TEFL Glossary

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Paralinguistics (or paralinguistic features) are aspects of communication in addition to words. These features are: tone and pitch of voice, gestures, facial expressions and body language. Paralinguistics often serve to convey emphasis or attitude. 

parts of speech

See grammatical categories.


Passive forms are clauses in which the recipient of an action is the grammatical subject (e.g. He was attacked). Passive forms are formed by using verb to be as an auxiliary, and putting the main verb in the past participle form. S+BE+past participle.

peer teaching

When students teach each other.


Preliminary English Test -  a Cambridge English examination for students at B1 level.


A phoneme in a language is the unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another, for example, /t/ and /d/.

phrasal verb

It is a multi-word verb combining a verb and an adverb (adverbial particle). Together the two words usually have a different meaning from what the individual meanings of the words suggest (e.g, blow up). Verb + preposition combinations (e.g., look at) are sometimes called phrasal verbs (there is disagreement about this). Phrasal verbs can be transitive or intransitive. 

Transitive phrasal verbs may be separable or inseparable, e.g., take off  is separable:  take off your hat/take your hat off.

'Look after' is inseparable: I looked after the children. NOT *I looked the children after.

placement test

It is a test designed to find out students' current level in order to place them in the correct class.


The final stage of a lesson is sometimes called the plenary. Its purpose is to bring together and summarise what has been done in that day's lesson.


A plosive is a sound formed by completely stopping and then releasing the flow of air (e.g.. /p/ and /g/).

Plosives are also called stops.


It is a word or word form which indicates more than one. In English, plurals are usually formed by adding -s or -es to the end of the singular noun.

Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is the process of encouraging or establishing a pattern of behaviour by offering a reward when the desired behaviour is exhibited.


A possessive is a word or form which indicates possession. In English these are: 's, possessive determiners (my, their, etc.) and possessive pronouns (mine, hers, etc.).


PPP stands for present-practice-produce - a common procedure for teaching grammar. See units 1, 6 and 7.


Pre-teaching is teaching language that students will need for an activity in advance of asking them to read, listen, have a debate, etc.


It is an affix added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning, e.g., un-, dis- a-, etc.

Preliminary English Test

See PET.


Before one can read and write.


It is a word placed before a noun to indicate a relationship between two parts of the sentence, e.g., on, in, at.

Most obviously prepositions indicate location: The cat is on the table. However, they may also refer to time: My birthday is in August, or other types of relation: I am interested in jazz


Prepositions are words which express relationships between two items. Primarily they express location (position) and come before a noun (pre-). E.g.,The bottle is on the table, in the cupboard, etc. They are also used to express time relationship: on Wednesday, at 4.O clock, in August. These words are also used in more abstract ways: interested in, look forward to, the study of.

There is a high number of prepositions in English, and they are difficult for learners to master.


See PPP.

primary stress

See main stress.

process writing

The term is used to describe writing lessons which focus on the process of producing a piece of written work – the various stages a writer goes through to create the final product, e.g., gathering ideas, planning, drafting, editing, proofreading, etc.

productive skills

See four skills.

productive vocabulary

A distinction can be drawn betweenproductive and receptive vocabulary (sometimes referred to as active and passive vocabulary). Productive vocabulary is the vocabulary a person uses in their spoken and written language. Receptive vocabulary is the vocabulary which is recognised and understood in context, but not actually used in productive language.

proficiency test

A proficiency test is designed to measure the level of a learner's  language. Public examinations, such as TOEFL and FCE, are proficiency tests.

progress test

A progress test is designed to assess a learner's progress in a particular course.


A pronoun is a short word that stands in place of a noun, e.g., she/herare subject and object pronouns that can be used in place of 'Janet'.

proper noun

Proper nouns are basically the names of specific people, organisations, and places.  In English proper nouns start with a capital letter, e.g., Ilhan Omar, Morocco,United Nations.

Other nouns are common nouns, e.g., woman, country, etc.

Rather inconsistently, days of the week and months are capitalised in English, but not seasons.

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