Grammatical Terms Beginning with the Letter L

Labile Verb

The label labile verb refers to any verb which can be either transitive or intransitive. English has many labile verbs. Examples are: ring, sink, boil, smoke, wash, swim, jump etc.

The ship sank slowly. (Here the verb sink is intransitive because it has no object.)

The explosion sank the ship. (Here the verb sank is transitive because it has an object – the ship.)

She smokes cigarettes. (Here the verb smokes is transitive because it has an object – cigarettes.)

She smokes. (Here the verb smokes is intransitive because it has no object.)

Lexical item or lexeme

Any word considered as an item of vocabulary is a lexical item. For example, the word flower is a lexical item of English with the two grammatical forms flower and flowers. Similarly, break is a lexical item with the grammatical forms break, breaks, broke, breaking and broken.

Lexical morpheme

A morpheme which has dictionary meaning. Examples are: cat, tree, beautiful, kind, decide, off etc.

Lexical verb

Any verb which is not an auxiliary verb. For example, in the sentence ‘I must have waited for two hours’, the lexical verb is wait, while must and have are auxiliaries. Among the tens of thousands of lexical verbs in English are: run, jump, try, smoke, read, write, break, wash and sleep.


The writing of dictionaries. A writer of dictionaries is a lexicographer.


The set of words in a language. Note that the label vocabulary is usually applied to the words known by a person, but lexicon to the words in a language.

Light verb

A verb which has no meaning of its own but which merely converts another word into a verbal form. Examples are: do, make, have, give and take. Examples of expressions involving a light verb are given below:

Make a move

Do the dishes

Have a smoke

Take a sip


A symbol which represents a word or phrase without using the letters of the alphabet. Familiar examples are: 7 for seven and $ for dollar.