TEFL Glossary

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See getting-to-know-you activities.


A common phrase whose meaning is not deducible from those of the individual words used. Examples include over the moon and to bite off more than you can chew, and sick as a parrot.


International English Language Testing System - an exam jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English, which is designed to show what level of competence the learner has reached in English. Students applying to study at university in English Speaking countries are often required to have achieved a specified score in this exam. There is an academic exam and a general one. The general IELTS is aimed at people who want to immigrate to an English speaking country. The US equivalent of this exam is the TOEFL.


See Content and Language-Integrated Learning.

imperative form

The imperative form is used when we give instructions or orders: sit down, listen to me, etc.

inductive approach

(Also inductive presentation).

A 'Language → Rules' approach to teaching new grammar.  Students see examples of the new language in context, and the teacher then guides them to work out the rules. (Compare with deductive presentation.)


The infinitive is the base form of a verb. The terms base form and infinitive, or infinitive form are used interchangeably.

This is the form of the verb you would use to complete the sentence 'I want to...', e.g., to be, to go, to have, to leave, etc.

A full infinitive is with to. The bare infinitive is without to, as used after modal verbs.

Each verb actually has four infinitive forms:

Present infinitive: (to) go

Continuous infinitive: (to) be going

Perfect infinitive: (to) have gone

Perfect continuous infinitive: (to) have been going

innatist theory

In language acquisition theory, theinnatist theory (introduced by Chomsky) is the idea that humans are born with an innate capacity to process and acquire language. This capacity is called the language acquisition device (LAD). The theory holds that all languages have an underlying shared set of structural rules (Universal Grammar), which the human brain is naturally equipped with. The theory is widely accepted though it has been questioned in recent years (even by Chomsky). See for example Vyvyan Evans' The Language Myth.


Input is the language that an acquirer/learner is exposed to.

Input Hypothesis

The Input Hypothesis is Stephen Krashen's theory that new language is learned best if it is slightly higher than the learner’s current level of English. 

This is expressed in the mathematical-looking formula:  'i + 1.'

i = Input,  meaning the language learners currently know, and +1 being the new language.

Integrated Skills in English

See ISE exams.

integrated skills lesson

It is a lesson which requires students to use all four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking).


Intensive reading or listening is when we read closely to find detailed information and reach a thorough understanding of a text.

Extensive reading and listening refers to approaching longer texts, which are read more rapidly for a more general global understanding.

Extensive reading in language learning is when students read texts for pleasure and for developing their general reading skills; they are not required to do tasks.

Classroom reading and listening lessons usually involve intensive reading/listening, which means reading closely to complete specific tasks.

Extensive reading  and listening are probably the best ways of improving comprehension and expanding vocabulary. It is useful for teachers to find ways of encouraging students to read and listen extensively as well as intensively.

intensive listening

See intensive.

intensive reading

See intensive.


This refers to who is talking to whom during the lesson, e.g., T-class, st-st, etc.

Lesson plans usually include a column in which planned interactions are recorded.

Interactionist and Developmental Theory

According to this theory of language acquisition, children learn language because they naturally want to communicate. Language therefore emerges from social interaction. As children's language ability develops though communication, it will be strongly affected by their environment.

interactive listening

Interactive listening requires the listener to respond - conversation. Listening which does not require a response (e.g., listening to the radio) is non-interactive. Arguably all listening is in some way interactive because even if you do not need to make a response, there will be some kind of emotional or intellectual response to what you hear.


It is a sound formed by putting the tongue between the teeth (/θ/ and /ð/).


An interjection is some kind of exclamation or hesitation word or noise (Oh! Ugh, er...) that tells us something about the speaker's attitude towards what he or she is saying (e.g., pleasure, disgust, uncertainty, etc.).

International English Language Testing System


interrogative adjectives

See interrogative determiners.

interrogative determiners

They are also called interrogative adjectives (e.g., whose, what, which). 

interrogative forms

Question forms are grammatical forms used for asking questions.  E.g.: The interrogative/question form for past simple is S+did+verb (infinitive): Did you make a pie?


Intonation is the rise and fall of the voice in speech.


See transitive.

intrinsic motivation

Learners with intrinsic motivation are motivated to learn a language (or other subject or skill)  because it is enjoyable. The learner is learning to use English for its own sake rather than because it will lead to an external reward.

Research suggests that learners with intrinsic motivation learn more effectively than those with only extrinsic (external) motivation. Teachers should try to make lessons interesting and fun in order to promote intrinsic motivation.

See also extrinsic motivation.

irregular adverbs

They are the adverbs of manner which are not formed by adding -ly to the adjective, e.g., hard, well, late and fast.

irregular plural

It is the plural form of a countable noun that is not formed by just adding -s, or -es to the singular noun, e.g., children, wolves and women.

irregular plurals

Plural nouns that do not take the normal form of an added -s or -es. E.g. children, women, sheep.

ISE exams

Integrated Skills in English is a series of English language exams at 4 different levels run by Trinity College London.

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