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AQA GCSE English Language Glossary

The key vocabulary you need to learn for your AQA GCSE English Language paper. Find all the terms and definitions you need to understand, from ‘adjective’ to ‘voice’.

A (Adjective to audience)
Adjectives are words that describe nouns.

Adverbs are words, often ending in -ly, that qualify verbs or adjectives; for example, saying how something is done, as in ‘gently’.

An anecdote is a brief and usually casual narrative account, sometimes used to illustrate a point, as in ‘anecdotal evidence’.

An argument is a reason, or a structured set of reasons, to justify a particular viewpoint.

An attitude is the way someone thinks or feels about something.

The audience of a text means the people who will read it, or at whom it is aimed; for example, teenagers.

C (Characterisation to crisis)
Characterisation refers to how an author creates and portrays a fictional character, by what they do and say and by direct description.

A story told in ‘chronological order’ is one simply told in the order in which events take place, rather than using time shifts.

A cliffhanger is an ending to a chapter or section of narrative which leaves the reader anxious to know what will happen next.

The climax of a narrative is the point of greatest excitement.

colloquial language
Colloquial language is language used casually in informal situations, or to create a sense of informality in a text.

To compare is to analyse how two things are similar and/or different.

Connotations are the ideas or feelings that a word might produce in a reader.

To convey a meaning or idea is to express it so it can be understood by a reader.

coordinating conjunction
A coordinating conjunction is a word that connects two parts of a sentence, indicating how they relate to each other: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

A counter-argument is an idea or set of structured ideas put forward to contradict or disprove an argument.

The crisis point in a narrative is when a main character is most at danger and has most to gain or lose.

D - E (Dialect to extended metaphor)
A dialect is a form of language, based on grammar and vocabulary, spoken in a particular region.

The word ‘dialogue’ refers to the words spoken by two or more characters in a story. It can also include other phrases around these words, such as ‘she said’.

direct address
Direct address is a technique in which a writer addresses the reader using ‘you’ or ‘your’.

discourse marker
A discourse marker is a word or phrase that guides a reader through a text, showing how one part leads on to the next. Examples are: ‘However’, ‘On the other hand’, ‘Despite this’.

emotive language
Emotive language is the use of words chosen to have an emotional effect on the reader.

To evaluate is to judge a text, or to explore how far you agree with a statement.

Exaggeration is making a point by saying something is better, worse or in some other way more extreme than it really is, as in, ‘It was so cold my hands were turning to ice.’

An exclamation is a sudden cry or remark expressing surprise or strong feeling. It is followed by an exclamation mark. Example: ‘That’s incredible!’

An explicit statement is one that plainly states a fact or viewpoint, rather than just hinting.

explicit information
Explicit information is information given in a straightforward way, rather than just hinted at.

extended metaphor
An extended metaphor is when a writer describes something as if it were something else, and does so making several different points of comparison, often over more than one sentence.

F - G (Fact to genre)
Facts are things that are generally agreed to be indisputably true.

Fiction is writing in which a writer tells an imagined story.

figurative language
Figurative language is the use of words to convey meaning in a non-literal way, for example in metaphors and similes.

first-person viewpoint
First-person viewpoint (or ‘first-person perspective’) is when a writer uses ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘my’ to tell a story from one person’s point of view.

A narrative flashback is when a writer takes the reader back in time from the starting point of the story.

A flashforward is when a writer leads the reader to a point later in time than the main story.

The focus of a text is what a writer makes the reader concentrate on at any one point.

Foreshadowing is the fiction technique of making the reader anticipate events that will happen later, as in: ‘If I had known then, I might not have done what I did next.’

The form of a text is its type; for example, letter, speech, or diary entry.

The genre of a text is its broad category, such as horror story, romance, or travelogue.

I - M (Imperative to multi-clause sentence)

An imperative is a sentence ordering or instructing the reader to do something, as in, ‘See for yourself.’

Implicit meaning is meaning which is hinted at, not stated explicitly, so that the reader has to infer it.

inciting incident
In a novel or play, the inciting incident is an event early in the narrative that triggers the main action.

To infer is to deduce or work out meaning that is implied.

An inference is a meaning deduced from what is implied.

To interpret is to make sense of something in a particular way.

in media res
To begin a story ‘in media res’ is to start it in the middle of the action.

Juxtaposition is placing two ideas or phrases next to each other in a text for comparison or contrast.

A metaphor brings something to life imaginatively by speaking of something as if it is something else that it resembles in some way, without using ‘like’ or ‘as’.

A method is a way of doing something.

minor sentence
Minor sentences are grammatically incomplete sentences (lacking either a noun or a verb) used for dramatic effect.

The mood of a piece of writing is the overall feeling that it creates in the reader.

multi-clause sentence
A multi-clause sentence is one with a main clause and one or more subordinate clauses.

N - P (Narrator to purpose)
A narrator in fiction is a character telling the story. The word can also refer to the author.

Non-fiction refers to any text based on reality rather than imagination.

non-Standard English
Non-Standard English is any form of English that is colloquial, that uses slang or dialect, that differs in grammar and/or vocabulary from the English normally used in formal public contexts.

The opening of a text is its beginning.

An opinion is a viewpoint held by one or more people, as opposed to a fact.

pathetic fallacy
Pathetic fallacy is the literary technique of giving human feelings to inanimate things, such as the weather.

To personify something is to describe it as if it were human.

Personification is a technique in which a writer describes non-human things as if they were human, as in ‘Time marches on’.

The word ‘perspective’ can refer to narrative viewpoint, as in ‘a third-person perspective’, or to an attitude towards a subject.

In a narrative, a problem is a difficulty faced by characters. The need to resolve it is usually what drives the plot.

The purpose of a text is what its author intends it to achieve; for example, to persuade or criticise.

R - S (Repetition to synthesise)
Repetition in a text is using a word, phrase or sentence more than once.

Register refers to the style of English used in a text or in speech, especially its degree of formality.

rhetorical question
A rhetorical question is one asked for dramatic effect, without expecting an answer.

rhetorical devices
Rhetorical devices are forms of language and techniques that aim to make a text more persuasive.

second-person viewpoint
A second-person viewpoint (or ‘perspective’) is when a writer addresses the reader using ‘you’ and ‘your’.

Similes are figures of speech that describe things more vividly by comparing them to other things using ‘like’ or ‘as’.

single-clause sentence
A single-clause sentence is a simple sentence that has a subject and a verb.

Standard English
Standard English is the variety of English used in formal contexts, not using dialect, colloquialisms, or slang.

A statement is a clear expression of something, such as ‘The sky is blue.’

Statistics are exact numerical figures, giving quantities or percentages, sometimes used to support an argument.

The structure of a text is how its parts relate to each other to make a whole.

subordinating conjunction
A subordinating conjunction is a word that links a subordinate (dependent) clause to a main one, such as ‘when’ and ‘where’.

Suspense is created by writers when they make the reader anxious about what will happen to a character in a difficult and urgent situation.

Symbolism is the use of symbols: things in a text that represent an abstract idea or feeling, such as a rainbow to represent hope.

To synthesise ideas or details in two texts is to create a whole combining what they have in common.

T - V (Tension to voice)
Tension in a text can refer to the sense of conflict between characters or the feeling of anxiety generated in readers about the text’s outcome. In most fictional texts the tension is ultimately resolved, though not necessarily by a happy ending.

text form
The text form refers to the style or type of text, such as a short story or a speech.

third-person viewpoint
A third-person viewpoint (or ‘perspective’) is the narrative viewpoint in which an author assumes knowledge of all characters and writes about them using the pronouns ‘he’, ‘she’, or ‘they’.

time frame
The term ‘time frame’ is used to refer to the point in time from which a story is told. For example, it could be told from the viewpoint of an elderly person in the 1960s describing the experiences they had in 1914.

Tone can refer to an author’s attitude to their subject, and to the relationship they seek to establish with their readers.

topic sentence
Topic sentences tell the reader what the next section of text will be about. They are often used to begin a paragraph.

A tricolon (also called a ‘list of three’) is a rhetorical device listing three things, or using three phrases, often with the most powerful at the end.

A verb is a word expressing an action.

Voice in writing is the expression of the author’s personality or attitude, or that of a first-person character, through their choice of language.