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Explaining parts of speech


An adjective can be in the comparative or the superlative form, e.g. He has been absent for two weeks … the most accurate description of the killer to date … The eldest child was called Fiona.


An adverb can be in the comparative or the superlative form, e.g. Much of our behaviour is biologically determined … She blinked hard … Inflation is set to fall further … those areas furthest from the coast.


An auxiliary verb is used with another verb to add particular meanings to that verb, for example, to form the continuous aspect or the passive voice, or to form negatives and interrogatives. The verbs be, do, get, and have have some senses in which they are auxiliary verbs.


A colour word refers to a colour. It is like an adjective, e.g. the blue sky … The sky was blue, and also like a noun, e.g. She was dressed in red … several shades of yellow.


A combining form is a word which is joined with another word, usually with a hyphen, to form compounds, e.g. grey-haired, lemon-flavoured, heat-resistant.


A conjunction usually links elements of the same grammatical type, such as two words, two clauses, or two groups, e.g. She and Simon had already gone … It is completely waterproof, yet light and comfortable … Racing was halted for over an hour while the track was repaired.


A convention is a word or a fixed phrase which is used in conversation, for example when greeting someone, apologizing, or replying, e.g. hello, sorry, no comment.


A countable noun has a plural form, usually made by adding -s. When it is singular, it usually has a determiner in front of it, such as the, her, or such, e.g. My cat is getting fatter … She’s such a good friend.


A determiner is a word that is used at the beginning of a noun group, e.g. a tray, more time, some books, this amount. It can also be used to say who or what something belongsor relates to, e.g. his face, my flat, or to begin a question, e.g. Whose car were they in?


An exclamation is a word or phrase which is spoken suddenly, loudly, or emphatically in order to express a strong emotion such as shock or anger. Exclamations are often followed by exclamation marks, e.g. good heavens!, Ouch!


A fraction is used in numbers, e.g. three and a half, two and two thirds; before of and a noun group, e.g. half of the money, a third of the biscuits, three eighths of the pie; after in or into, e.g. in half, into thirds. A fraction is also used like a count noun, e.g. two halves, the first quarter of the year.


A link verb connects a subject and a complement. Link verbs most commonly occur in the patterns VERB adjectiveand VERB noun. Most link verbs do not occur in the passive voice, e.g. be, become, taste, feel. Some phrasal verbs are link verbs, e.g. I was sure things were going to turn out fine (V P adjective); Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we think they are going to (V PARTICLE noun).


A modal is used before the infinitive form of a verb, e.g. You may go. In questions, it comes before the subject, e.g. Must you speak? In negatives, it comes before the negative word, e.g. They would not like this. It does not inflect, for example, it does not take an –s in the third personsingular, e.g. She can swim.


A number is a word such as three and hundred. Numbers such as one, two, three are used like determiners, e.g. three bears; like adjectives, e.g. the four horsemen; like pronouns, e.g. She has three cases and I have two; and like quantifiers, e.g. Six of the boys stayed behind. Numbers such as hundred, thousand, million always follow a determiner or another number, e.g. two hundred bears … the thousand horsemen … She has a thousand dollars and I have a million … A hundred of the boys stayed behind.


An ordinal is a type of number. Ordinals are used like adjectives, e.g. He was the third victim; like pronouns, e.g. She took the first place and I took the second … the second of the two teams; like adverbs, e.g. The other team came first; and like determiners, e.g. Fourth place goes to Timmy.


A passive verb occurs in the passive voice only, e.g. His parents are rumoured to be on the verge of splitting up. Some phrasal verbs are passive verbs, e.g. The civilians were just caught up in the conflict.


A phrasal verb consists of a verb and one or more particles, e.g. look after, look back, look down on. Some phrasal verbs are linking verbs or passive verbs.


Phrases are groups of words which are used together with little variation and which have a meaning of their own, e.g. They are reluctant to upset the applecart.


A plural noun is always plural, and is used with plural verbs. If a pronoun is used to stand for the noun, it is a plural pronoun such as they or them, e.g. These clothes are ready to wear … He expressed his condolences to the families of people who died in the incident. Plural nouns which end If they refer to a single object which has two main parts, such as jeans and glasses, the expression a pair of is sometimes used, e.g. a pair of jeans. This is shown as PLURAL NOUN: oft a pair of N.


A plural proper noun is a proper noun which is always used in the plural with a plural verb, e.g. … a salesman from the Home Counties.


A predeterminer is used in a noun group before a, the, or another determiner, e.g. What a busy day! … both the parents … all his skill.


A prefix is a letter or group of letters, such as un- or multi-, which is added to the beginning of a word in order to form another word. For example, the prefix un- is added to happy to form unhappy.


A preposition begins a prepositional phrase and is followed by a noun group or a present participle. Patterns for prepositions are shown in the dictionary only if they are restricted in some way. For example, if a preposition occurs only before a present participle, it is shown as PREP v-ing.


Pronouns are used to refer to someone or something that has already been mentioned or whose identity is known, e.g. They produced their own shampoos and hair-care products, all based on herbal recipes … She began to consult doctors, and each had a different diagnosis.


A proper noun refers to one person, place, thing, or institution, and begins with a capital letter. Many proper nouns are used without a determiner, e.g. … higher education in America Father Christmas; some must be used with the, e.g. the Ice Age.


A quantifier comes before of and a noun group, e.g. most of the house.


A singular noun is always singular, and needs a determiner, e.g. … to damage the environment … He looks the epitome of personal and professional contentment.


A suffix is a letter or group of letters such as -ly or -ness, which is added to the end of a word in order to form a new word, usually of a different word class, e.g. quick, quickly.


A title noun is used to refer to someone who has a particular role or position. Titles come before the name of the person and begin with a capital letter, e.g. Sir Isaac Newton, Lady Macbeth.


An uncountable noun refers to things that are not normally counted or considered to be individual items. Uncount nouns do not have a plural form, and are used with a singular verb. They do not need determiners, e.g. … an area of outstanding natural beauty.


A variable noun typically combines the behaviour of both count and uncount nouns in the same sense (see COUNTABLE NOUN and UNCOUNTABLE NOUN). The singular form occurs freely both with and without determiners. Variable nouns also have a plural form, usually made by adding -s. Some variable nouns when used like uncount nouns refer to abstract things like hardship and injustice, and when used like count nouns refer to individual examples or instances of that thing, e.g. He is not afraid to protest against injustice … It is never too late to correct an injustice … the injustices of world poverty. Others refer to objects which can be mentioned either individually or generally,like potato and salad: you can talk about a potato, potatoes, or potato.


A verb is a word such as sing, feel, or die which is used with a subject to say what someone or something does or what happens to them, or to give information about them, e.g. Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder.