From knowing a legal term to writing top-end legal text

Updated: May 12, 2021

Reading a dictionary may give you the impression that terms exist alone, in isolation, barely related to anything but their meaning (definition) provided there.

Far from it! Just like trees in a forest are rooted in the ground, reach in the sky, intermingling with other plants, so are legal terms rooted in their linguistic context, as they appear in sentences, texts, contracts, laws, court motions, judgments, etc.

Legal terms have their own verbs to use with, their own adjectives, and their own complements that follow them. Too bad no dictionary, no course book and no legal English course provide any detailed and comprehensive description about the linguistic environment in which legal terms exist and flourish.

Let us take for example the term ”injunction”.

The world’s supreme monolingual legal dictionary, Black’s Law Dictionary defines it as: ”a court order commanding or preventing an action”.

Now that you know the meaning, do you also know how to use it in sentences? Knowing the meaning of a term is the first step in knowing that term. The second step is to know how to properly use it.

In terms of verbs and complements: person + apply for/is entitled to/obtain/receive/secure/seek + injunction + from court/to have action verb3/ordering person to verb1/ to verb1 (etc.) Sentence patterns and sample sentences: (1) person + apply + to court + for injunction + to have + item + verb3 as in: "He applied to the court for an injunction to have his pay restored." (2) person + receive + injunction + to verb1 as in: "The campers received an injunction to vacate the park or risk being in contempt." (etc.) This term is described in the book in a total of 3 pages, 1.5 page for each meaning (commanding & preventing). If you are aware of such linguistic environment for a large set of terms, you are well on your way and are advancing towards proficiency and excellence in legal English. If you wish to proceed to perfection in legal English, you must have dictionaries at hand to check and learn the meaning of terms. If you wish to use these terms in a grammatically appropriate manner, like a native pro, you need to have the first encyclopaedia of legal English at hand, and use them in tandem. Knowing meaning and proper usage: the secret of native pro excellence in legal English.

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