Every language can be described in terms of its grammar. The grammar of a language refers to the way words are put together to make meaningful sentences. Traditional grammar has some useful terms that you need to be able to use when you are discussing your writing and referring to sources that describe writing.

This page explains:

Grammar checkers are notoriously erratic for checking and correcting grammar in your writing. Sometimes, a few helpful hints will alert you to check your grammar. You will need to know grammar terms to interpret this information.

University standards for grammar

Most university subjects require that you write clearly and accurately, using correct punctuation, grammar and spelling. Lack of application of these skills will give your marker a poor impression of your attitude towards your studies. Be sure to check your spelling, grammar and punctuation thoroughly before handing in your work.

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Using grammar terms to describe writing problems

When you receive feedback on your writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation errors are mostly described using common grammar terms.


Note: dictionaries describe words and their function using grammatical terms.

A common error that students make in essays are poor proofreading.

When students write an essay it is important to write a plan before starting to write.

The research shows that students who practice their spelling skills are more likely to proofread their essays correctly.

To make out for lost time, the student revised their study timetable.

Students should, after finishing writing, proofread and edit their writing.

Assignment writing requires very careful planning and preparation and it is essential that a detailed analysis of the question is performed before a written response is attempted.

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Common grammar terms

To proofread your work, you need to be able to identify different parts of a sentence. Below are some examples of common grammatical terms that are used to describe language functions.





proper noun2

1A word that names a person, thing or idea

2Names of specific persons, places and things that are capitalised

1teacher, car, freedom . . .

2John Smith, Mount Cross, Brown Drive, Dog River, The Courier Express . . .


A word or group of words that express actions, feelings, thoughts and possessions

drive, refers, love, has, suggests, should be explained, cannot be considered, will be discussed . . .


A word that describes a noun, e.g. the quality, appearance or size

considerable, serious, impossible . . .


A word that describes a verb or an adjective

hopefully, happily, seriously, afterwards, very, most …


A word that comes before a noun to indicate a place, direction

in, on, at, under, by, from, during, after, through . . .


relative pronoun2

1A word used in place of a noun

2A word that introduces subordinate clauses functioning as adjectives

1I, you, he, she, it, we, they, them their, this, that . . .

2who, whom, whose, which, that


A word that joins words or sentences

and, but, although, because . . .


The noun, noun group or pronoun that performs the action of the verb.

1Cars are a necessary form of transport.

2The world’s oil reserves are becoming scarce.

3It could be argued . . .


A group of words with a subject and a verb

1The world’s oil reserves are becoming scarce (main clause)

2because there is a dependence on oil driven technology (dependent clause).


A group of words that communicates a complete idea. A sentence contains one or more clauses, and must have a subject and at least one verb.

1The world’s oil reserves are becoming scarce.

2Because of the inclement weather, the swimming carnival was cancelled.


The swimming carnival was cancelled because of the inclement weather.


A small group of words that are related and occur within a sentence or a clause.

. . . during the war . . .
. . . after the 1980s . . .
. . . the world’s oil reserves . . .
. . . struck off . . .

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Using articles

Parallel structure

Using pronouns

Subject-verb agreement

Verb tense



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