English Language

Indo-European Language Tree
The size of the leaves on the trees is intended to indicate – roughly – how many people speak each language. It shows the relative size of English as well as its Germanic roots. Photograph: Minna Sundberg

The English language is an Indo-European language in the West Germanic language group. Modern English is widely considered to be the lingua franca of the world and is the standard language in a wide variety of fields, including computer coding, international business, and higher education.

The biggest sample of the English lexicon is the largest dictionary of the English-language, the Oxford English Dictionary. In the Oxford English dictionary, there are about 600,000-words that are defined in the English language.

These are the words that you use to make a sentence.

  1. Verbs and Verb Tenses
    Action verbs, express what is happening (do, work). State verbs express a situation (be, have).
  2. Nouns
    Nouns represent people (teacher, Mary), places (town, Asia) and things (table, music).
  3. Adjectives
    An adjective is a word that tells us more about a noun (big, red, expensive).
  4. Adverbs
    Adverbs tell us more about verbs, adjectives or adverbs (loudly, really, extremely).
  5. Determiners
    Determiners are words like the, an, this that start a noun phrase.
  6. Prepositions
    A preposition expresses the relationship of a noun or pronoun to another word (at, in, from).
  7. Pronouns
    Pronouns are small words like you, ours, some that can take the place of a noun.
  8. Conjunctions
    Conjunctions join two parts of a sentence (and, but, though).
  9. Interjections
    Short exclamations with no real grammatical value (ah, dear, er)

Adjectives are a great example of the multilingual influences of the English Language. Depending of the origin of the word the adjective form can be different if you are talking a person instead of an object. So you end with two adjectives such as accusing and accused.

Person vs Object

  • The report points an accusing finger at the insurance industry.
  • We often refer to a defendant in a criminal trial as accused until a verdict has been reached. High Court temporarily suspends the prosecution of former Treasury CS Rotich, PS Thugge and others after one of the accused persons Richard Malebe moved to court to challenge his prosecution.
  • She is very energetic person. She’s always doing something.
  •  Purple and violet are energizing colors.

When you are writing a sentence, a clause is a complete thought that contains a subject and a verb. A phrase is a group of words that modifies the subjects and objects in the sentence to provide extra information, but it is not a complete thought.


Words can be grouped together, but without a subject or a verb. This is called a phrase.

Because a phrase has neither subject nor verb, it can’t form a ‘predicate’. This is a structure that must contain a verb, and it tells you something about what the subject is doing.

Phrases can be very short – or quite long. Two examples of phrases are:

“After the movie”

“Waiting for the rain to stop”.

Phrases can’t be used alone, but you can use them as part of a sentence, where they are used as parts of speech.


Clauses are groups of words that have both subjects and predicates. Unlike phrases, a clause can sometimes act as a sentence – this type of clause is called an independent clause. This isn’t always the case, and some clauses can’t be used on their own – these are called subordinate clauses, and need to be used with an independent clause to complete their meaning.

  • Subordinate clause is “We can all go for ice cream”
  • Independent clause is if I can find my wallet

While the independent clause could be used by itself as a complete sentence, the subordinate clause could not. For it to be correct, it would need to be paired with another clause: “We can all go for ice cream if I can find my wallet.”


A complete sentence has a subject and predicate, and can often be composed of more than one clause. As long as it has a subject and a predicate, a group of words can form a sentence, no matter how short.

“Jesus wept.”

More complex sentences can combine multiple clauses or phrases to add additional information about what is described. Clauses may be combined using conjunctions – such as “and”, “but” and “or”.

E“He went out to dinner but didn’t enjoy the meal.”

This example is composed of two independent clauses, “he went out to dinner” and “he didn’t enjoy the meal”, combined with a conjunction- “but”.

  1. A new sentence begins with a capital letter.
    • He earned his promotion.
  2. A sentence ends with punctuation (a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point).
    • He earned his promotion.
  3. A sentence contains a subject that is only given once.
    • Daniel He earned his promotion.
  4. A sentence contains a verb or a verb phrase.
    • He earned his promotion.
  5. A sentence follows Subject + Verb + Object word order.
    • He (subject) earned (verb) his promotion (object).
  6. A sentence must have a complete idea that stands alone. This is also called an independent clause.
    • He obtained his degree.

The symbols on this chart represent the 44 sounds used in British English speech (Received Pronunciation or RP, an educated accent associated with but not exclusive to south-east England). This version of the phonemic chart is based on the familiar Adrian Underhill layout.

In English, there are 44 phonemes, or word sounds that make up the language. They’re divided into 19 consonants, 7 digraphs, 5 ‘r-controlled’ sounds, 5 long vowels, 5 short vowels, 2 ‘oo’ sounds, 2 diphthongs.

Phonetic Alphabetic Chart

Other Great Resources

Here a link to the an interactive American International Phonetic Alphabet! All the sounds of American English (General American) with: consonants, simple vowels and diphthongs. Dictionary.

Basic spelling rules

  • Short-Vowel Rule: When one-syllable words have a vowel in the middle, the vowel usually has a short sound. Examples: catdogmanhatmomdadgot. If the letter after the vowel is f, l, or s, this letter is often doubled. Examples: staffballpass.
  • Two-Vowels Together: When two vowels are next to each other, the first vowel is usually long (the sound is the same as the sound of the letter) and the second vowel is silent. Examples: meatseatplainraingoatroadliepie.
  • Vowel-Consonant-e Pattern: When a short word, or the last syllable of a longer word, ends in this pattern vowel-consonant-e, then the first vowel is usually long and the is silent. Examples: placecakemicevotemute.
  • Y as a long I: The letter y makes the long sound of i when it comes at the end of a short word that has no other vowel. Examples: cry, trymyflybyhi.
  • Y as a long E: When y or ey ends a word in an unaccented syllable, the y has the long sound of e. Examples: moneyhoneymanykeyfunny.
  • I before E: Write i before e when the sound is long e except after the letter c. Examples: relievereliefreprieve. When there is a c preceding, then it is ei : receiptreceiveceilingdeceiveconceive.
  • E before I: Write e before i when the sound is long a. Examples: weightfreightreign. Another way to remember this is: “I before e except after c, or when sounding like a as in neighbor and weigh.” When the ie/ei combination is not pronounced ee, it is usually spelled ei.
  • Oi or Oy: Use oi in the middle of a word and use oy at the end of a word. Examples: boilsoiltoilboytoy.
  • Ou or Ow: Use ou in the middle of a word and use ow at the end of words other than those that end in n or d. Examples: mousehousefoundmountborrowrowthrowcrow.
  • Double Consonants: When b, d, g, m, n, or p appear after a short vowel in a word with two syllables, double the consonant. Examples: rabbitmannerdaggerbannerdrummer.
  • The ch sound: At the beginning of a word, use ch. At the end of a word, use tch. When the ch sound is followed by ure or ion, use t. Examples: choosechampwatchcatchpicturerapture.

Suffix and inflection rules

  • Words ending with a silent e: Drop the e before adding a suffix which begins with a vowel: state, statinglike, liking.
  • Keep the e when the suffix begins with a consonantstatestatementuseuseful.
  • When y is the last letter in a word and the y is preceded by a consonant, change the y to i before adding any suffix except those beginning with ybeautybeautifulfryfriesladyladies.
  • When forming the plural of a word which ends with a y that is preceded by a vowel, add stoytoysmonkeymonkeys.
  • When a one-syllable word ends in a consonant preceded by one vowel, double the final consonant before adding a suffix which begins with a vowel. This is also called the 1-1-1 rule, i.e., one syllable, one consonant, one vowel! Example: batbattedbattingbatter.
  • When a multi-syllable word ends in a consonant preceded by one vowel, and the final syllable is accented, the same rule holds true—double the final consonant. Examples: controlcontrolledbeginbeginning.
  • When the final syllable does not have the end-accent, it is preferred, and in some cases required, that you NOT double the consonant. Examples: focusfocusedworshipworshiped.
  • Basic Punctuation Marks

    How to Use 14 Basic Punctuation Marks In English grammar, the rules of punctuation depend on the symbols themselves. The following list covers the most common punctuation marks in the English language. Note that British English and American English have different names for some of these marks.  1. Period: The period punctuation mark (.) is…

  • Onomatopoeia

    Onomatopoeia Onomatopoeia is a word that names a sound, but also sounds like that sound. For example: boom, honk, pop, crack, cuckoo, crack, splat, tweet, zoom, sizzle, whizz, buzz, hiss, rip. Related: Figurative language The following onomatopoeia examples are all food/cooking sounds: These onomatopoeia examples are all water sounds / the sound that water makes:…

  • Spelling Differences Between British and American English

    Spelling Differences Between British and American English The spelling differences between British and American English first arose because at the time of the British colonization of North America, English spelling wasn’t yet fixed. Standardized spelling of English came about in the 18th century, after the American Colonies had already declared independence. Related: English through the…

  • English Sounds

    English Sounds There are 26 letters in the English Language; 21 consonants and 5 vowels. Together they amount 44 English Sounds or the English Phonemes. English phonology is the system of speech sounds used in spoken English. Like many other languages, English has wide variation in pronunciation, both historically and from dialect to dialect. In…

English Language Semantics


1 The study of meaning 1
1.1 The systematic study of meaning 2
1.2 The nature of language 3
1.3 Language and the individual 5
1.4 Demonstrating semantic knowledge 8
2 Language in use 17
2.1 Pragmatics 18
2.2 Natural and conventional signs 19
2.3 Linguistic signs 22
2.4 Utterance and sentence 26
2.5 Prosody 30
2.6 Non-verbal communication 35
3 The dimensions of meaning 41
3.1 Reference and denotation 42
3.2 Connotation 44
3.3 Sense relations 46
3.4 Lexical and grammatical meanings 49
3.5 Morphemes 51
3.6 Homonymy and polysemy 52
3.7 Lexical ambiguity 55
3.8 Sentence meaning 56
4 Semantic roles 61
4.1 Sentence and proposition 62
4.2 Semantic roles 66
4.2.1 Valency zero 68
4.2.2 Valency one 69
4.2.3 Valency two 73
4.3 Some changes in valency 78
5 Lexical relations 85
5.1 Lexical fields 87
5.2 Kinship 90
5.3 Hyponymy 92
5.4 Synonymy 96
5.5 Antonymy 100
5.6 Binary and non-binary antonyms 101
5.7 A comparison of four relations 104
5.8 Converse antonyms 105
5.9 Symmetry and reciprocity 107
5.10 Expressions of quantity 110
6 Transition and transfer predicates 115
6.1 Transition 116
6.2 Transfer 121
7 Reference 129
7.1 Referents and referring expressions 131
7.2 Extension and intension 132
7.3 Some different kinds of referents 134
7.3.1 Unique and non-unique referents 135
7.3.2 Concrete and abstract referents 135
7.3.3 Countable and non-countable referents 136
7.4 Different ways of referring 139
7.4.1 Generic and non-generic reference 141
7.4.2 Specific and non-specific reference 142
7.4.3 Definite and indefinite reference 142
7.5 Deixis 144
7.6 Anaphora 145
7.7 Shifts in ways of referring 150
7.8 Referential ambiguity 151
8 Sentences as arguments 155
8.1 Full statement clauses 157
8.2 Question clauses 160
8.3 Infinitive clauses 161
8.4 Gerund clauses 163
8.5 Non-factual clauses 164
8.6 Verbal nouns 165
8.7 Comparing types of clauses 167
8.8 Syntactic ambiguity 169
9 Speech acts 175
9.1 The form of sentences and the purpose of utterances 176
9.2 Analysis of speech acts 180
9.3 Seven kinds of speech acts 183
9.3.1 Assertive utterances 183
9.3.2 Performative utterances 185
9.3.3 Verdictive utterances 187
9.3.4 Expressive utterances 188
9.3.5 Directive utterances 189
9.3.6 Commissive utterances 192
9.3.7 Four speech acts compared 194
9.3.8 Phatic utterances 194
10 Aspect 197
10.1 Generic and specific predications 199
10.2 Stative predicates and dynamic predicates 200
10.3 Durative and punctual 202
10.4 Telic and atelic 206
10.5 Ingressive, continuative, egressive aspect 209
10.5.1 Predicates of location 209
10.5.2 Predicates of possession 210
10.5.3 Predicates of cognition 211
10.5.4 Event predicates 212
10.5.5 Nouns and adjectives as predicates 214
10.5.6 Aspectual verbs 215
10.6 Prospective and retrospective 219
10.7 Some grammatical expressions of aspect 220
10.7.1 The prospective 220
10.7.2 The perfect or retrogressive 221
10.7.3 The progressive 222
11 Factivity, implication and modality 229
11.1 Factivity 230
11.2 Implicative predicates 233
11.3 Modality 239
12 A variety of predicates 251
12.1 Attitudinal predicates 252
12.2 Enabling and preventing 257
12.3 Perceptual predicates 260
13 The semantics of morphological relations 267
13.1 Formal processes of derivation 269
13.2 Semantic processes in derivation 270
13.3 Verbs formed from nouns 272
13.3.1 Transfer meanings 272
13.3.2 Effective meanings 275
13.3.3 Instrumental meanings 277
13.3.4 Vehicular meanings 278
13.4 Verbs from adjectives 280
13.5 Verbs from verbs 283
13.6 Adjectives derived from verbs 285
13.7 Adjectives derived from nouns 287
13.8 Adjectives derived from adjectives 289
13.9 Nouns derived from verbs 289
13.10 Nouns derived from adjectives 293
13.11 Nouns derived from nouns 294
Glossary of technical terms 297
Bibliography 305
Index of lexemes 311
Index of names 326
Index of technical terms 328

Chart Source