ELT terms - defined and referenced!

Welcome to the NILE ELT Glossary


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

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

Browse the glossary using this index

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Use / Usage

These terms are used in linguistics in contrast to one another to describe ways in which a person knows language. In usage a person knows about language or items in language abstractly as a component in a language system. In use, a person knows how to use language for communication. This distinction which focuses on the difference between knowing about language (usage) and knowing how to use language (use) was critical in the development of language teaching, away from grammar translation and towards a communicative approach. Henry Widdowson introduced and developed this distinction in 1978.


Some people used to criticize grammar translation, saying that it was too usage-oriented. Nowadays some people criticise communicative language teaching saying it is too use- oriented.

Further reading

Carter, R. and Nunan, D. (2001). Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Widdowson, H.G. (1978). Teaching Language as Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Howatt, A. P. R. and Widdowson, H.G. (2004). A History of English Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.





A word or group of words, normally in speech, that make sense by themselves but do not necessarily contain the grammatical requirements of sentences found in more formal written language. The Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics (2010) says of an utterance: ‘a unit of analysis in speech which has been defined in various ways but most commonly as a sequence of words within a single person’s turn at talk that falls under a single intonation contour. Utterances may sometimes consist of more than one sentence, but more commonly consist of stretches of speech shorter than sentences’. The term utterance is often used in contrast to sentence in written language. 


"This little dialogue contains two utterances:

A: He didn’t really understand what was going on.

B: Right."

Further reading

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

Coady, J.,Huckin, T. (ed.s) (1997). Second language vocabulary acquisition: a rationale for pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kissine, M (2013). From utterances to speech acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, M. (2010). The lexical approach. Andover, Hampshire: Cengage Learning.

Prodromou, L. (2008). English as a lingua franca: a corpus - based analysis. London: Continuum.

Richards, J. and Schmidt, R. (2010) Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. Harlow: Pearson.