Glossary of Grammatical Terms
There are hundreds of words about words but, thankfully, most of them we
don't all need to know. But a few are very helpful and well worth learning.
Here is a list of essential grammatical terms.
Categories of words
With the exception of a, an, and the (which are called articles), every English word fits into
one of eight categories. The two most important categories are nouns and verbs.
Nouns A noun names a person, place, thing, idea, or quality. A proper
noun names a particular person, place, or thing.
Nouns > the girl, the house, the truth, the beauty
Proper nouns > Paris, Mary, July, the United Nations
Pronouns A pronoun stands in place of a noun (to save us having to repeat
the noun). The noun represented by the pronoun is referred to as the
pronoun's antecedent. In the example below, the noun Tim is the
antecedent of the pronouns who, his, he, and him.
Pronouns > Tim, who always washes his hands before he
eats, knows cleanliness is good for him.
Adjectives An adjective describes a noun (or pronoun). It specifies which noun,
qualifies what kind of noun, or limits how many nouns we are talking
Adjectives > that house, the large house, one house
Prepositions A preposition shows the relationship of a noun (or pronoun) to
something else. It tells us where, when, or how something has
Prepositions > The cat sat on the mat under Mary's bed.
Verbs A verb names an action (write, dream, run) or state of being (be,
Verbs > As I opened the door I knew I was home.
Adverbs An adverb modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. When
modifying a verb it tells us where, when, how, or why the action has
occurred. With many notable exceptions (like well), adverbs usually
end in -ly.
Adverbs > he ran quickly, she was really well liked, the
package arrived early
Conjunctions A conjunction joins (or illustrates the relationship between) words,
phrases and clauses.
Conjunctions > you and me, these but not those
Interjections Interjections are exclamations, yes-no answers, or pauses.
Interjections > Wow! Hey! yes, no, um, ah
Don't be confused by words that appear to belong to multiple categories. Many
words belong to two, three, or even more categories. (At a stretch, what fits six!?)
the ship (noun), to ship (verb)
Names For Groups Of Words
Letters form words, which form phrases, which form clauses, which form sentences,
which form paragraphs, and so on.
Phrases Phrases are made up of one or more words. The term is used to group
words by their function.
Phrases > The fireman [noun phrase] quickly climbs [verb
phrase] the ladder [noun phrase].
Clauses Clauses must include a subject (usually a noun or noun phrase) and a
Clause > The fireman [subject] quickly climbs [verb] the
Sentences Sentences are made up of one or more clauses.
Sentence > The fireman quickly climbs the ladder [first clause]
and [conjunction] [he] steps onto the roof [second
Names for the roles of words and
English is what some linguists call an SVO language. SVO stands for subject-verb-object
and, in a nutshell, this describes the structure of our language.
Subject English clauses usually start with the subject: the person or thing acting
Subjects > John runs. The fireman climbs the ladder. Mary
gives her keys to Peter. The car is red.
Verb Next comes the verb: the action (write, dream, run) or state of being
(be, appear, feel).
Verbs > John runs. The fireman climbs the ladder. Mary
gives her keys to Peter. The car is red.
Object Last is the object (also called the verb complement). A direct object
is a person or thing directly affected by the verb.
Direct object > Mary gives her keys to Peter.
An indirect object is a person or thing affected by a direct object.
Indirect object > Mary gives her keys to Peter.
Verbs that describe a state of being (like be, appear), don't require an
object. Instead, the object position is occupied by a subject
complement that tells us more about the subject. And some verbs (like
run, sleep) can stand alone.
No object > John runs.
The car is red.
Don't be confused by one-word sentences (like Stop! or No.). To save us writing or
speaking unnecessary words, English allows us to imply words.
One-word [You] Stop!
sentences > No [I won't stop].
Adapted from www.usingenglish.com/glossary.html
LATTC Writing Center Rev. March 1, 2009 Title V Funded