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Dictionary Skills

A common dictionary entry





There are two head words on the top of each page. The left shows the first word and the right shows the last word.


In a normal dictionary, you are given the meaning, pronunciation, different parts of speech and the origin (also referred to as etymology). 

Lexical Terms

Lexical terms form the basic units of a language's lexicon (vocabulary).


Inflection is where a word is changed (usually at the end) to express a grammatical change.



Simple, Compound and Complex Sentences


A simple sentence only has one main idea and clause.

Campbell ate pizza.

Connor hit the ball.


Compound sentences have two main ideas. They have two independent clauses that have equal importance. You will always find a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS) or a semicolon separating a compound sentence.

Yangeni bought a new pair of shoes and Luke played a soccer game.

Jamison decided to swim without any clothes at school; swimming in the nude is not acceptable and he faced a disciplinary hearing.


A complex sentence is where there are subordinate clauses linked to the main idea. One clause in the sentence is the main idea.

Unless the students do the work, they are not leaving the classroom!

All the fans were doubting that Manchester United would beat Chelsea until Paul Pogba scored a hat-trick against them.



Parts of Speech


Common noun: 

All known objects.

Ball, light, iPad, trophy



A word that refers to an object or person.

Personal pronouns: refer to people or things - I, you, she , he

Possessive pronouns: indicate ownership - hers, yours, mine, ours

Reflexive pronouns: reflect back on the noun - self, selves, herself, himself

Interrogative pronouns: interrogate or ask questions - who, whose, to whom, what, which

Demonstrative pronouns: point out a specific person or thing - this, that, these, those

Indefinite pronouns: refer to things in a general way - one, someone, they, you, anyone

Relative pronouns: perform the functions of conjunctions - who, whom, whose, that, which, what


Proper nouns: 

Names of anything.

John, Manchester United, MacBook


Abstract nouns:

Intangible things that cannot be seen or touched, but can be felt.

Joy, sadness, depression, happy


Collective nouns: 

Names of groups of things.

A gaggle of geese. A swarm of bees. A school of fish.



A verb is a doing word.


A verb is finite when it contains all of the three things:

  • Subject
    • Is the verb being done by something
  • Tense 
    • Present
    • Past
    • Future
  • Number
    • Singular
    • Plural

She swam yesterday.



Verbs which don't have one of the aforementioned attributes.

A call was made for clarification.


The Infinitive

Whenever "to" proceeds a verb.

To run. To play. To swim.



A verb used to form the tense, mood and form of other verbs.

Eg: could, can, may, might, shall, etc.



A transitive verb is a verb that can directly take an object.

He played football. // "played" links the subject and the object.



A participle is a adjective or noun formed from a verb.

Eg: boiling water // Hearing a loud noise // In both of these cases the verb acts against the noun and is therefore an adjective. 

You can get present and past participles. Present always ends in "ing" and past can end in "ed", "en" and a variety of other two letter combinations.


The linking verb

Links a noun to a noun or a noun with an adjective. If the word that follows the linking verb is not a noun, it is known as the complement. The verb has to be is, am, or are. 


Mood of the verb

Three main moods

  1. Indicative
    1. Used to express a fact or provide information
  2. Imperative
    1. Expresses instructions or commands
  3. Subjunctive
    1. Express when something is unlikely or to express a wish, doubt or uncertainty.



Adjectives are words that describe a noun.

The bright and fluorescent colour of the ball was distracting.


Descriptive or adjectives of quality

These are the most commonly used adjectives - loyal, intelligent, creative, motivated


Proper adjectives

Proper nouns used as adjectives - South African people


adjectives of quantity or number

How many - several, most, a few


adjectives of order

Position - first, second, last


demonstrative adjectives

Which object (this differs to demonstrative pronouns as pronouns point to a person and an adjective points to an object) - that book


Possessive adjectives

Belonging to (differs to possessive pronouns as it can be directly next to the noun) - my house


Interrogative adjectives

Which one - which, what, whose



Adverbs are words that describe how a verb is done.

He ran quickly.  They swam effortlessly.


Types of adverbs

  • Manner
    • quickly, fast, slowly
  • Place
    • here, there, anywhere
  • Time
    • today, tomorrow, yesterday
  • Frequency
    • always, never, 
  • Degree


sentence modifiers

comparative Adverbs




Conjunctions are words that join sentences together.

The boy was fast and the girl was clever. The mountain was steep but he didn't care about that.


A conjunction is co-ordinating when it allows both sides of the sentence to have equal importance - this creates a compound sentence. The mainly used coordinating conjunctions can be remembered using a simple anagram: FANBOYS.

  • F
    • For
  • A
    • And
  • N
    • Nor
  • B
    • But
  • O
    • Or
  • Y
    • Yet
  • S
    • So


A subordinating conjunction or pronoun is used for a clause that has less importance than another.

Example: They were all screaming until Lesedi killed the spider.


These are words which relate words or phrases to each other.

Manchester United's trophy lies next to Paul Pogba's bed.

Apple has the money from their lawsuit with Samsung in their bank account. 


An exclamation.

Ah! Oh no! 




Loose, Periodic and Mixed Sentences

Types of Sentences

Background Knowledge - IMPORTANT 

A dependent clause can be seen by a dependent marker word - such as when. 

When the boy went to school...

An independent clause is a complete thought by itself and can remain in a sentence, alone. We can think of the independent clause as the main idea of a sentence.

He saw his team playing the football game.

Periodic Sentence

The dependent clause comes first and then the independent.

When the boy went to school, he saw his team playing the football game.

Loose Sentence

The independent clause comes first and then the dependent follows.

He saw his team playing the football game when he went to school.

Mixed Sentence

This is where the independent clause (main idea) is in the middle of the sentence.

When Pogba's strike hit the net, Manchester United had won the game and the Champion's League title.

In this sentence the main idea is that Manchester United had won the game. The rest of the sentence is additional information. 


Errors of Style


Errors of Style



A play on words. Not necessarily an error of style but still included in the section for examination purposes.

Example: My mom just took away my mood ring: I don’t know how I feel about it.

Ambiguity/Misrelated participle

This is where the sentence can have more than one meaning. The participle isn't only qualifying one noun.

Example: Each of us saw her duck.

As seen above, the sentence here does not specify whether they actually saw her animal duck or they saw her duck (verb).


A phrase or opinion that is overused and is not original. 

Example: The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

This phrase can be seen in many places and is clichéd.



Speaking around the point and not speaking about the topic that was given - being evasive.

Example: “Our father who art in heaven” instead of God

Circumlocution is similar to verbosity in this sense.



Using too many words to say something that could be said in fewer.

Example: The device which increases atomic vibration in objects is broken. 

Instead of saying, “The microwave is broken”, the above is used. Too many words were used to explain something that could’ve been explained in fewer.



Including parts of information that mean the same thing in the same sentence. 

Example: He died in the fatal car accident. 

In the sentence above, we can see that “fatal” and “died” mean more or less the same thing in the sentence and one is not necessary. 


Comma splice error

Two independent clauses are connected with a comma.

Example: Messi is the best football player in the world, Ronaldo can compete with Messi for the Ballon 'd Or

In the sentence above it can be seen that each of the clauses that are joined could stand by themselves. This indicates a comma splice error.


Error of concord

This is where the concord of a sentence is incorrectly written. 

Example: The people was playing.

The sentence above should be The people were playing. The concord is the word that qualifies the participle to the noun. The correct concord has to be used depending on the plurality of the subjects in the sentence. 



The incorrect word is used in the sentence. The outcome is usually comical.

Example: The head monster is in charge of the school.

Head monster was used instead of headmaster. Children usually make these mistakes.



The first and last letters are swapped around.

Example: Tease my ears // Ease my tears

Children often make this mistake.



"Only" and "Even" must be directly in front of the word they qualify.









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