Basic Terms

Here are a few important terms; we'll return to them on other pages:


Words come in a variety of types.  You're probably familiar with most types.

: a word denoting [referring to] a person, place, or thing:

     student, city, book, dog

  Abstract noun: a word denoting a quality or state of being:

     promptness, rapidity, appropriateness

  Proper noun: the name of a person, place, or thing:

     William, Toronto, Coca-Cola

Pronoun: a word used in place of ("pro"="for") a noun:

  Personal pronoun: refers to a person:

     I, he, she, you, we, they; me, him, her, us, them

  Impersonal pronoun: refers to a thing:

     it, them

  Plus many other types: possessive pronoun (e.g., my), relative pronoun (e.g., that, who), reflexive
     pronoun (e.g., myself), and so on

Verb: a word denoting an action:

     to walk, to read, to be

Modifier: a word (or phrase or clause) that "modifies," or describes, a noun or a verb.

   Adjective: a word that modifies a noun:

blue, tall, fast

   Adverb: a word that modifies a verb:

sadly, quickly, fast (it can be either)

: a word denoting a position in time or space:

     to, from, in, out, up, down, before, toward, etc.

Article: a word used with a noun to indicate whether something specific ("definite") or more general ("indefinite") is meant:

   Definite article: the
   Indefinite article: a, an

Groups of Words:

To form sentences, we group words together in various combinations.  There are two kinds of groups of words, and it's important to distinguish between them.  First, we need to discuss the role or function of nouns in sentences.  A noun can be the subject or the object of a verb:

Subject: That which performs the action (or "does the verb"):

     The book lies on the table. ("book" as subject)

Object: That which receives the action:

     I liked the book. ("book" as object)

Phrase: A group of words usually based on a noun, verb, or preposition:

   Noun phrase: the brown dog
   Verb phrase: runs quickly
   Prepositional phrase: down the street

Note: a phrase may contain a subject (the noun that does the verb) or the verb denoting the action that the subject is performing, but not both.

Clause: A group of words that includes both the subject and its verb:

     the brown dog runs quickly. ("dog" is the subject; "runs" is its verb)

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