Go to site main page,
Student Resources main page

Content created: 2021-05-09
File last modified:

Grammar Terms
A Guide for College Students

What this is about. The word “grammar” refers to formal features of language above the level of phonology. (Other views.) Not surprisingly a large technical vocabulary is involved. A lot of it involves words children learn in middle school, words like “conjunction,” “subject,” and “adjective.” Often such words are forgotten by the time students reach college, when they meet them again in language classes (together with other terms like “aorist,” “stative verb,” or “absolutive”).

How this is organized. This cover page contains a quick reminder of some major terms often forgotten from middle school. It also serves as an index to expansion pages that provide more detail, more terms, and lots of examples.

I have tried to cover the terms most often encountered in descriptions of English and other languages college students frequently study. (Footnote for people who like pettifoggery.) Occasional reference is made to Esperanto, since it is a language that college students ought to study.

Here is a list of expansion pages and an overview of what is to be found on each.

Syntax & Morphology
Linked page includes: syntax, morphology, morpheme, semantics, word, phrase, clause, sentence
Syntax is the set of rules describing the ways in which words are combined into sentences.
Morphology is the set rules describing the structure of words.
Miscellaneous Technical Terms
Page includes: affix, antecedent, antonym, cognate, correlative, ending, false friends, Germanic languages, homonym, inflection, part of speech, prefix, Romance languages, root, stem, synonym
An affix is a small word element that cannot occur independently, but only attached to a root or stem. Affixes are classified by their position (prefix, suffix/ending, or in some languages infix) or, for some languages, by the category of function they perform (agglutinative affix or grammatical affix).
An antecedent is the word or phrase to which a pronoun refers.
Cognate means having a common ancestor. For example, Spanish “tomato” and Frenchtomate are cognate words.


Return to top.

Sounds of Spoken Language
Linked page includes: phoneme, allophone, vowel, consonant, fricative, stop
A vowel is a voiced speech sound (i.e., one made with vocal chords vibrating) made with a generally open speech track so that little friction is passed as air passes through it. “Ah, “eeee,” “üüüüü” are vowels.
A consonant is a speech sound made by constriction of the vocal tract such that the flow of air produces audible friction —“fricatives”— or is briefly stopped and then released —“stops.” Consonants may be voiced or unvoiced.
Parts of Sentences
Linked page includes: sentence, subject, predicate, object, direct object, oblique object (indirect, benefactive)
The subject of a sentence (or clause) is the person or thing —the actor— performing the action of the verb.
The predicate is all parts of a sentence or clause other than its subject.
The direct object is the person or thing receiving the action of the verb.
An oblique object is any participant in the action of the sentence other than the subject or direct object. The most common types are “indirect object” and “benefactive object,” respectively the person to whom and the person for whom an action is performed.
Nouns & Pronouns
Linked page includes: noun, declension, pronoun (interrogative, personal, intensive, reflexive), person, gender, number (plural, dual, singular), case (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, benefactive, instrumental, locative, prepositional, ablative, vocative)
A noun is a word used to name a person, animal, place, thing, idea, or abstraction. Words like “house,” “Gerald,” “militarism,” “Connecticut,” and “hypochondria” are nouns. Nouns include “proper names” such as Rosalind and Romania.
A pronoun is used in a sentence to take the place of a noun. Words like “she,” “it,” and “myself” are pronouns.
Adjectives & Adverbs
Linked page includes: adjective (descriptive, interrogative, numerical, demonstrative, indefinite, possessive, predicate), modify, comparison, comparitive, superlative, adverb
An adjective is a word used to modify (i.e., to describe or limit) a noun or noun phrase. Words like “red,” “tall” “exhausted” are adjectives. Adjectives formed from verbs are participles.
An adverb is an invariant word that modifies a verb, adjective, another adverb, or occasionally a whole sentence.


Return to top.

Verbs
Linked page includes: verb (finite, auxiliary), conjugation, principal parts, irregular verb, transitivity, transitive verb, intransitive verb, participle, gerund, infinitive, participle, aspect, tense, simple tenses, compound verb forms (future tense, perfect tense, customary verbs, progressive verbs, intensive verbs, negative verbs, concatenations, voice (active, passive, reflexive, middle), mood (indicative, interrogative, imperative, subjunctive, conditional)
A verb is a word representing an action or state. “Eat,” “chirp,” “be,” “invade,” and “have” are verbs. A distinction is made between “finite” verbs (the vast majority) and “auxiliary” or “helping” verbs used together with finite verbs to show mood or tense.
A transitive verb takes or implies a direct object.
An intransitive verb neither takes nor implies a direct object.
A participle is an adjective derived from a verb, and unlike other adjectives can be passive or active, and can have tense.
Simple tenses in English are present and past. (In the third person singular (he, she, it), the present tense takes a final S.) Other tenses are made with compound verb forms.
Voice is the way in which a transitive verb shows whether it relates to the actor (“active” voice) or the object of the action (“passive” voice). (All intransitive verbs are inherently in the active voice.)
Mood refers to the factuality of a verb. Common moods are indicative, interrogative, imperative, subjunctive, and conditional.
Uninflected Little Words (Particles)
Linked page includes: article, conjunction (coordinating, subordinating), interjection, preposition
A conjunction is a word which links two nouns, phrases, or clauses. It may be “coordinating” or “subordinating,” depending upon whether the two items have an equal or unequal status. “And,” “or,” “if,” and “but” are conjunctions. A subordinating conjunction attaches a subordinate clause to a main clause. Some conjunctions work as pairs: “both … and,” “neither … nor,” “if … then.”
A preposition is an invariant (unchanging) word used to link a noun or noun phrase in order to modify a noun or verb. “Beneath,” “across,” and “from” are prepositions.


Return to top.