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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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.

noun clause

A kind of finite subordinate clause that functions as the object of certain verbs (e.g. believe, hope) adjectives (e.g. clear, evident) or nouns (fact, shame). As they are finite, they always have a subject and verb and sometimes an object. They are often introduced with 'that'. The noun clauses are highlighted in the sentences below:

  • I have no doubt that the unemployment rate will continue to rise.
  • It is certain that there will be more people studying online courses in the coming years.
  • I believe anyone can achieve high marks at school if they work hard.
  • It is a shame that many young people find it difficult to get a job these days.


noun phrase

 A word or group or words that acts as a subject or object within a sentence.

Noun phrases in subject position:

  • Simon likes reading.
  • Smart phones are becoming increasingly popular.
  • My friend's house is huge.
  • Money does not grow on trees.
  • Happiness is something that cannot be bought.
  • The government of my country is very right wing.
  • Putting off doing homework until the last minute is never a good idea.
  • The film that I watched last night was really enjoyable.

Noun phrases in object position:

  • Many people in my country love cooking.
  • Children eat too much fast food nowadays.
  • We heard a loud bang.
  • Many people across the world still suffer from poverty.
  • His poor grades were caused by his lack of interest in academic subjects.