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D The fourth letter of the alphabet, /d/ in the IPA, a consonant, and DELTA in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, think of the D in CD or DVD.

DANGLER Also can be known as a dangling modifier or dangling participle, this is a part of a sentence that does not seem to appear where it should be, and may even make a sentence ambiguous - that is, not making itself absolutely clear to what this part - the dangler - is referring to. This is often in the form of a participle (an -ing word) although it can also be a phrase in a sentence. Very often, however, there is usually enough information to tell us what the dangler is talking about, and so is not necessarily grammatically wrong. So we should give you some examples if you're not too sure what I'm talking about (the dangler is underlined). So: Leaving home, the birds were singing a lovely song that morning. Is it the birds leaving home or you leaving home? From this, I'm sure there's enough information to assume it's you. This is also pretty clear: Having built the house, the man decided to sell it. But what about this: Having eaten the wrong dog food, Mrs Smith was upset that her pet was suffering. Well, I suppose the pet was suffering because Mrs Smith ate its food, although it was the wrong kind... but seriously, although we might need to read it twice to understand it, it might be regarded as poor style and so the writer should consider rephrasing: Mrs. Smith was upset that her pet was suffering because it had eaten the wrong dog food


DANGLING MODIFIER See dangler. These are phrases that modify a sentence, but put in the wrong place they might, perhaps, give the impression of meaning something else: Big, fat and hairy, she thought it was the most interesting animal in the zoo. Who was big, fat and hairy - the woman or the animal?

DANGLING PARTICIPLE See dangler. Again. These are the danglers that use the -ing word: Having memorised the recipe, 

she could make pancakes without any help.

DASH Also popularly known (particularly with British English) as a hyphen. However, it is becoming increasingly popular in usage in the UK, preferred instead of hyphen for reading website and email addresses: Fred dash Smith at Yahoo dot com ( With its single syllable, it is quicker to say and so was perhaps more popular in spoken Morse Code: S-O-S (···/---/···) represented as three dots, three dashes, and three dots. It has several other uses too, which may become the subject of a future feature on this website.

DECIMAL MARK The symbol (.) as far as the computer/smartphone/tablet/laptop/notebook is concerned. It is used to show numbers that have a value that is less than a whole number, for example: 5.5 (five and a half), 34.23 (thirty-two point four three). For a more detailed explanation, check the numbers feature. In the written form, however, this mark is halfway between the two numbers, for example, 6·7 (compared to 6.7 in print). The decimal mark is also known as a point (see the above examples). Also known as a full stop or period, and dot.

DECLARATIVE This entry needs careful reading. Declaratives are sentences that are used when a person wants to make a statement: I have to stay at home. You give your father a call. Compare with an exclamation when your statement is more emphatic: You have to give your father a call!

DECLENSION This is an area of grammar in which there is the inflection (when the form of a word is changed so that it expresses some kind of grammatical function) of nouns (box/boxes)pronouns (my/mine), or adjectives for case (I'm bored/I'm boring), number (one/first), and gender (he/she/it). The process of inflection is known as declension.

DEFINING RELATIVE CLAUSES These are relative clauses that give essential information, or identifies someone or something – the information that we need in order to understand what or who is being referred to, for example: Here's someone who can help you. This is the device which can sort the problem out. Compare with non-defining relative clauses

DEFINITE ARTICLE The word the. It is used when it is clear what exactly the noun that follows refers to: You can sit on the floor. (There is only one floor). I’m going to wash the car (my car). I went to a hotel in Wrocław; the food was good, but the hotel was terrible (the food I ate at the hotel in Wrocław). And if you've been reading this section from the very start, I suppose you are starting to get bored of the fact that I'm going to mention, yet again, a very interesting and quite detailed item which has been set out rather like a self-studying course on this website on the subject of a, an and the, so click here for more information...

DEFINITION Here, we're looking at the example of a statement that gives the meaning of a word or expression. You can particularly find these in dictionaries. Lovely. According to the dictionary, one of the definitions of the word statement is 'an official or formal announcement that is issued on a particular occasion'.

DEFINITE FREQUENCY ADVERB See adverb of frequency.

DEMONSTRATIVE This is the form of determiner either used before nouns to indicate (or even physically point to) something, or they can be used alone if it is clear what is being talked about. There are four words used: this, that, these, those. This man is guilty. You mean that person over there? I’m sure these components are wrong. Those are mine, not yours. Give me that! I need some of those. What do you think of this? Whose are these? This is the form of determiner...

DERIVATION This is a word where an affix is added either to the beginning of the word (prefix) or the end (suffix), but unlike an inflection - which does not change the 'identity' of the word (play/plays) - a derivation can change the word to create new nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs such as ex-president, unkind, abroad, industrialization (the last example has three additional suffixes to create new words from, for example, the noun industry: industrial, industrialize, industrialisationindustri - al - iz - ation!)

DESCRIPTIVE  There are two contexts in which we use this word for the subject of English. When we describe somebody who is descriptive, they are people who study language but not usually make a judgement about how correct it is (or may not be). Linguists are usually descriptive, in that they study language and analyse it and see how it is developing (or has developed) but not make judgements on it. A descriptive grammar is usually a book that describes the grammatical patterns that speakers and writers follow, and that occur regularly, even if they are not necessarily correct. See also prescriptive and pedagogical.

DETERMINER These are words that are used before a noun phrase to usually make it clear what that noun refers to. Some determiners include a/an/the, my, this, several, more, six (or any number): A car. An apple. The wooden floor. My book. This man. Several thousand items. More homework. Six tall people. For more information, click here.

DIACRITIC Also known as a diacritical mark, this is a sign (also called a glyph) that is positioned either above or below a letter to show that it is stressed differently, pronounced differently, or for other reasons. Examples of diacritics (which I handily lifted from the symbols function of Word 2013) just for the letter A include À, Á, Â, Ã, Ä, and Å. As a rule, the English alphabet does not, strictly speaking, use diacritics - well, there are some native examples, but these have largely fallen out of use - but when it comes to words borrowed from other languages, British English tends to keep the glyphs that may have been included. So, for example, words that commonly appear in BE usually include the diacritics: indeed, as I type in façade, café and naïve, the spellchecker automatically adds these.

DIALECT This is a form of language that is spoken in a particular area and linked to speakers who use the language with certain characteristics. It may even be considered as a form of 'standard' for that particular area. These may include different vocabulary and grammar choices. Indeed, received pronunciation is considered a dialect, but it is this dialect which is the modal for pronunciation of words in dictionaries using the Internal Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

DICTIONARY A very big book with lots of words in it. Well, it's a collection of words and phrases of a language that are listed alphabetically, together with their meanings or their translations in another language. Their job is to provide information about words, and are responsible to explain their meaning and to indicate its type (noun, adjective, etc), its origins, its variations (e.g. ride, rides, riding, rode, ridden) and even its usage - some words may be a taboo word, and you will need to know these. Some dictionaries also include the IPA in order to assist learners in the correct pronunciation of these words. Compare with encyclopedia and glossary.

DIPTHONG This is the sound made when the vowel used in the word sounds like a combination of two other vowels (also known as a double vowel), and as a result, the speaker’s tongue has to change position while making the sound. For example, the 'o' sound in boy sounds like a combination of the letters o and i. Don't worry, your tongue will be okay.

DIRECTIVE See imperative. Directive is a more broader term that covers commands, offers, requests, invitations, advice and instructions.

DIRECT SPEECH This is speech which is ‘reported’ by being quoted directly from what the speaker is saying without changing the tense. Harry stood there, looked at me, and said, ‘I can’t believe what you’re telling me!’ See also reported speech, which would be presented as Harry stood there, looked at me, and said that he couldn't believe what I was telling him.


DISCOURSE This is the language used when we are putting together words that connect in the form of speech or writing.

DISCOURSE MARKER These are words and phrases like, you know, used to connect, organise and manage what we say, particularly with attitude. Anyway, if I had to give an example, saying things like 'right', 'anyway'. 'you know' can do things like, well, mark the beginning of a conversation or a change of focus, getting responses or shifting topics. Got it? Good. Oh, sorry - in addition, words and phrases like 'in conclusion', 'moreover' and 'on the other hand' are particularly common in writing. Mind you, there can be exceptions.  As I say, discourse markers do all these main roles in speaking and writing. Good. Well, what I mean is, for examples look at the words underlined. Great. So let's move on, okay?

DOT The symbol (.) Also known as a full stop or period, a decimal mark, and point.

DOUBLE ADJECTIVES This is when two adjectives can be used to describe something: A big green car. Beyond two I'd call multiple adjectives

DOUBLE COMPARISON Often not approved by many grammarians or pedants (and perhaps best avoided in written texts), a double comparison is when the words more, less, most and least are used with an adjective that is already a comparative (bigger, nicer, more/less expensive) or a superlative (biggest, nicest, most/least expensive) to further intensify the noun. So for example, we get the most biggest office (there are many big offices, and we've got the biggest of them) the least nicest person (there are many nice people, but this one is not as nice as all the others), or even it is the least most expensive of the cars available. (There are many expensive cars, but this one, while still expensive, is the lowest price of them all.) Standard English does not generally allow for this form, but it is used and has been used in literature, and is even a convention of usage. I think that in writing you can easily get away with I'm most grateful for your help, he was most unpleasant, and perhaps, at a push: I think the table needs to be more nearer. But in formal writing, it's perhaps best to avoid. See also absolute adjectives and intensifiers.

DOUBLE ENTENDRE This is a word or phrase that has two meanings. It is a phrase that has a meaning that is usually  expressed in an innocent way, but more often it can have an indirect second meaning. Now this can be expressed in a ways unintended, as in this newspaper headline:  Iraqi Head Seeks Arms. The first meaning (and the one intended) is that a leader in Iraq is trying to find ways to buy weapons for his army. The second meaning is that the head of a human body from Iraq is also missing some limbs, and so they are trying to find some arms. There are also those that may be considered rude and often sexual: MAN TO A LARGE WOMAN SERVING FRUIT AT A MARKET STALL: Those are nice big melons. Can I hold them? OR a famous quote from Mae West: Is that a gun in your pocket or are you pleased to see me? Using a deliberate double entendre needs clever thinking and expressing, in that the language is planned and used at the right time, often to the point that sometimes only a few people can understand the humour. Some British comedies from the sixties and seventies often used the double entendre to deliberate humorous effect. From the film 'Carry on Camping': Two couples arrive at a campsite. They see a notice that says, ASSES MUST BE SHOWN. One of the men asks at the gate: 'Where's the manager?" with the response, "Gone for a pee". The manager returns, with the letter 'P', and nails it to the sign before the word 'ASSES'. See also Innuendo.

DOUBLE GENITIVE These are examples of a double genitive: I'm a friend of David's. They are associates of his. They're friends of the family's. Essentially, a double genitive is a phrase where the possession is shown by the preposition of and then the possessive form of a noun or pronoun. It has other names such as the double possessive, the oblique genitive, and a postgenitive. However, there are some linguists (and grammar pedants, and people who think English has to follow strict rules) argue that there is no point adding the apostrophe 's as this is unnecessary; they point out that you don't add an apostrophe to pronouns. However, it is regularly used in spoken English and are even established idioms in the language. But grammar pedants don't like idioms either, so many editors would not accept it in formal writing.

DOUBLE POSSESSIVE See double genitive.

DOUBLE PRIME SYMBOL A term used to describe the double inverted comma (") when it follows a number, usually to describe some kind of measurement: A 52" (inch) TV. 35" (seconds). See also prime symbol.

DUMMY PRONOUN/SUBJECT A word, usually there or it, which is used when there is nothing to put into the subject slot. For example: There is a pen on the tableIt's a nice day.

DYNAMIC VERB These are verbs where the activity, the action described by the verb is usually clear and obvious. I'm playing with the cat. He's eating fish. I'm working on a new project. Contrast this with state/stative verbs which describe a state, an 'activity' where the action cannot be normally viewed, and as a result is not normally used in continuous tenses (aspect): I believe it will rain tomorrow. Do you remember the good old days?

DYSFLUENCY In studying speech and linguistics, this is a grammatical term to describe the use of hesitators, pauses and repetitions used when speaking, usually when we are trying to think about what we want to say next. 

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