I The ninth letter of the alphabet, /aɪ/ in the IPA, a vowel, and INDIA in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, think of the I in i-pad, i-pod and i-phone.
IDIOM Probably not your cup of tea. See below.
IDIOMATIC PHRASE Sometimes simply known as idioms, these are phrases of two or more words which cannot be understood if you try to translate the phrase one word at a time. e.g., the idiom I could eat a horse means ‘I am very hungry’, and not literally a desire to have a horse for a meal, something the British are very sensitive about. Idioms, or phrases that are idiomatic, are not usually encouraged in formal writing. Even phrasal verbs are considered idiomatic in nature ('have got' causing considerable trouble: click here for more information), even though many are standard English.
ILLITERATE I assume, of course, that you, the reader, don't come onto this category for the meaning intended here - although, as usual, this depends on the context. When we describe a person as illiterate, (the subject of study is illiteracy) then we are saying this person is not able to read and write. But in other contexts, you could be choosing to read this section of the website because you are grammatically illiterate - that is, not being educated enough in the subject of grammar. If you've got very untidy writing to the point that your English examiner will be unable to read it, then they'll mark you down for points and perhaps, to their colleagues, say that they had this student whose writing was 'an illiterate mess'.
IMAGERY Although we think of the word 'imagery' as being mental pictures, in writing, this is a literary device that uses figurative language to represent objects, actions, and ideas in such a way that it appeals to our physical senses - sight, hearing, smell, topuch and taste. So if we take one example of imagery for each of these senses, we get: The cave was pitch black (Our sense of sight). There was a lot of screaming and shouting next door (sense of hearing). Gosh, what a stink! It reeks of old eggs! (Stink and reek makes us think of a really bad smell.) I was surprised that the snake wasn't slimy, but smooth
(slimy/smooth appeals to our sense of touch). The coffee was bitter (Our sense of taste).
IMPERATIVE (MOOD) This is a verb or phrase within a clause that expresses something is necessary or required, or even unavoidable. It is usually in the form of an instruction, command, request or even advice. In grammar terms, this is known as the ‘imperative mood’. For example: Go away! If you’re going out, buy me a newspaper. Empty the bin, please. Come and see The Rolling Stones live at the Apollo. Visit our bookshop. Don’t argue! Run! See mood.
INDEFINITE FREQUENCY ADVERB See adverb of frequency.
INDEFINITE ARTICLE a/an. It is used only with a single countable noun, with a being placed before nouns that begin with consonant sounds, and an before nouns that begin with vowel sounds. Generally, they are used when a noun is introduced for the first time: A man and a woman were sitting on the floor. They are used to mean ‘one’: Anna’s got a dog (there are many dogs, and Anna has got one of them). They are also used when it is not clear what object is being talked about: Have you got a car? (I do not know if you have got a car and that is why I am asking you if you have got a car). There's lots and lots more detail on this and all the other articles which you can find here, courtesy of Doctor Dot Fullstop. And hopefully it will answer all your questions. I did say hopefully.
INDICATIVE (MOOD) This is usually in the form of a statement, and which the clause (the part of the statement that usually includes a verb) should include a verb. Such a statement would be described as being expressed, in grammar terms, as the indicative mood. See also mood.
INDIRECT SPEECH This is the same as reported speech.
INFINITIVE Well, I'm not going to take forever to explain this one. This is the first verb form, or the verb form that you would use in the present simple. It has two names: the bare infinitive, e.g., like, eat, understand, be, and the full infinitive, which is the verb with ‘to’ before it: to like, to eat, to understand, to be. It also has the more formal academic term infinitive clause.
INFINITIVE CLAUSE The formal academic term for infinitive. But you knew that already.
INFLECTION Also spelt inflexion, but I like this better, and it's more common - this has two meanings: first, it is when the form of a word is changed so that its expresses some kind of grammatical function. For example, 'buy' is inflected by the addition of the letter S when it is used in the third person: I buy, you buy, he/she/it buys. (see also conjugation.) Also, in speaking, the word is used to describe the 'tone' or modulation of your voice. This is usually important when reading texts to help your audience follow and understand what is being read and not to put them to sleep, unless it's a particularly boring piece of text. But if you inflect your voice in a particular way, such text could be made to seem exciting. See also inflectional language. Next please.
INFLECTIONAL LANGUAGE Ah, welcome back. This is a language that changes the form or ending of some words (e.g. I play, she plays), depending on the way these words are used in sentences that are changed. For more details, see inflections. That's the entry before this one, for those who jumped straight to this and not read up on this beforehand, which just happens to be the previous entry. Dear me.
INITIALISM This is an abbreviation of a number of letters or phrases that are spoken individually, or as a succession of letter sounds. So for example, DVD (Digital Versatile/Video) Disk), HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and ATM (Automated Teller/Telling Machine). See also acronym.
INNUENDO As well as a famous track by Queen, this word also means something said that, if interpreted another way, could be considered rude or unpleasant. What you say may sound to the listener (or you) as being polite and innocent, and is often used in everyday conversation as a way that would be acceptable to be critical, mean, sexual, humorous, or even flirtatious: Brian's been spending a lot of time with Julie. (Possible meaning: he's perhaps doing something rather more with her than 'just being with her'.) Would you like to earn a little extra money, if you know what I mean? (You can get some more money but it probably won't be legally obtained or declared by the company.) See also DOUBLE ENTENDRE.
INSERT In linguistics, and particularly in the area of speaking, inserts are those words that can be put anywhere during a conversation and are used to express feelings of emotion, for example: Hey! Yeah! Wow! You're kidding! Far out! Well. Great.
INSTRUCTION There are three main definitions for this: it can be something that someone tells you to do: I gave instructions to clear the room! It can be something in lessons, something that is taught to you, particularly in a subject or skill: The medical officer can give instruction on First Aid, or it is clear and detailed information on how to do something: an instruction book. See also imperative and interrogative mood.
INTENSIFIER This is a word (an adverb, to be more precise) that makes the adjective or verb that follows stronger, e.g., I’m incredibly excited is much stronger than I’m excited. I really hate the taste of shellfish. Actually, I do. See also absolute adjectives.
INTERNATIONAL PHONETIC ALPHABET This is a system of letters and symbols to represent the sounds of human speech. For example, the word available is presented as /əveɪlæbʊl/. Depending on the dictionaries you use, the main stress on the syllable is either underlined (which is the form we mainly use in the book and on the website) or marked with an apostrophe before: /ə’veɪlæbʊl/. However, there are many variations as regards the number of symbols, and the latest list was put together by the International Phonetic Association in 2005. The examples used in Typical Errors in English are based on the symbols used in the New English File series of student books for learners of English. A list of the 44 English sounds and their symbols can be found at the beginning of Unit 7 in a very excellent book that you may have heard of. It's called /tıpıkəl/ /erəz/ /ın/ /ıŋglıʃ/ .
INTERNATIONAL (Radiotelephony) SPELLING ALPHABET See the NATO Phonetic Alphabet.
INTERROGATIVE (MOOD) This is a more formal way of saying question, but grammarians like their formal explanations, so here we go: an interrogative is a word such as 'who', 'how', or 'why', which can be used to ask a question. If a clause is being used in the interrogative (or in the interrogative mood), it has its subject following the verbs 'do', 'be', 'have', or a modal verb. And as mentioned earlier, they are typically used to ask questions.
INTONATION This is the way that your voice either rises or falls when speaking, e.g., questions usually finish with rising intonation, and statements usually end with falling intonation. But there are many variations used by speakers, often depending on context and dialect. There's also something called High Rising Terminal, but that's a later story (or earlier story, if you're reading this glossary in full, wonderful, alphabetical order).
INTRANSITIVE VERB This is a verb that does not need an object (a noun or pronoun that finishes the structure of a word or phrase that started with a verb or preposition and is usually the attention of the subject, and does not require an object to act upon), for example, He rang up. She sang. They complained. You can, of course, add objects (He rang up his sister, She sang a beautiful song, they complained to the manager) but they work very well without these objects. Those verbs that cannot work without objects are called transitive verbs.
INVENTED WORD Exactly what it means, but depending on what happens to it, it will either be a nonce word or a neologism. So you'll have to look up those references.
INVERTED COMMAS Also known as speech marks. These are mainly used to write down, or quote what somebody says, using them to mark the beginning and end of speech. In writing, these are usually double inverted commas (“), although in printed literature these are often just the single (‘). However, unlike many languages, the set of inverted commas that begin a quote are positioned at the top of the line instead of the bottom: “I thought you were in Spain!” (NOT „I thought you were in Spain!”). They are also known as the prime symbol (‘) and the double prime symbol (“) when used to designate certain units of measurement. They are used after numbers to indicate length in the imperial system: Five feet = 5’, six inches = 6” eight feet seven inches = 8’ 7”.
IPA See International Phonetic Alphabet. Or it that's a bit boring, see Iguanas Party Always. No it isn't.
IRREGULAR VERB These are verbs in the past tense and/or past participles that do not always end in –ed, e.g., drive (present tense) drove (past tense), driven (past participle).
IRREVERSIBLE WORD PAIR These are two words that are joined together with 'and' to make a one-meaning phrase, or idiomatic phrase such as bits and pieces, meaning 'a collection of several different things': My car is so damaged it's now in bits and pieces. Other examples are odds and ends, law and order, heart and soul. However, the order of these words is usually fixed (or irreversible), so we do not usually reverse these pairings. We don't usually say 'pieces and bits', 'order and law', 'soul and heart' or 'fork and knife'.
IT Apart from being a book and a film, it is also a pronoun. It takes many forms. It can be a subject pronoun: it eats fish. and an object pronoun: She eats it. It is also a dummy pronoun, also known as an expletive pronoun or a pleonastic pronoun, a pronoun that is used in a clause or sentence that is not clear in meaning but is clear from the context in what it does mean (or more technically, it fulfils the syntactical requirements without providing an explicit meaning. Thanks Wikipedia). For example, it's a nice day today. Here, 'it' is a dummy pronoun, but if we had to get some kind of explanation for its meaning, then 'it' here means 'The situation that we are experiencing now'. But we don't say that. Obviously.