g. am, is, are, was, were) + ing = continuous aspect
  • have/has/had + past participle = perfect aspect
  • don't/didn't + infinitive = simple aspect