English language words

Parts of speech

Special terms

Uncountable noun: (U) a noun which has no plural form and cannot be used with the indefinite article, e.g. information.
Plural noun: (pi) a noun which only has a plural form and cannot be used with the indefinite article, e.g. trousers.
Infinitive: the base form of a verb, e.g. (to) work, (to) stop, (to) be.
Phrasal verb: a verb + adverb and/or preposition, e.g. turn on (verb + adverb), look after (verb + preposition), give up (verb + adverb), put up with (verb + adverb + preposition).
Idiom: a group of words with a meaning that is different from the individual words, e.g. never mind, hang on, a short cut, keep an eye on something.
Transitive verb: a verb which needs a direct object, e.g. Police caught the man (‘the man’ is the direct object of the verb ‘caught’).
Intransitive verb: a verb which does not need a direct object, e.g. The books arrived on time. (There is no direct object after arrive.)

Word building

In the word uncomfortable, un- is a prefix, comfort is a root, and -able is a suffix. Other common prefixes include: re-, in-, and dis–, common suffixes include: -ity, -ment, and -ive. Many words also have synonyms, which are words with the same meaning. For example, ‘big’ is a synonym of ‘large’. The opposite is ‘small’.


Dictionaries show the pronunciation of a word using phonetic symbols, e.g. book /buk/, before /bi’fo:/, cinema /’sinsms/, and so on.

Each word contains one or more syllables: ‘book’ has one syllable; ‘before’ has two syllables (be-fore); ‘cinema’ has three syllables (ci-ne-ma); ‘education’ has four syllables (e-du-ca-tion); and so on.

For pronunciation, it is important to know which syllable has the main stress. On ‘before’ it is the second syllable (before): on ‘cinema’ it is the first (cinema); and on ‘education’ it is the third (education).

Note: Dictionaries mark stress in different ways: in bold (return); or a ‘ before the main syllable (re’turn). Make sure you understand how your dictionary shows it.


full stop .   comma ,   brackets ( ) hyphen – question mark ?