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T The twentieth letter of the alphabet, a consonant, /t/ in the IPA, and TANGO in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, we have the T as in TV. 

TABOO WORD Or to put it a more popular way, swear word, or curse word, or bad language, offensive language, expletive or more formally, taboo English or profanity. Well, not always: some taboo words like damn and cor simply don't shock much these days, while there have been the odd one or two that have actually become more shocking or offensive as attitudes change (the n-word used in racist language, for example). Basically, the vast majority of taboo words or phrases come from the subjects of sex, the toilet and the body. Now I don't intend to write any here, but these days most English dictionaries do include them because, as they are descriptive and not prescriptive, it is their duty to report it, explain its meaning and, if necessary, to show if it will offend. I had a student who didn't realise that a certain four-letter word beginning with the letter 'C' was, on a scale of 1-5, was very much classed as a 5 - the most offensive.  

TAG QUESTION Also known as question tags. These are very short clauses that are added to the end of a statement to make it a question, e.g., It’s a good film, isn’t it? Depending on the intonation these are used to either invite the listener to agree with the speaker (mostly with negative tags), or is a real question (mostly with positive tags) used to ask for things or information: They’ll be here, won’t they? You know how to play the piano, don’t you? Hot, isn’t it? Don’t tell her what I said, will you? Let’s have a look, shall we? You’ll be here tomorrow, right?

TALE This is another word for a story, but with the slight difference in that it is a story that includes some magical and exciting events (e.g. Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk), or even giving a dramatic version of a real-life event you have experienced. My trip to the Amazon? Gosh, have I got a tale to tell on that trip!

TALKING This is what we do when we want to express our thoughts, opinions, expressions and so on, and doing this by means of making utterances by using words.

TAUTOLOGY This is the use of different words to say the same thing twice in the same statement. The money should be adequate enough is an example of tautology. Other examples: they arrived one after the other in succession. It's deja vu all over again. They are simply going to have to score more points than the other team to win the game.

TENSE These are different forms of a verb that shows you're referring to the past, present, or future time. And we have a lot of see entries for this: Past simple, past continuous, past perfect, present simple, present continuous, present perfect, future simple, future continuous, future perfect. There's also a few more, but I'm not wasting the red ink for this...

TEXT I'm sure you all know this one, but let's go through the dictionary definitions. Text is any written material. It can also be the written version of a speech, broadcast, or recording, and can be a book or other piece of writing, especially one connected with science or learning. The word has also taken on a more modern meaning as a noun for sending typed messages by telephone. You send a text (message). Not an SMS. 

THIRD CONDITIONAL And if you still don't know what a conditional sentence is, then please see conditional! The third conditional is used to talk about a situation in the past which did not happen, but then imagining the results if this act did happen. For example:  If I had taken the bus, I wouldn’t have been late. (But I did not take the bus, and as a consequence I am late.) You could have been killed if you hadn’t worn your seatbelt! (But you wore your seatbelt, thank goodness!) The construction is the if-clause: if + past perfect; main clause: would/could/might, etc. + have + past participle.

THIRD PERSON When we make a statement about another person or thing, and not about yourself or the person that you're talking to, then the subject of the statement is about he, she, it or they. We refer to this structure as the third person: He/she likes skiing. They see many people during the day. It likes lots of water. The subject can also be in the form of a name or a noun: The dog likes lots of water. Fred's interested in engineering. See also first and second person.

THREE-WORD PHRASAL VERBS These are phrasal verbs that are made up of three words, for example, get along with (to have a good relationship with someone), look forward to (to have happy thoughts when thinking about something in the future), run out of (to not have any more of a particular thing). Three-word phrasal verbs are always transitive, that is, they cannot be used without an object: 'I ran out of'. Ran out of what? Sugar? In the same way, we can't split them with an object pronoun: 'I ran it out of' and 'I ran out it off' are wrong: it should be I ran out of it. See also intransitive verbs.

TOKENS In linguistics, tokens are used to describe the number of words - that is, words that are clearly separated by a gap/space in a text. So for example, there are 11 tokens used in the first sentence of this entry. See also types.

TONGUE-TWISTER This is a phrase (or even a number of phrases to make a story or poem) that is designed to be difficult to articulate properly, and can be used as a type of spoken word game. They can also be used to help improve pronunciation and fluency. For example: The sheik's ship's sixteen sick chic sheep had been shorn.

TOPIC This is something that you like to discuss or even write about. English is a good topic. Or subject.

TRANSCRIPT A written version of something that someone has said. The verb is to transcribe. A transcript of spoken language can be presented in many different ways, often with many of the features that we associate with written language often missing such as no sentences, paragraphs, inverted commas and so on. Three full stops (...) are used to show gaps and pauses and not the endings of sentences. An example of a transcript can go like this:

Yeah well I was going out... well when I said I was I meant to be... but anyway there she was see... and she just stared and here's me thinking what she [inaudible]... and she just screamed and goes off where I dunno...

TRANSCRIPTION A text that has been transcribed.

TRANSITIVE VERBS These are verbs and phrasal verbs that always 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, watch: I watched TV last night. come across (to find something without intending to find it): I was in the cellar when I came across my old photo album. We can't say I watched alone except in a question (what? what did you watch?); in the same way, we don't say I came across alone except in a question, but even then we don't need to say the object as it is clear from the listener's perspective what is being talked about: A: What did you come across [in the cellar]? B: [I came across] my old photo album. Other examples: My friend gave me a presentI have to put up with sharing the kitchen with four other students. Note that we cannot split phrasal verbs that are transitive with the object pronoun, so we can't say 'I came it across in the cellar'. (We have to say I came across it). Three-word phrasal verbs are always transitive: I have to put up with them) NOT: 'I have to put them up with' or 'put up them with'. See also ambitransitive verbs.

TRANSLATION The act of rewriting or re-expressing a piece of text from one language to another but usually keeping to the meaning, expression or even the spirit of the original text, while at the same time ensuring that the new text reads as if it was expressed by a native speaker. Direct, or literal translation is the same activity but doing it word for word without changing the word order, choosing the wrong synonyms or not taking cultural differences into account. For example, one Polish electronic superstore has the slogan ‘Technologia tak ma’ which, when literally translated, becomes ‘Technology that has’. To match what would be a more acceptable word order and phrasing in English, a translator might say So has technology, which would not really make much sense. However, the more experienced translator and native may choose the more catchy and familiar phrase we have the technology.

TURN OF PHRASE This is a phrase used to describe someone who has their own way of expressing something in words, or saying things in another way. For example, I often use 'other half' to mean 'partner', 'wife/husband', 'lover', 'loved one' as for me, it's a nice neutral way of expressing this point, and so a nice turn of phrase.  

TWO/THREE-WORD VERBS See phrasal verbs.

TYPES In linguistics, these are the different words (or tokens) used in a piece of text - that is, those words that may occur more than once in a piece of text. For example, in the previous sentence, there were 30 words/tokens used, but 'words' appears twice, 'in' three times, 'a', 'of' and 'text' twice. So there may be thirty words used, but only 24 types. See also type-token ratio.

TYPE-TOKEN RATIO In linguistics, this is the relationship between types (different words) and tokens (all the words) in a piece of text. What this effectively means is that the more types you have in relation to tokens, then the more varied your vocabulary is in this piece of text and, in turn, you are showing greater variety in vocabulary. So as an example, in the previous two sentences combined, we have 57 tokens (all the words) but only 35 tokens (all the different words). So if we divide the number of types (35) into the number of tokens (57) and multiply by 100, we get a type-token ratio of 61.4%. This area of study tell us that in speech and conversation, the type-token ratio is low as we tend to repeat many of the same word tokens. Interestingly, if you were to conduct the same analysis on TEE, you may also find it lower than you expect. Why do you think this may be?

TYPICAL ERRORS IN ENGLISH A really fantastic book that looks at many of the common mistakes made by students learning English as a foreign language, particularly from Poland. But if you come from another country, there's much you'll find in there too. Most of the material in there is not featured on this website, just as much of the material here does not feature in the book. They basically complement each other. How sweet!

TYPO More formerly known as a typographical error, but typo is simply easier to say and writeA typo is essentially an error made in typography - that is, the setting of letters and words prepared for a presentation, which can be... oh, just see typography.

TYPOGRAPHICAL ERROR This is more popularly known as a typo, which you've just found out about if you've read the previous entry...

TYPOGRAPHY This is the setting of letters and words prepared for a presentation, which can be in the form of a book, a presentation, or even writing an essay. Essentially, it's about what gets inputted and then printed out, after which it is then passed on to somebody for reading.

U The twenty-first letter of the alphabet, a vowel, /juː/ in the IPA, and UNIFORM in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, we to pronounce it as 'YOU' as in 'YouTube' or even as U-tube. Or even USA!

UNCOUNTABLE NOUN A noun that refers to something that cannot be counted. What is regarded as uncountable depends on how the English language sees the world. We cannot count air, water, rice, sand, bread (gases, liquids, materials, substances, etc.), furniture (chairs, tables, wardrobes, etc.), traffic (cars, lorries, buses, etc.) and money (coins, notes, currencies, etc.) are regarded as uncountable nouns, as English sees them as many different things that make up one mass. They are regarded as singular, so we say the water is hot. I need some information. I speak English. If these nouns are counted, then it is usually the container or package, or a part of one unit that it is contained within that becomes the countable part: A loaf of bread. A glass of orange. A piece of paper. A bucket of sand. A queue of traffic. A lot of money.

UNDERLINE See underscore.

UNDERSCORE This is the mark (_), which before computers was to simply draw a line underneath a word or sentence to get people to see it or to give it added importance. (It was also known as an underline.) It was originally invented for the typewriter to allow the typist to additionally underline words. Today, it is now an essential separate component - or thingy - in computing keyboards, and is also a symbol used in some email addresses.

UNDERSTATEMENT This is when the speaker expresses something that is clearly of lesser strength that what the speaker or writer actually means or what would be normally expected. In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Black Knight chooses to swordfight King Arthur to the death rather than let him continue, but as soon as Arthur successfully chops his sword arm off, the knight simply says 'It's just a scratch' and tries to fight on, each time understating his predicament when his other arm and eventually his legs are chopped off. 'I've had worse!'. Understatement is used for emphasis, irony, hedging, or humour; understatement using negative syntax is called litotes.

UNVOICED SOUNDS These are the individual sounds that you make when you say certain sounds (or phonemes), with the result that when you put your hand on your throat you are usually not able to clearly feel the sound, or the vibrations made when saying the sound. In other words, you cannot clearly feel the sounds on your fingers, and so they are ‘unvoiced’ or voiceless.

UPPER CASE These are the capital letters, but are more often used to describe printed text.

USAGE This is a set of general agreements (but not judgements) which everyone knows and follows as far as how we should use (ideally) the English language, but can vary depending on the variety of language used. This can relate to who or what we are talking or writing about and to who (or whom) we are talking or writing about; My usage of English, for example, would not be the same when talking to a best friend or a university professor - unless, of course, that professor happens to be my best friend!

USE OF ENGLISH This is 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 Use of English is in the same part as reading (the other three parts are listening, speaking and writing). Use of English mainly focuses on grammar and vocabulary, with exercises such as gap filling, choosing the correct form of words, and so on. However, at the time of writing, exam students are advised not to spend too much time on this section as this carries less than half the marks awarded to reading (and so makes up around 15% of the total marks).

UTTERANCE These are the things that we say; it is the way we want to express our thoughts, opinions, expressions and so on in the form of words.

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

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