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.

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