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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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.