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English as a lingua franca or ELF refers to the use of English between speakers of different varieties of English. The term is used to describe communication that involves people who do not consider English their first language.

ELF researchers prefer this term to International English as the latter suggests that there is, or should be, one clearly distinguishable, codified, and unitary variety of English.[1]


The following are some of the potential features of ELF lexicogrammar that researchers have identified:[2]

  • non-use of third person present tense–s ("She look very sad")
  • interchangeable use of relative pronouns who and which ("a book who," "a person which")
  • omission of definite and indefinite articles where they are obligatory in native speaker English as well as insertion where they do not occur in native speaker English
  • use of an all-purpose question tag such as "isn’t it?" or "no?" instead of "shouldn’t they?" ("They should arrive soon, isn’t it?")
  • increasing of redundancy by adding prepositions ("We have to study about ..." and "can we discuss about ...?"), or by increasing explicitness ("black colour" vs. "black" and "How long time?" vs. "How long?")
  • reliance on verbs of high semantic generality, such as do, have, make, put, take
  • pluralisation of nouns considered uncountable in native speaker English ("informations," "staffs," "advices")
  • use of that-clauses instead of infinitive constructions ("I want that we discuss about my dissertation").

In ELF situations, communication breakdowns can occur when one speaker uses a native speaker idiomatic expression, such as an idiom, phrasal verb, or metaphor, that the interlocutor does not know.


  1. ^ Jenkins, J. (2006). "Current perspectives on teaching World Englishes as English as a lingua franca." TESOL Quarterly, 40(1), pp. 157-181.
  2. ^ Seidlhofer, B. (2004). "Research perspectives on teaching English as a lingua franca." Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 24, 209–239.
  • Jenkins, J. (2007). English as a Lingua Franca: Attitude and Identity. Oxford University Press.

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