Herbaceous annuals or perennials. Spikelets borne in racemes or spikes, rarely in panicles, 2-many-flowered (1-flowered in Aristideae, Sporoboleae, Zoysieae
and some Chlorideae
); all the florets bisexual or only the lowest and then the upper ones male or sterile, disarticulating above the persistent glumes; lemmas 3-nerved, entire or lobed, awnless or awned from the tip; lodicules truncate, often lobed; stamens 3, occasionally fewer.
Leaf anatomy: vascular bundles circular or deltoid in section; bundle-sheath single or double; chlorenchyma cells usually radially arranged (sometimes indistinctly so) and restricted to the immediate region around the vascular bundle; 2-celled micro-hairs present.
Embryo: epiblast, scutellum cleft and internode in the vascular trace all present; first leaf folded.