ELT terms - defined and referenced!

Welcome to the NILE ELT Glossary


scroll  books  digital

We hope this is useful for you and your NILE Online course.

(Definitions written by Mary Spratt, edited by Alan Pulverness)

Currently sorted By last update ascending Sort chronologically: By last update change to descending | By creation date

Page: (Previous)   1  ...  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  ...  16  (Next)

Word class

See Parts of speech

Entry link: Word class

Lexical modality

See Modality

Entry link: Lexical modality

Formulaic subjunctive

See Mandative subjunctive

Entry link: Formulaic subjunctive


This is the smallest unit of meaningful sound in a language. A phoneme can distinguish one word from another e.g. /bæd/ vs /bed/. In English Received Pronunciation (RP) there are forty-four phonemes, twenty-four are consonants and twenty are vowels.


Learning the phonetic script and understanding the phonemic chart can really help you teach individual phonemes to students. Often there are just a few phonemes that students have trouble pronouncing - usually because they don’t exist in their L1.

Further reading

English Pronunciation in Use, Elementary/ Intermediate/ Advanced. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

Underhill, A. (2005). Sound Foundations. Oxford: MacMillan.






Entry link: Phoneme

Phonetics and phonemics

Phonetics is the study of all the speech sounds used in all human languages. The IPA chart (See IPA) represents these sounds. Unlike phonemics (also known as phonology - see Phonology), phonetics is not concerned with the sounds of individual languages. It studies the production, transmission and reception of speech sounds in all languages. Phonemics studies those sounds which are meaningful (i.e. which may distinguish between one word and another) within one language.


We learn from phonetics that there is a sound called a glottal stop. But we learn from phonemics, not phonetics, that the glottal stop does not change meaning in standard English and that it is therefore not a phoneme in standard English, but an allophone (See Allophone) of /t/.

Further reading

Carr, Philip (2003).English Phonetics and Phonology: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.

Ladefoged, Peter. (1982).A Course in Phonetics (2nd ed.). London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Roach, Peter (2009). English Phonetics and Phonology, 4th edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Entry link: Phonetics and phonemics

Phrasal verb

Phrasal verbs are items made up of a verb and one or more particles (adverbs or prepositions). You cannot always work out the meaning of phrasal verbs by looking at the individual words e.g. look after, hang in. In English some phrasal verbs are informal or neutral in register. They may have more formal equivalents often coming from Latin e.g. get off/alight, make up/compose, look at/regard.


"Learners often think phrasal verbs are difficult to learn, but if they learn them as lexical items rather than as grammatical items they’re not so hard."

Further reading

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. (2006). Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McCarthy, M. and O’Dell, F. (2004-2007). English Phrasal Verbs in Use (Elementary/Intermediate/Advanced). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006) An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.




Entry link: Phrasal verb

Noun phrase

See Phrase

Entry link: Noun  phrase

Prepositional phrase

See Phrase

Entry link: Prepositional phrase

Verb phrase

See Phrase

Entry link: Verb phrase


This term is often used to refer to a meeting or conference in which all members are present. In English language teaching it is sometimes used instead of whole class to mean those moments in a lesson during which the teacher gets all students to focus on her/him so he/she can give the same input to everyone at the same time. This is sometimes called teacher-fronted plenary.


"The danger of using too much plenary teaching is that it puts learners in a passive role of listeners only, while the teacher talks or inputs in some way."

Further reading

Andrews, S. (2007). Teacher language awareness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nunan, D. Nunan, D. (1989) Understanding Language Classrooms: A Guide for Teacher-Initiated Action. Prentice Hall Publishers.

Schwab, G. (2011) From dialogue to multilogue: a different view on participation in the English foreign‐language classroom. Classroom Discourse Volume 2Issue 1.

Scrivener, J. (2012) Classroom management techniques. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Walsh, S. (2011) Exploring Classroom Discourse: Language in Action. Abingdon: Routledge.


Entry link: Plenary


This acronym stands for Presentation-Practice-Production. PPP is an approach to language teaching that was very popular in the 1980s. The approach involves first the teacher presenting the form and meaning of new target language to students in a meaningful context (presentation), then giving learners the opportunity to do controlled practice of the target language (practice), then finally letting students use the target language in freer, less controlled activities (production). The rationale for PPP is that learners need an accuracy-focussed stage in which to practise the language in relatively error-free conditions before using it in less guided conditions. This is so as to give them the opportunity to build up good habits and avoid errors, a platform from which they can then engage in more fluency-based activities. The approach has been criticised for being too restrictive and rather artificial, but attempts have been made to respond to these criticisms by making its activities more meaningful and communicative. It currently survives in more subtle forms in many ELT classrooms and materials.


"Some of my students really like PPP-type lessons – I think they like to be guided before jumping into using the language without support. Other students I have clearly find it limiting and a bit meaningless. It depends on their learning styles, so I try to vary the approaches I use across my lessons."

Further reading

Burns, A. and Richards, J. (2012) Pedagogy and Practice in Second Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. Harlow: Pearson.

Scrivener, J. (2011). Learning Teaching, 3rd edition. Oxford: Macmillan.

Thornbury, S. (2006) An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.



Entry link: PPP


This is when we express approval or admiration of something, for example, This meal is absolutely delicious. Well done, cook! Teachers are often encouraged to praise their students but there is quite a lot of debate about what is the most productive and effective type of praise.


"My teacher always used to praise us, saying things like Very good or Well done, even to students who gave the wrong answer – I found it rather confusing."

Further reading

Chaudron, C. (1988) Second Language Classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gebhard, J. and Oprandy, R. (1999). Language Teaching Awareness.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scrivener, J. (2012). Classroom Management Techniques. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ur, P.  (1999). A Course in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.




Entry link: Praise


See Prescriptive

Entry link: Descriptive

Product writing

See Process writing

Entry link: Product writing


See Pronoun

Entry link: Relative


See Pronoun

Entry link: Interrogative


See Pronoun

Entry link: Demonstrative


See Pronoun

Entry link: Reflexive


See Pronoun

Entry link: Possessive


See Pronoun

Entry link: Quantifiers

Page: (Previous)   1  ...  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  ...  16  (Next)