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Q The seventeenth letter of the alphabet, a consonant, /kju:/ in the IPA, and QUEBEC in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, we have the Q as in the quartermaster in James Bond, who is simply known as Q. There's also Q & A (questions and answers) or in QVC (a television shopping channel.) Normally Q doesn't do much, but it surprisingly is the first letter for a few entries in this section of the glossary...

QUALIFIER No, nothing to be concerned in sports competitions and hoping your team play well to make a set of finals, but a term used to describe a thing (the main subject, also known as a head), but with some additional information about it after its introduction. This is also known as a postmodification, and its functional label is a qualifier. For example, This 18th century piece of art was hidden away for two hundred years. See also premodification.

QUANTIFIER This is the form used to tell us how many or the amount of something, but usually without being precise as to how much or how many. Common quantifiers are in italics in these examples: each/every day, either/neither car, any office, all (the) files, many mistakes, some ice-cream, (a) few pieces of toast, enough money, several departments, any chocolate. There are some examples that describe precise quantities: both machines, no office, half (of) the lemon.

QUESTION Also called an interrogative, but we'll stay with what we know. A question is a sentence, but it is something that you write or say so you can ask someone something. This is then followed by a question mark (?). See tag questions.


QUESTION MARK The symbol (?). Actually, it is not always used at the end of sentences to suggest that you want to ask something, but it is often put at the end if you are 'asking' someone to agree with you (these are known as tag questions). For example: It's hot in here, isn't it? This question, when the intonation is used in the right way, can give the response Yes, it is (I agree with you that it is hot in here).

QUESTION TAGS See tag questions.

QUESTION WORD These are words used at the beginning of a question, and are most usually connected with open questions – questions that require an answer which is not yes or no. These question words are which, what, where, who, how, why, when, whose, and who’s. These are more commonly known as wh-questions (for obvious reasons), and belong to a group of words called conjunctions. They're also used as interrogative pro-forms, as you'll have to look up pro-forms for an explanation for that. Sorry. 

QUOTATION MARKS These are the punctuation marks used in writing to show where a speech or a quotation begins and ends. They are usually written or printed as ("..."), often used for a direct quotation (but '...' is also used, particularly in Britain), or as ('...'), used to include a quotation within a quotation, for example: "...and then he says to me, 'look Jill, you've got to do something about that dog.'"

QUOTE/QUOTATION In grammar terms, this is the act of 'reporting' what people say, but directly, that is, expressing word for word what people say, and are usually between single or double inverted commas: 'I don't want to do this.' "So what's the plan tomorrow?" Also known as direct speech. See also reported speech.

R The eighteenth letter of the alphabet, a consonant, /ɑːʳ/ in the IPA, and ROMEO in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, we have the R as in REM (the band), or maybe RPM (revs per minute).

RANK In the study of sentences, this is when we 'break down' all the parts that make up a sentence. Morphemes make up the smallest 'building block' of a sentence, followed by the word, then the phrase, then the clause. These are the 'parts' and 'wholes' of a sentence - in this case, four levels, or ranks. To give you an example of the four ranks:

Morpheme: Many - child - ren - are - work - ing - on - a - project

Word: I  Many  I  children  I  are  I  working  I  on  I  a  I  project  I

Phrase: I  Many children  I  are working  I  on a project  I

Clause: I  Many children are working on a project  I

READING This is when you look at and understand the words that are written in a book, magazine, newspaper, or anything with words. Along with Use of English, it is also a part of four (or five, depending on how you see the exam) sections of the Cambridge Advanced Exam in English as a foreign language (the other three parts are listening, speaking and writing). This part of the exam is to show that you can deal confidently with different types of text, such as fiction, newspapers and magazines.

REDUCED PRONUNCIATION Words such as gonna, wanna, cause, til, etc, which are the short forms of words which are very common in casual conversation and show us what the speech is like.

REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS These are the pronouns with self myself, yourself, oneself, himself, herself, ourselves, themselves. These are used to refer back to the subject or thing: He cooked himself dinner. Here, ‘himself’ refers back to ‘he’: if he had said 'he cooked him dinner', this may suggest that he cooked dinner for another person. They are also used in reflexive verbs, which is when the subject and object are the same, e.g. to help oneself: Did you help yourself to the coffee?

REFLEXIVE VERBS As you have discovered in the previous entry, this is a verb when the subject and object are the same, e.g. to help oneself: Did you help yourself to the coffee? I cook myself. She organises these things herself.

REGISTER This is a style of language, or prose, suitable for the kind of reader the text is appropriate for. For example, this book has been written in a register so that intermediate students of English can read it, and also for people who perhaps do not like reading grammar books as the style and presentation is usually formal, but will (hopefully) enjoy reading this one. By contrast, many papers that have been written about mathematics and the sciences are intended to be read by professors and scientists, and so would likely be written in a formal, academic register to make sure there is no chance of getting things mixed up (otherwise known as ambiguity). In other words, not funny. The four main registers that are usually compared are conversation, fiction (writing), news and academic.

REGULAR VERB These are verbs that follow the general rules of how verbs work, and that their past tense and past participles always end with –ed, e.g., play (present tense) played (past tense), played (past participle). 

RELATIVE CLAUSE This is a clause within a sentence that is introduced by pronouns such as who, which, that, whose, where, etc. For example: A radio is a device that plays music. A waiter is a person who serves food in a restaurant. A university is a place where people study subjects. My friend, who is a dentist, works in Radom. Sometimes these pronouns are left out, particularly when speaking, when the relative pronoun is the object of the verb: The museum [that] I wanted to visit is closed today. Are these the papers [that] you were searching for? There are two types: defining relative clauses and non-defining relative clauses. Defining relative clauses 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. Non-defining relative clauses add extra information, and this is usually punctuated with commas around it: My friend, who is a doctor, lives and works in London. RH productions, which is a great place to work for, will be releasing a new book in the summer.

REPETITION Used in writing as a literary device, this is when someone repeats a word or phrase while in the process of mentally thinking about how to express what they would like to say next: 'I'd... I'd like to say...'. See also dysfluency, pauses and hesitators.


REPLY When someone has said something to you or has written to you, then you reply, either by saying something to them or writing an answer to them. See also response.

REPORTED SPEECH This is when something that is said or written is then ‘reported’. Instead of repeating the phrase word-by-word, it is rephrased to express what was meant. Past tenses are often used to do this, for example: ‘I can ride my bike!’ My little boy told me that he could ride his bike. ‘Will you marry me?’ She asked me if I would marry her. ‘I wrote the report yesterday.’ He informed him that he had written the report yesterday or he wrote the report yesterday. ‘I’m now playing for Manchester United.’ He announced that he was playing for Manchester United.

REPORTING VERB These are verbs used to report on what someone has said in reported speech. As well as 'they said' and 'they told us' we also use reporting verbs such as promise, warn, advise, ask, agree, recommend (and many other verbs too numerous to mention here) to say that someone expressed something using vocabulary in a particular way. At least, that's what Fred Smith insinuated when he moaned to me.

REQUEST If you are asking someone for something in a polite or formal way, then this is a request. So could I ask you if you could also check out question and interrogative?

RESPONSE Not quite the same as answer, but if you give a response (or the verb form, respond) to something, this is usually your reply (which could be an answer to a question) or your reaction to something: I'm waiting for a response from the tax office to my complaint. The meeting was called in response to the problems.

RESTRICTIVE RELATIVE CLAUSE Assuming you know what a relative clause is, then look at this example: The example that was added to the A-Z extras section of TEE is full of mistakes. The words 'that was added to the A-Z extras section of TEE' form a relative clause, but here it tells us specifically that the specific example added to the A-Z section of TEE was full of mistakes. There are no commas added (which are added to non-restrictive relative clauses), so this is called a restrictive relative clause; the sentence is complete and does not contain additional information, usually added between brackets. 

There is an argument that says these particular clauses should always use that and not which; this is something debated in what's the difference in this site (coming soon). 

RHETORIC Let's start with the positive definition: someone who uses rhetoric in the right way is very good, or skilled, at using language effectively and in a way that easily persuades people: rhetoric is important when dealing with the media. However, this definition could also be seen as negative, in the sense that you dissaprove of someone's rhetoric because what they are saying (or what they have written) may be intended to convince and persuade people, but it might be very honest! Sometimes in diplomatic negotiations, one side may use rhetoric that would clearly upset the other.

RHETORICAL CONDITIONAL These are first conditional sentences that make strong assertions, i.e. stating a fact or belief. You may think that I am more interested in making money than looking after my employees, but if you believe that, you'll believe anything. (You cannot believe what you have been told.) See first conditional or even our lovely article on conditionals.

RHETORICAL DEVICE These are literary elements that are used to make texts more rich and lifelike and can turn an ordinary piece of writing into something more pleasant and allow readers to feel connected to the character or the writer. 

See all the other entries concerning rhetoric.

RHETORICAL QUESTION This is a question asked and which an answer is not expected is one that is not available, or may even have an obvious answer but you're asking it to make a point or for dramatic effect. For example, questions where there is no real answer: What's the world coming to today? How should I know? Who's counting? and questions that have obvious answers (to emphasise a point): Are you crazy? You don't really think I said that, do you? Is there a point to all this?

RHYME There's many a time that words can rhyme, and all these words abound; If one word rhymes, or several times, they have a similar sound. That's how it works, just as I said; examples are the ones just read. See also verse.

RHYTHM In poetry and rhyme, this is the arrangement of words that are put together in a (more or less) regular sequence of stressed and unstressed words or as long and short syllables. For example, the rhythm in this translated Julian Tuwim poem ('Locomotive') is arranged so it has the same rhythmic pattern as a steam train:





RISING INFLECTION In conversational English this is not regarded as a problem. It is also referred to as High Rising Terminal (HRT). This is when a rising intonation pattern occurs in the final syllable of the spoken sentence. For more information, read Typical Errors in English - the book.

ROOT WORD This is a basic word that has had nothing added to it to change its meaning, with no prefixes or suffixes added to it. For example, unemployment comes from the root word employ, but has changed with the additional prefix un- and suffix -ment. See also stem and base.

RULES As far as the English language is concerned, these are not a set of regulations that have been written down and are to be followed. These are in fact patterns that we are familiar with and that form the basis of how we use these patterns to put together words, phrases, sentences and clauses. Here, we are following the rules - or established patterns - of Standard British English. Other varieties of English may have a different rule in certain examples. Here's one: Standard British English usually allows the past participle of got as got, while American English would prefer gotten. Indeed, use of the present perfect, particularly when spoken, has some differences between British and American English. See also usage.

RUNICS Also known as Runic script, these are letters that people from Germanic-speaking Saxons, Angles, and Jutes from Western Europe brought to England shortly after Roman times. It was an alphabet based on simple lines that could easily be carved into wood or bone, and was thought to have some magical importance.


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