V The twenty-second letter of the alphabet, a consonant, /viː/ in the IPA, and VICTOR in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, we have the V as in TV.
VERB These are words such as ‘play’, ‘bring’, ‘do’, ‘like’, etc., which are used with a subject to describe what someone or something does, what happens, what is the action, or to give information. I enjoy football. You eat fish. He studies mathematics.
VERB PHRASE These are phrases that are headed by a verb, and consist of a verb which is then followed by something else that completes its meaning. The phrase can have many parts or the verb can be on its own. David has finished the washing-up. Susan gave Mary a present. She’s been crying all day. He fainted. GO!
VERNACULAR This is a word that describes the language or dialect that is most widely spoken by ordinary people in a region or country. Of course, the vernacular can include words that are only known to those people, so if, for example, you meet someone from my area (Leicester) and a native says to you 'ay yup m'duck', then they are saying, 'hello, how are you' in the local vernacular. What fun!
VOCABULARY A far less formal and non-technical way of saying lexis. So you can go there if you want if you're a grammar bore. If not, then basically these are the words we use when writing and speaking in order to express ourselves and that our reader or listener can (hopefully) understand.
VOICE As well as being what people hear when you speak or sing, your voice is also how you express yourself, particularly in writing. If you write a piece of text, you want to write in a way that best expresses the way you want to say it - or voice it. This may mean writing it in a style in the same way that you would speak it as you find this the most comfortable way of getting your point across. Often if writers have to stick to a set of rules when writing, such as those presented in style guides, then you may have a problem expressing what you want to say. In other words, you are trying to write something using someone else's voice.
VOICED SOUNDS These are the individual sounds you make when you say certain sounds (or phonemes), with the result that when you put your hand on your throat you are usually able to clearly feel the sound, or the vibrations made when saying the sound. In other words, you can clearly feel the sounds on your fingers, and so they are ‘voiced’.
VOICELESS SOUNDS Also known as unvoiced sounds.
VOWEL In written English, these are the letters a, e, i, o, u. However, these can be represented differently depending on the pronunciation; for example, the ‘u’ in university is pronounced YOU /juː/: You-niversity /juːnɪvɜːrsɪti/, and in English, this is a consonant sound.
VO LANGUAGE See SVO language.
W The twenty-third letter of the alphabet, a consonant, /dʌbəljuː/ in the IPA, and WHISKEY in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, well, this is trickier as I haven't yet found an example that uses the same pronounciation internationally. Perhaps the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), or all those boxing councils that regulate the sport such as the WBC. Otherwise, it's a case of simply remembering 'double-you'...
WEAK FORM This is basically the way we say syllable sounds, which become unstressed in when used in connected speech (and are often then pronounced as a schwa). For example, in the sentence 'What do you want to do this evening?', the first 'do' is a weak form (we end up saying 'd'you', and the second form is stressed. What d'you want to DO this evening? Prepositions, conjunctions, auxiliaries and articles are often pronounced in their weak form, since they do not carry the main content, and are therefore not normally stressed. Unfortunately, learners of English can find them difficult to hear. Sorry.
WEASEL WORDS A lot of people have perhaps seen this noun phrase frequently when looking up entries in Wikipedia, but without really realising what it actually means. Weasel words (or more boringly, an anonymous authority) are words, phrases or remarks that are deliberately ambiguous or misleading. They create some kind of idea that something specific or meaningful has been expressed, but in reality it is only vague and could be interpreted in more than one way. For example, "Experts say that eating too much chocolate can make you fat. (Which experts? Who said this? Where's the evidence?); "It's the latest cutting-edge TV." (What is 'cutting-edge about it? What standard is 'cutting-edge'? What makes your TV the latest, most modern? Be specific!) Often weasel words can hide the true meanings of what is really being said: "With all due respect ..." (What you just said was incredibly stupid and you will now be corrected); "Low Fat" or "Fat Free" (but it's full of sugar and additives); "It could take up to three weeks" (but it could be less than that or will take exactly that even if we get the product tomorrow).
WORD Now you would have thought this one was quite obvious with the meaning, of course, being a single unit of language usually made up of letters and is represented in writing or speech. They are the basic elements of language. Each word can have a space either side of it to make sure that each unit can be read separately andnotlikethiswhenitcanlookalittleconfusing. And difficult to read. However, The Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English says, 'Oh no no no, it's not that straight forward.' Well, they didn't exactly say that, but that's their general meaning. DEEP BREATH. Right. They talk about things such as orthographic words (what you and I know as a word in the sense we understand), then there are grammatical words (where a word can fall into more than one grammatical word class such as flies (a verb - 3rd person form) and flies (a noun - more than one particular insect). Then there are lexemes, which I'll write about later in a separate entry in this feature...
WORD ORDER Unfortunately for the English language, it is not only students in Poland that tend to think that our language is the confusing one; most of the other nations using European languages think our habit of putting adjectives and possessive forms before nouns is a bit strange, for example. But if I had to summarise how our language works in terms of syntax – or talking about the way we put words together, and in the correct order – then English is a language in which words are individual and do not depend on adding endings to change its tense or its relationship to something. Because of this, it is often referred to as an SVO language – that is, it follows a word order rule on the basis of Subject, Verb, Object: for example, Janet (subject) loves (verb) John (object); the factory (subject) is making (verb) lots of money (object). By contrast, Polish and all the other Slavic languages are synthetic and inflectional languages, in which additional letters are added to words to indicate the tense, or whether a noun is a subject or an object and its relationship with the subject/object. As a result, their word order is more flexible.
WRITING As well as being a group of letters or symbols written to express or communicate ideas by making each symbol either stand for an idea, concept, or thing or to show a set of sounds, or to show roughly (or exactly) each of the sounds in the language, 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 Use of English/reading). Writing takes up one hour and thirty minutes: you create two different pieces of writing, such as essays, letters/emails, proposals, reports and reviews.
X The twenty-fourth letter of the alphabet, a consonant, /eks/ in the IPA, and X-RAY in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. To remember the way to say it, X-ray seems as good as example as any! But you may have heard of something called an XBOX...
Y The twenty-fifth, or penultimate, or second last letter, of the alphabet, /waɪ/ in the IPA, and YANKEE in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. It can be used either as a consonant or a vowel: in the words cry /krʌɪ/ and mystery /mɪstərɪ/, it is clearly being used as a vowel or even a dipthong. But the consonant sound of y such as in beyond /bijɒnd/ and yellow /jeləʊ/ cannot always be represented by another letter, and so for this reason is regarded more as a consonant in English. Finally, to remember how to say it? Remember the song YMCA? If you want to know more, then click here for an interesting feature on the letter. Or even just simply within the last three letters of the alphabet: XYZ.
Z The twenty-sixth and last letter, of the alphabet, and a consonant. However, it is pronounced zed /zɛd/ in British English, but zee /ziː/in American English. It is ZULU in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. And to remember how to say it? A to Z perhaps? At least that covers both language varieties.
ZERO CONDITIONAL Also known as the open conditional. We use the zero conditional to talk about the likely truth as a result of something, or of things that are generally true or are always true. We can also use when and unless instead of if, although it is not always possible to replace if with these words. The construction is the if-clause: if + present simple; main clause: present simple. For example: If you buy cheap products, you get cheap quality. There's a nice feature in this site on conditionals, and as this appears to be the last entry in this glossary/encyclopedia, it's a good time to stop typing. Sorry, what, you mean there's something else?
ZERO CONDITIONAL + IMPERATIVE The imperative is a verb or phrase that expresses something is necessary or required, or even unavoidable. It is usually in the form of a command or request. The construction is the if-clause: if + present simple; main clause: imperative (but in the present simple). For example: If you are going to the shop, buy me some bread. (I understand that you are planning to go to the shop, and if this is true, I would like you to get me some bread.)
When she calls, tell her I’m out. (I am instructing you to tell the person, when she calls, that I am not here.)
ZERO PLURAL This is the plural form of an irregular noun which, when we describe more than one particular thing, the spelling doesn't change. we don't, for example, add the letter -s. There are many groups of animals that take this form such as sheep, reindeer, fish and shrimp and even nationalities of people: Japanese, French, Irish, but there are a small number of nouns that don't change when made plural: aircraft, for example. There. That's it. Hope you've enjoyed reading the grammar glossary that is Not4grammarbores. Now read it again and be ready for a test...