How to Understand Parts of Speech
The vocabulary of the English language can be divided up into 8 parts of speech based on the function of different types of words. These types are: nouns, verbs, conjunctions, pronouns, prepositions, adverbs, adjectives, and interjections.While most English users are capable of using all of these parts of speech, they may not fully understand what some categories of words do or how they’re technically used. Understanding the parts of speech can help you be a better speaker and writer of English.
Using Nouns and Pronouns
Use nouns to represent people, places, and things.While there are different types of nouns, they all serve more or less the same function in a sentence: to denote an object or person. Nouns are often used with articles, but not necessarily in every instance. With the addition of an “-s” or an “-es,” singular nouns can be made plural. Most nouns fall into the category of the common noun.
- For example,teacheris a singular noun,calendarsis a plural noun, andcomputeris a singular noun.
- Add "-es" to pluralize nouns ending with "s," "ch," "sh," "z," or "x." For example, the plural ofboxisboxes.
Capitalize proper nouns which indicate specific persons or places.Proper nouns are always capitalized to indicate that you’re referring to a single, specific entity.Mr. Jones,Miami Beach, andApple Computerare proper nouns.
- For example, you could say, “My mother and I went toDisney Worldand metMickey Mouse.”
Represent concepts and other intangible objects with abstract nouns.Unlike concrete nouns which signify tangible objects (e.g.,rattlesnake), abstract nouns point to intangible ideas.Some abstract nouns arehonesty,love, andsadness. You can use abstract nouns to say something like: “I believe in truth, justice, and liberty.”
- Abstract nouns can also represent activities. Some examples includereading,writing,swimming,painting, anddrawing.
Introduce pronouns to take the place of nouns in a sentence.English speakers use personal pronouns all the time. Personal pronouns take the place of a specific person or thing (including the speaker themself) in a sentence.There are several categories of pronouns. First person singular: I. First person plural: we. Second person singular: you. Second person plural: you. Third person singular: he, she, it. Third person plural: they. Examples of their usage include:
- Iam eating pizza.
- Weare going to the movies
- Youstudy English 6 hours per week.
- Weare going to El Salvador for vacation.
- Heis my brother.
- Sheis my sister.
- Itis big, dark, and dangerous.
Know that possessive pronouns define ownership or show possession.Use a possessive pronoun if you want to show that an individual or group owns a specific object.These pronouns fall into several categories. First Person Singular: my, mine. First Person Plural: our, ours. Second Person Singular: your, yours. Second Person Plural: your, yours. Third Person Singular: his, her, hers, its. Third Person Plural: their, theirs. Here are some examples of their use:
- Mycar is blue.
- Thatbook is mine.
- Herdesk is the last one on the right.
- That book ishers.
Use demonstrative pronouns to draw attention to the noun that the pronoun is standing in for.There are 4 demonstrative pronouns broken into 2 categories: singular and plural. The singular demonstrative pronouns are “this” and “that.” The plural demonstrative pronouns are “these” and “those.” For example:
- Thisneeds more memory.
- Thatis in the historical register.
- Theseare mine andthoseare yours.
- Are you wondering when you should use “this” and when you should use “that”? “This” (and “these”) are generally used to point to something closer in proximity while “that” (and “those”) points to something more distant.
Realize that indefinite pronouns refer to nonspecific people.Here is an example: “Someone left the grammar book on my desk.” The indefinite pronoun “someone” indicates that, while a person left a book on your desk, you have no idea who it was.
- Indefinite pronouns include words like:one, someone, no one, nobody, anything, something, several, each, most, all, neither, either, another, other, both, many, few, any, some, something, andeveryone.
Use the reflexive pronouns to refer back to yourself.These pronouns point back to or reflect the subject of the sentence. Reflexive pronouns can also point back to another noun or pronoun within a sentence.Some reflexive pronouns include: “myself” (first person singular), “yourself” (second person singular), “themself," "himself," and "herself" (third person singular), “ourselves” (first person plural), “yourselves” (second person plural), and “themselves” (third person plural). For example, you could say:
- I looked in the mirror and sawmyself.
- She chidedherselffor not doing better on the exam.
Useinterrogativepronouns when asking questions.Interrogative pronouns are used as nouns in sentences that ask about a person. These sentences are almost always questions aimed at finding out the identity of a specific person. The interrogative pronouns are: who, which, what, whom, and whose.Some examples are:
- Whowrote this document?
- Whoselaptop is running Linux?
Deploy arelativepronoun to define an object's relationship to a noun that you've already referred to.The relative pronoun relates back to a previous statement.For example, in the sentence, “I met a womanwhostole my heart,”whofunctions as a relative pronoun which relates back to “woman.” Who stole my heart? The woman I met.
- The relative pronouns are:who, whom, whose, what, which, that, whoever, whatever, andwhomever.
Using Verbs, Adverbs, and Adjectives
Deploy verbs to show that an action is being performed.Verbs show action or indicate a state of being.As in other languages, verbs need to be conjugated to match the number of people performing them. You'll also need to put verbs in past, present, or future tense to indicate the time in which the action was performed. For example:
- In the sentence, “IthoughtIlockedthe gate,” thought and locked are both past-tense verbs.
- In the sentence, "Iwanttoopenthe door," want and open are both present-tense verbs.
- In the sentence, "The girlsadmitthey lied,"admitis in its plural form. Were you only talking about 1 girl, you would say, "The girladmitsthat she lied."
Use adverbs to modify a verb in a sentence.An adverb describes an action or an adjective (or another adverb in some cases). Adverbs show when, to what extent, and how a specific action was performed.Most, but not all adverbs end with “-ly.” Examples of adverbs include:
- How: Samquicklyate his lunch.
- To what extent: Jennie did her homeworkexcellently.
- When: Tom rosereluctantlyto perform the chores.
Insert adjectives to modify and add information to nouns.If you’d like to add information regarding a singular or plural noun, use an adjective. Adjectives can be used to modify pronouns also. These words answer questions about nouns like: what kind? which one? how many?Examples of adjectives include:
- You are agreatperson.
- Thetallman was late for the meeting.
- Hersmellycat ruined the house party.
- The iguana is aterriblepet.
- Your mother is akindwoman.
Writing Prepositions, Conjunctions, and Articles
Use prepositions to clarify the relationship between 2 or more objects.A preposition is a word joined with (and generally placed before) a noun or its equivalent. The proposition, together with the noun, forms a phrase equivalent to an adverb or adjective. Use prepositions to add more information about a noun in the sentence. Prepositions include words like: at, with, by, in, above, below, beside, and outside.
- So, you could write something like, “The caninsidethe pantry was full of beans.”
- Or, “Take lifebythe horns or it will run you over.”
Add coordinating conjunctions to join 2 clauses or phrases together.Aconjunctionis a word that joins sentences, clauses, or words and allows them to stay together in a single sentence. Examples of commonly used coordinating conjunctions include: and, or, but, and for. Coordinating conjunctions give the 2 clauses or parts of a sentence equal priority or importance.
- So, you could write something like, “I went to the shoreandhad a great time,butI forgot my lunch.”
Deploy a subordinating conjunction to establish a hierarchy between clauses.Unlike coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions downplay the importance of the second clause in a compound sentence. Subordinating clauses include words like: because, while, since, and although.
- “I hoped that I would not be late for schoolbecauseI knew we would have a test today.”
- “I loved going to the pool over the weekendalthoughI got a nasty sunburn.”
Insert interjections to express surprise, anger, or pleasure.An interjection is a word thrown into a sentence to express a feeling. Interjections have no grammatical relation to the rest of the words in the sentence. For this reason, they're most commonly placed at the beginning or end of a sentence.Examples of commonly used interjections include:
- Oh no!
Use articles to clarify the number of objects.The definite articletheand the indefinite articleaare always joined with nouns. For this reason, they're typically classified as adjectives. Use “the” when you're referring to 1 specific noun (which you'll say right after the article). Use “a” if you're referring to any number of a specific kind of noun.
- For example, if you say, “I walked toastore,” you could be referring to any number of stores.
- But, if you say, “I walked tothestore,” you're only referring to 1 specific store.
QuestionWhat are the differences between adverbs and verbs?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA verb is an action word and tells the reader what is happening. For example, in the sentence "Jane ran," the word "ran" is a verb. An adverb modifies or describes a verb. For example, in the sentence "Jane ran quickly," the word "quickly" is an adverb because it describes how Jane "ran."Thanks!
QuestionWhy do I have to use prepositions?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPrepositions state a relationship of something to something else. For example, in the sentence "Sam stood on the bridge", the word "on" is the preposition. It tells you where Sam was compared to where the bridge was.Thanks!
QuestionI need to learn more about prepositions. Where can I go?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSeveral websites can help. For example, you can visit the Khan Academy website or Google the Schoolhouse Rock video on prepositions. Numerous blogs also contain thorough explanations.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I understand prepositions?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPrepositions state the relationship between two nouns. For example, in the sentence "Kelly sat in the tent", "Kelly" and "tent" are the nouns. "In" is the preposition. It tells you where Kelly was compared to where the tent was.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I use nouns in a sentence?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNouns represent all of the people, places, things, and ideas in a sentence. If you need more help with nouns, you can visit the Khan Academy website or google the Schoolhouse Rock video on nouns.Thanks!
QuestionWhere do I learn about pronouns, common/concrete/abstract/possessive nouns, adverb and conjunctions?Top AnswererConsult any English language textbook or visit websites like Grammarly.com, Grammar-Monster.com, and GrammarBook.com.Thanks!
QuestionWhat are the differences of verb, adverb & adjective?UltimatelifelessnerdCommunity AnswerThe verb is the action that is being done. The adverb is the description of the action being done. The adjective is the description of the subject.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I determine if a word is a verb or an adjective?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA verb uses -ing (dancing) or -ed (danced) or present form (dance) whilst an adjective is used to describe something (pretty, smart, elegant, etc.) .Thanks!
QuestionIs it improper to use the same adjectives too many times?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt isn't 'improper'. Sometimes saying the same words/adjectives over and over again will eventually just become boring and they no longer have the intended effect. It truly depends on who you are, your personality and style and what others react to around you. In some case it might be your signature set of words, in other cases it might just be dull and repetitive.Thanks!
QuestionWhat are prepositions?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAny member of a class of words used before nouns, pronouns, or other substantives to form phrases functioning as modifiers of verbs, nouns, or adjectives. A preposition typically expresses a spatial, temporal, or other relationship (e.g. on, by, to, since, etc.).Thanks!
- There are many types of pronouns that are used to take the place of different types of nouns in a sentence. These include: personal, possessive, object, demonstrative, indefinite, intensive/reflexive, interrogative, and relative.
- An object pronoun is a personal pronoun used as a direct object within a sentence. For example, if you said, "Bill and Tom lied tousabout washing their clothes," the wordusis functioning as an object pronoun. You could also say, "Thank you for takingmeto the airport."
- Do not confuse “who’s” for “whose.” Who’s is the contraction for who is. So, saying “Who’s leaving early?” is the same as saying, “Who is leaving early?” Whose is an interrogative pronoun.
- American and British English treatcollective nounsdifferently. These words represent collections or groups of things. “Team,” “family,” and “committee” are collective nouns.
- American English differentiates between singular and plural collective nouns. For example: The familyison vacation; the familiesareon vacation. In British English, collective nouns always use the plural form of the verb. For example: The familyareon vacation; the familiesareon vacation.
- The English word “interjection” comes from the Latin “interjicio,” meaning “I throw in.”
- The English “preposition” also comes from Latin.
Video: Parts of Speech (Grammar Lesson) - Noun, Verb, Pronoun, Adjective, Adverb, Conjunction, and More
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