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Edexcel GCSE English Language Glossary

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

A (Aim to audience)


An aim is a purpose.


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 critical)


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 – of greatest intensity of action or emotion.

colloquial language

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


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

Contrast in a text is when two things are presented in such a way as to highlight their differences.


Comparative means saying how one thing is like or unlike another. Some comparative words and phrases: similarly, whereas, in contrast, on the other hand.

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.


A critical analysis of a text is one that examines and evaluates it, weighing up its merits and defects. It does not necessarily involve a negative judgement.

D (Description to discourse marker)


Description is text saying what something is like; for example, a place.


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’.

E (Emotive language to extended metaphor)

emotive language

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


To evaluate a text is to assess how far you think it has achieved its aim.

evaluative language

Evaluative language is language expressing a view on how good or how successful something is.


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!’


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 ‘the first person’) is when a writer uses ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘my’ to tell a story from one character’s point of view, or in non-fiction from their own point of view.


A narrative flashback is when a writer takes the reader back in time from the starting point of the 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 genre of a text is its broad category; such as, horror story, romance, or travelogue.

I - J (Imagery to juxtaposition)

Imagery is the collective term referring to metaphors and similes.


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 an implied meaning.


An inference is a meaning deduced from what is implied.


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


An interpretation is a view about what something, such as an author’s text, means.


A judgement is a considered opinion, often assessing the value of something, such as a text.


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

L - M (Listing to multi-clause sentence)


Listing is the technique of presenting a number of items, one after the other.


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 way of doing something. Writers’ methods are the techniques by which they achieve effects.

minor sentence

Minor sentences are grammatically incomplete sentences (lacking either a noun or a verb) used for dramatic effect. They could even consist of a single word.

A monologue is a text written in the first person, from the viewpoint of the author or a character, usually expressing their thoughts and feelings.


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

A motif in a text is a dominant or recurring idea.

multi-clause sentence

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

N - O (Narrative to opinion)


A narrative (noun) is a story. The word can also be used as an adjective to describe a text that tells a story.


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.

Omniscient means ‘all-knowing’. In fiction, an omniscient author assumes they know, and can therefore reveal, everything about all their characters, including their thoughts and feelings.


The opening of a text is its beginning.

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

P (Paraphrase to purpose)

To paraphrase is to express something in a text in one’s own words.

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

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

A writer’s perspective is their attitude towards a subject. The word can refer also refer to narrative viewpoint, as in ‘a third person perspective’.

A phrase is a short group of words that have some meaning, but which do not make complete sense on their own.

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

R (Reasoning to rhetorical questions)

The reasoning of an argument is the sequence of linked ideas making a case that attempts to persuade the reader.

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

Repetition in text is using a word, phrase, or sentence more than once.

rhetorical language
Rhetorical language is language using devices aimed at making it more persuasive.

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

S (Second-person viewpoint to synthesise)

second-person viewpoint
A second-person viewpoint (perspective) is when a writer addresses the reader using ‘you’ and ‘your’. It is also known as ‘direct address’.

Sensory language relates to the five senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste.


A similarity is a way in which something, such as a text or someone in a text, is the same as something or someone else.

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.

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 (Tension to tricolons)

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 speech.

third-person viewpoint
A third-person viewpoint (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’.

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.

Transactional writing is non-fiction writing that aims to communicate information.

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.