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Grammatical Terms

Grammatical Terms/Word Classes/Features of Sentences





A noun is a ‘naming’ word: a word used for naming an animal, a person, a place or a thing.

Proper noun

This is a noun used to name particular people and places: Jim, Betty, London... – and some ‘times’: Monday, April, Easter… It always begins with a capital letter.

Common noun

A common noun is a noun that is used to name everyday things: cars, toothbrushes, trees,… – and kinds of people: man, woman, child …

Collective noun

This is a noun that describes a group or collection of people or things: army, bunch, team, swarm…

Abstract noun

An abstract noun describes things that cannot actually be seen, heard, smelt, felt or tasted: sleep, honesty, boredom, freedom, power …









An adjective is a ‘describing’ word: it is a word used to describe (or tell you more about) a noun.


Example: The burglar was wearing a black jacket, a furry hat and a large mask over his face. (The words in bold tell us more about the noun that follows)


An adjective usually comes before a noun but sometimes it can be separated from its noun and come afterwards (e.g.: Ben looked frightened; the dog was very fierce)

Interrogative (‘asking’) adjectives

e.g.: What? Which? … They are used to ask questions about a noun. Example: Which hat do you prefer?

Possessive adjectives

e.g.: my, our, their, his, your … Possessive adjectives show ownership. Example.: Sue never brushes her hair.

Adjectives of number or quantity

e.g. much, more, most, little, some, any, enough … These answer the question: How much?

Example: She invited five friends for breakfast; she did not have any food left

Demonstrative (‘pointing-out’) adjectives


e.g.: this, that, these, those… Demonstrative adjectives answer the question: Which? Example: Those apples and these pears are bad; That man stole this handbag.







A verb is a word, or a group of words, that tells you what a person or thing is being or doing. It is often called a ‘doing’ word: e.g. running, eating, sitting.

All sentences have a subject and a verb. The subject is the person or thing doing the action: Example: Cats purr (Cats is the subject and purr is the verb)



Auxiliary verb

A verb is often made up of more than one word. The actual verb-word is helped out by parts of the special verbs: the verb to be and the verb to have. These ‘helping’ verbs are called auxiliary verbs and can help us to form tenses.

Auxiliary verbs for ‘to be’ include: am, are, is, was, were,

Auxiliary verbs for ‘to have’ include: have, had, hasn’t, has, will have, will not have. Examples:

I have arrived (‘arrived’ is the main verb and ‘have’ is the auxiliary verb) We are waiting (‘waiting’ is the main verb and ‘are’ is the auxiliary verb)







An adverb tells you more about the verb (it ‘adds’ to the verb). It nearly always answers the questions: How? When? Where? or Why?

Most adverbs in English end in –ly and come from adjectives:

E.g. soft – softly; slow – slowly.




Adverb or Adjective?

Some words can be either adverbs or adjectives depending on what they do in a sentence, e.g. fast, hard, late.

If they answer the questions: How? When? Where? or Why? – they are adverbs.

If they answer the question: “What is it like?” - they are adjectives, and will be telling you more about a specific noun.


Life is hard. (adjective)                    Kim works hard. (adverb)

The train arrived early. (adverb)     I took an early train. (adjective)






Sometimes you refer to a person or a thing not by its actual name, but by another word which stands for it. The word you use to stand for a noun is called a pronoun (which means ‘for a noun’)

We use pronouns so that we do not have to repeat the same nouns over again.


Have a look at the following sentence: When Barnaby stroked the cat and listened to the cat purring softly, Barnaby felt calm and peaceful.

Compare it with the same sentence where some of the nouns have been replaced by pronouns: When Barnaby stroked the cat and listened to it purring softly, he felt calm and peaceful.

Singular pronouns

Singular pronouns are used to refer to one person or thing.

E.g.: I, you, me, he, she, it, you, him, her, mine, yours, his, hers, its

Plural pronouns

Plural pronouns are used to refer to more than one person or thing. E.g.: we, they, us, them, ours, yours, theirs


Other word classes and grammatical terms






Prepositions are words which show the relationship of one thing to another. Examples: Tom jumped over the cat.

The monkey is in the tree.

These words tell you where one thing is in relation to something else.


Other examples of prepositions include: up, across, into, past, under, below, above …



Connectives (conjunctions)

Connectives (conjunctions) join together words, phrases, clauses and sentences. They help us to create compound sentences by joining two main clauses together.


E.g.: She went to the shops. She bought a box of chocolates. We can use a conjunction to join these sentences together: She went to the shops and bought a box of chocolates.


Other connectives (conjunctions) include: but, as, so, or …


Subordinating connectives

Subordinating connectives link a main (independent) clause with a subordinate (dependent) clause (a clause which does not make sense on its own).

Example: When we got home, we were hungry.

We were hungry because we hadn’t eaten all day.

Other subordinating connectives include: if, while, after, until, before , although…


An article is always used with and gives some information about a noun. There are three articles: a, an and the


Examples: the chair; a table; an elephant


*There is sometimes confusion about whether to use a or an. The sound of a word’s first letter helps us to know which to use: If a word begins with a vowel sound, you should use an; if a word begins with a consonant sound, you should use a.


Features of sentences/Types of sentences



Declarative sentence (statement)

These are sentences which state facts. e.g.: It is hot.

The butter is in the fridge.

Interrogative sentence (question)

Interrogative sentences (questions) are sentences which ask for an answer. e.g.: Are you hot?

Where is the butter?

Imperative sentence (command)

These are sentences which give orders or requests. e.g.: Play the movie.

Give me a dinosaur for my birthday.

Exclamatory sentence (exclamation)

Exclamatory sentences (exclamations) are sentences which express a strong feeling of emotion.

e.g.: My goodness, it’s hot!

I absolutely love this movie!





A clause is a group of words which does contain a verb; it is part of a sentence. There are two kinds of clauses:

  1. A main clause (makes sense on its own) e.g.: Sue bought a new dress.
  2. A subordinate clause (does not make sense on its own; it depends on the main clause for its meaning)

E.g.: Sue bought a new dress when she went shopping.

*‘when she went shopping’ is the subordinate clause as it would not make sense without the main clause.


A phrase is a group of words which does not make complete sense on its own and does not contain a verb; it is not a complete sentence: e.g.: up the mountain


Vocabulary/language strategies





These are words that have a similar meaning to another word. We use synonyms to make our writing more interesting.

Synonyms for:


Bad - awful, terrible, horrible Happy - content, joyful, pleased Look - watch, stare, glaze

Walk - stroll, crawl, tread


These are words with the opposite meaning to another word.

The antonym of up is down The antonym of tall is short The antonym of add is subtract

Word groups/ families

These are groups of words that have a common feature or pattern - they have some of the same combinations of letters in them and a similar sound.

at, cat, hat, and fat are a family of words with the "at" sound and letter combination in common.


bike, hike, like, spike and strike are a family of words with the "ike" sound and letter combination in common.


blame, came, fame, flame and game are a family of words with the "ame" sound and letter combination in common.


Prefixes are added to the beginning of an existing word in order to create a new word with a different meaning.

Adding ‘un’ to happy – unhappy

Adding ‘dis’ to appear – disappear Adding ‘re’ to try – retry


Suffixes are added to the end of an existing word to create a new word with a different meaning.

Adding ‘ish’ to child – childish Adding ‘able’ to like – likeable Adding ‘ion’ to act – action

Root words

Root words are words that have a meaning of their own but can be added to either with a prefix (before the root) or a suffix (after the root) to change the meaning of the word. Root words can often be helpful in finding out what a word means or where it is ‘derived’ from.

help is a root word It can grow into:

helps helpful helped helping helpless unhelpful


A singular noun names one person, place or thing (a single item).

One bike One mango One dress One fly One turkey One half


More than one person, place or thing.

Most nouns are made into plurals by adding –s:

Three bikes


Some nouns ending in –o are made into plurals by adding –es:

Two mangoes


Most nouns ending in hissing, shushing or buzzing sounds are made into plurals by adding –es:

Ten dresses


For words ending in a vowel and then –y, just add –s:

Eight turkeys


For words ending in a consonant and then –y, change -y to -i and add –es:

Five flies


Most nouns ending in -f or-fe change to -ves in the plural:

Six halves







Capital letter

Used to denote the beginning of a sentence or a proper noun (names of particular places, things and people).

Joel has karate training ever Monday afternoon at Wells Primary School.


In January, the children will be visiting London Zoo.

Full stop

Placed at the end of a sentence that is not a question or statement.

Terry Pratchett's latest book is not yet out in paperback.

I asked her whether she could tell me the way to Brighton.

Question mark

Indicates a question/disbelief.

Who else will be there?

Is this really little Thomas?

Exclamation mark

Indicates an interjection/surprise/strong emotion

What a triumph!

I’ve just about had enough! Wonderful!

Inverted commas

Punctuation marks used in pairs ( “ ”) to indicate:

  • quotes (evidence).
  • direct speech
  • words that are defined, that follow certain phrases or that have special meaning.

For direct speech:

Janet asked, "Why can't we go today?"

For quotes:

The man claimed that he was “shocked to hear the news”.

For words that are defined, that follow certain phrases or that have special meaning:

'Buch' is German for book.

The book was signed 'Terry Pratchett'.

The 'free gift' actually cost us forty pounds.


Used to show that letters have been left out (contractions) or to show possession (i.e. ‘belonging to’)


Is not = isn’t                 Could not = couldn’t

Showing Possession:

With nouns (plural and singular) not ending in an s add 's:

the girl’s jacket, the children's books

With plural nouns ending in an s, add only the apostrophe:

the guards' duties, the Jones' house

With singular nouns ending in an s, you can add either 's or an apostrophe alone:

the witness's lie or the witness' lie (be consistent)

Commas in a list

Used between a list of three or more words to replace the word and for all but

the last instance.

Jenny’s favourite subjects are maths, literacy and art. Joe, Evan and Mike were chosen to sing at the service. The giant had a large head, hairy ears and two big, beady eyes.

Commas to mark phrases or clauses

To indicate contrast:

The snake was brown, not green, and it was quite small.

Where the phrase (embedded clause) could be in brackets: The recipe, which we hadn't tried before, is very easy to follow.

Where the phrase adds relevant information:

Mr Hardy, aged 68, ran his first marathon five years ago.

To mark a subordinate clause:

If at first you don't succeed, try again.

Though the snake was small, I still feared for my life.

Introductory or opening phrases:

In general, sixty-eight is quite old to run a marathon. On the whole, snakes only attack when riled.

Conjunctive verbs:

Unfortunately, the bear was already in a bad mood and, furthermore, pink wasn't its colour.

Brackets (also known as parentheses)

Used for additional information or explanation.

To clarify information:

Jamie's bike was red (bright red) with a yellow stripe.

For asides and comments:

The bear was pink (I kid you not).

To give extra details:

His first book (The Colour Of Magic) was written in 1989.


Used to indicate a pause in speech or at the very end of a sentence so that words trail off into silence (this helps to create suspense).

A pause in speech:

“The sight was awesome… truly amazing.”

At end of a sentence to create suspense:

Mr Daily gritted his teeth, gripped the scalpel tightly in his right hand and slowly advanced…


Used to show interruption (often in dialogue) or to show repetition.

To show interruption:

“The girl is my – “

“Sister,” interrupted Miles, “She looks just like you.”

To show repetition:

“You-you monster!” cried the frightened woman. “St-st-stop!” stammered the boy.


a) Used before a list, summary or quote

b) Used to complete a statement of fact

Before a list:

I could only find three of the ingredients: sugar, flour and coconut.





a) Used before a list, summary or quote

Before a list:

I could only find three of the ingredients: sugar, flour and coconut.

Before a summary:

To summarise: we found the camp, set up our tent and then the bears attacked.

Before a line of speech:

Tom asked: “May I have another cupcake?”

Before a statement of fact:

There are only three kinds of people: the good, the bad and the ugly.


Used in place of a connective (conjunction). Shows thoughts on either side of it are balanced and connected. It can also separate words or items within a list.

To link two separate sentences that are closely related:

The children came home today; they had been away for a week.

In a list:

Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry; Babylon 5, by JMS; Buffy, by Joss Whedon; and Farscape, from the Henson Company.