The Englicious Glossary includes the new National Curriculum glossary terms, which are shown against a white background. However, there's much more to be found here:

  • we have added many entries that we feel are important, but cannot be found in the NC Glossary (e.g. connective), and
  • in many cases we have added information to the (often very brief) NC entries that need further explanation (e.g. clause and phrase).

Please note that in line with our practice throughout the site, we use capital letters for function terms such as Subject, Direct Object, Indirect Object, Modifier, etc. Although this convention is not followed in the documentation published by the Department for Education we have also done so in the text that forms part of the National Curriculum Glossary.

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An idiom is an expression whose meaning cannot be derived from its constituent parts, and that is unique to a particular language. For example, in English the phrase paint the town red means ‘to have a good time while going out’. But the equivalent phrase in French has a literal meaning only

imperative clause

A clause type which usually lacks a Subject and has a verb in the base form, and which is generally used to issue a directive (that is, to get someone to do something). Examples are Be quiet and Leave your belongings in the cloakroom. See also declarative clause, exclamative clause, interrogative clause.

indefinite article

In English the word a(n) is called the indefinite article. The definite article is the. Both belong to the word class of determiner.

indefinite pronoun

See pronoun.

Indirect Object

A function label for an element in the clause which typically comes after the verb phrase and before the Direct Object. The Indirect Object in a sentence is typically a noun phrase or pronoun that refers to someone or something that can be seen as the goal, recipient or beneficiary of the action expressed by the verb. For example, in We sent Kate some flowers the function of Indirect Object is filled by Kate. See also Object.


A verb’s infinitive is the basic form used as the head-word in a dictionary (e.g. walk, be).

Infinitives are often used:

  • after to
  • after modal verbs.
  • I want to walk.
  • I will be quiet.

The infinitive with to is called the to-infinitive, whereas the infinitive without to, for example after modal verbs, is called the bare infinitive. We can then say that the clause after a modal verb is a bare infinitive clause (e.g. We can send you some more information.)


When we add -ed to walk, or change mouse to mice, this change of morphology produces an inflection (‘bending’) of the basic word which has special grammar (e.g. past tense or plural). In contrast, adding -er to walk produces a completely different word, walker, which is part of the same word family. Inflection is sometimes thought of as merely a change of ending, but, in fact, some words change completely when inflected.

  • dogs is an inflection of dog.
  • went is an inflection of go.
  • better is an inflection of good.

An inflection is a change to the base form of a word to express grammatical information, usually by adding an ending (or suffix). Sometimes inflection involves another kind of change to the base form (e.g. mouse/mice).

inflectional morphology

Branch of morphology which looks at different forms of the same dictionary word. For example, laugh, laughs, laughed, laughing are different forms (called inflectional forms) of the verb laugh, which are used in different contexts. See also inflection.

information structuring

The ability to structure the presentation of information in different ways in sentences and clauses, for example to place emphasis on a particular part. Typical strategies for information structuring include employing passive voice and preposing or postposing elements.

  • I really like those shoes ~ Those shoes, I really like [them] (preposing).
  • I left the cake out in the rain ~ The cake was left out in the rain [by me] (passive).

See also fronting.

-ing participle

See present participle.


A word formation process whereby the first letters of words in a phrase are combined into a new word. Examples include NATO as well as UN. See also acronym.


Intensifiers modify adjectives and adverbs to increase their strength (e.g. very cold and extremely carefully). Also known as an intensifying adverb. Despite the name, intensifying adverbs can also decrease the strength of the adverb (e.g. quite untidy).


A minor word class consisting of such words as oh, ah, ouch and yuck, which express reactions, emotions and so on. They can occur alone; they can also occur within longer utterances, but do not form grammatical relationships with other words.

international phonetic alphabet

A universally recognised alphabet for the transcription of human speech sounds. It features a symbol for each sound of the world's languages.

interrogative clause

A clause type which is characterised by Subject-verb inversion and/or a fronted wh-phrase, and which is usually (though not exclusively) used to ask questions. Examples are Have you looked at this article? and Who told you that?

interrogative pronoun

A pronoun which can be used to ask a question, e.g. who, what.


A term used to define 'texts in relation to other texts', i.e. in any given text (written or read) a continual 'dialogue' is being set up with other texts (both literary and non-literary) that exist outside it, both currently and historically. For example, Allan Ahlberg's The Jolly Postman plays on our awareness of famous fairy tales; and when e. e. cummings writes all in green went my love riding he evokes the medieval ballad form.

intransitive preposition

A preposition that does not have a noun phrase as its Complement, as in He came in. See also transitive preposition.

intransitive verb

A verb which does not need an Object in a sentence to complete its meaning is described as intransitive. See transitive verb.

  • We all laughed.
  • We would like to stay longer, but we must leave.
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