Parts of speech are categories of words that perform similar grammatical roles in phrase and sentence structures. But what exactly are the different parts of speech and how do you know which words correspond to different grammatical categories? This article will explain parts of speech and how to identify, modify, and use them in simple and complex sentences.
Parts of Speech
In the English language there are various parts of speech which are put together in order to form a sentence. Without these, the language would never be able to function.
What Are Parts Of Speech?
Parts of speech are word categories that are defined by the grammatical roles they play in sentence structures. The categories of words are organized by the grammatical functions and meanings they produce and convey.
In the English language, there are around ten common parts of speech. These include nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, determiners, and articles.
Though the meanings of these categories are explained in the following sections, just know that these parts of speech play a grammatical role, or serve a grammatical function in language, including sentence structure and meaning.
Open and Closed Word Classes
Closed word classes are parts of speech that are consistent and do not have newer words introduced to them over time. These include pronouns, conjunctions, determiners, and prepositions.
Open word classes are parts of speech that have newer words introduced to them over time. These include nouns, verbs, adjectives, interjections, and adverbs.
Different Parts of Speech (with Examples)
In this section, we are going to looking a little more closely at the various parts of speech such as the verb, the noun and the adjective, amongst others. This will allow us to gain a better understanding of how a sentence is formed and how the various parts of speech work.
The Noun (n.)
A noun is a word which gives a name to something, in some cases you might hear them referred to as a ‘naming word.’ There are various different subcategories of nouns such as the proper noun, the collective noun, the possessive noun and the common noun. Each one of these serves a different purpose, let’s look at this a little more closely.
Jeffrey, Korea, pen, New Year, dog, cat, elephant, garden, school, work, music, town, Manila, teacher, farmer, Bob, Sean, Michael, police officer, France, coffee, football, danger, happiness…
Noun example sentences:
- The teacher told the children to stop chattering in class.
- John is good at French but weak at History.
The Proper Noun
The proper noun is used to name a specific item, for example the names of places or people or perhaps a movie or song title.
- The capital of England is London.
- Sarah is beautiful.
The Collective Noun
A collective noun is used to refer to a group of nouns, for example people or animal groups.
- The swarm of bees were headed straight towards our picnic.
- At church on Sunday, the choir sings loudly.
The Possessive Noun
A possessive noun is used to show ownership of something, this is done by adding an apostrophe and an s, like in the following examples.
- This is my dog’s ball.
- That is Sarah’s friend.
The Common Noun
A common noun is the most simple form of a noun and gives a name to an item.
- Here is a cup.
- Do you want a cake?
Determiners and Articles
Determiners and articles are parts of speech that are used with nouns or noun phrases to clarify them. They are usually placed in front of nouns (or noun phrases) and can help specify their identity, quantity, distance (from the speaker), or specific number (among other things).
Determiners are a part of speech that are placed in front of nouns to clarify their reference. They include categories such as:
- Articles – a, an, the
- Numbers – two, eight, ninety-nine
- Pronouns and possessive determiners – his, her, its, your, my, their, our
- Difference determiners – other, the other, another
- Demonstratives – these, those, that, this
- Quantifiers – a little, a few, much, many, some, any, enough, most
- Distributives – half, both, every, each, all, neither, either
- Pre-determiners – quite, such, rather, what.
Articles are a sub-category of determiners that serve as a type of adjective to identify nouns. They may be:
- Definitive – which indicates that the noun’s identity is already known to the audience. The word the would be a definitive article because it indicates a noun that is already known to the reader/audience (“I am going to sit in the chair.”), or
- Indefinite – indicates an unfamiliar noun, or references a noun for the first time, or shows a noun belongs to a certain class of objects. The words a and an are considered indefinite articles (“I am going to sit in a chair.”, “You are an accountant.”, or “I was born on a Thursday.”).
The Verb (vb.)
A verb is one of the most important parts of speech and is a word which is used to describe an action. There are three main types of verbs which are detailed below.
Walk, is, seem, realize, run, see, swim, stand, go, have, get, promise, invite, listen, sing, sit, laughed, walk…
Verb example sentences:
- Don’t try to run before you can walk.
- Did you kiss anybody?
- Leave me alone!
The Action Verb
An action verb does exactly what you might expect, it describes an action.
- The man walked down the street.
- I laughed at his joke.
The Linking Verb
A linking verb is used to show a state of being rather than a physical action.
- Sarah feels cold.
- I am very tired.
The Modal Verb
A modal verb is used to ‘help’ the main verb and can show the speakers thoughts or attitude about what they are saying. For example, words such as might, must, could and can are all modal verbs.
- I might walk to the park this afternoon.
- He can eat the last slice of cake.
The Pronoun (pron.)
A pronoun is one which replaces a noun, and once again there are various different types of pronouns within the English language. Each one is used in a different way, let’s take a look at some examples of this.
I, me, we, you, he, she, yours, himself, its, my, that, this, those, us, who, whom
Pronoun example sentences:
- Richard isn’t at work this week; he‘s gone on holiday.
- Don’t tell her the truth.
- She tried it herself.
- You can’t blame him for everything.
- The woman who called yesterday wants to buy the house.
The Reflexive Pronoun
A reflexive pronoun is used to refer to self, for example myself or yourself.
- I am going to keep this last cupcake for myself.
- Peter always puts himself first.
This type of pronoun is used to refer to a non specific person or item, you might see words such as anything, few, everyone or all.
- Can you take all of these?
- I need to speak to someone about this rash on my arm.
The Possessive Pronoun
A possessive pronoun is used to show possession or ownership of something, for example my, his, their or yours.
- Is this your bag?
- I have been looking after his daughter.
The Relative Pronoun
A relative pronoun is used to introduce an adjective clause. You might recognise these as words such as who, which, that or whose.
- This is the woman who will be working with you.
- Is this the book that everyone is raving about?
The Adjective (adj.)
An adjective is a word which describes a noun or pronoun, there are thousands of adjectives within the English language.
Beautiful, seven, cute, second, tall, blue, angry, brave, careful, healthy, little, old, generous, red, smart, two, small, tall, some, good, big, useful, interesting…
Brown dog, red car, tall boy, fat cat, big garden.
Adjective example sentences:
- This is a blue car.
- The small squirrel ran up the tree.
- During the thunderstorm, we saw some heavy rain.
- My mother has short hair.
- The documentary on TV last night was very interesting.
- My son has an impressive collection of toy soldiers.
- The weather is hot and sunny today.
- My vacation was exciting.
- The leaves on that tree are green and large.
The Adverb (adv.)
An adverb is used to modify, or further explain an adjective, verb or another adverb. They can add more information to a sentence making it more clear and easier for the listener to imagine what is being described in detail. Most of the time, adverbs will end in the letters -ly but there are some exceptions to this rule such as the words very and never.
Neatly, in the market, every day, tomorrow, very, badly, fully, carefully, hardly, nearly, hungrily, never, quickly, silently, well, really, almost…
Adverb example sentences:
- This is an extremely attractive photograph.
- I have a very large pet dog.
- My car drives quickly.
- When I am running late for work, I eat my breakfast rapidly.
- The boy is crying loudly.
- She carefully preserved all his letters.
The Conjunction (conj.)
A conjunction is used as a way of joining two or more ideas or words together. Most commonly you will see the words for, and, not, but, or, yet and so used as a conjunction.
And, however, still, but, or, so, after, since, before, either, neither, because, unless…
Conjunction example sentences:
- My boyfriend and I are going on a date.
- I will go to the shop but not before I have had something to eat.
- This is a gift for my friend.
- I was tired yet I still went to the gym.
The Preposition (prep.)
A preposition is used in English to show a relationship between two words or phrases. You might recognise a preposition as being words such as in, before, on, at, to, between etc.
In, on, at, about, apropos, according to, after, along, above, except, from, near, of, before, since, between, upon, with, to, after, toward…
Preposition example sentences:
- The cat is sitting on the wall.
- I am going to the salon after my dinner.
- The boy ran along the street for an hour.
- You will find the theatre in the town centre.
- I saw that news in the newspapers.
The Interjection (interj.)
An interjection could also be thought of as a exclamation. They are used to emotion, reaction or excitement and have no grammatical link to anything else within the sentence they appear.
Ahem!, aha!, gosh!, aw!, great!, hey!, hi!, hooray!, oh!, yeah!, oops!, phew!, eh!, oh!, ouch!, hi!, well!…
Interjection example sentences:
- Phew! That was a close call.
- Wow! Did you see how big that bird was?
- Oh, I forgot to tell you that I saw your father last week.
- Hooray! You passed your exam!
- Well, what did he say?
- Yeah! She’s going with us tonight!
How To Determine The Part Of Speech In A Sentence
In order to determine a part of speech in a sentence, look at the word being used, its context, and what meanings it brings to the sentence structure. Here are some questions you can ask about a particular word in a sentence, in order to figure out what part of speech it is.
- Is it a person, place, idea, name, or thing? It is a noun.
- Is the word used in place of a noun? It is a pronoun.
- Does the word convey an action, occurrence, or state of being? It is a verb.
- Does the word modify a noun? It is an adjective.
- Does the word modify a verb, adjective, or itself? It is an adverb.
- Is the word placed in front of a noun to form a modifying phrase? It is a preposition.
- Does the word link a phrase or clause? It is a conjunction.
- Is the word a quick expression of emotion? It is an interjection.
- Is the word placed before a noun to clarify it? It is a determiner or an article, as explained above.
Parts of Speech and Sentence Construction
In sentence construction, parts of speech are present in what are known as the clauses of sentences. Clauses are groups of words that have a subject and a verb. The verb is also part of an entire verb phrase known as a predicate.
In its simplest form, a sentence can have one independent clause.
For example, the sentence “I walk to the store” contains one clause.
- “I” is the subject of the clause, while “walk” is the verb.
- The ending phrase, “walk to the store” would be the verb phrase, or predicate, of the sentence.
This entire sentence “I walk to the store” is an independent clause, expresses one subject doing one action — and is known as a simple sentence.
Knowing this, apply the fact that nouns and pronouns will often be the subjects or objects of simple sentences, while verbs will convey actions. So once again:
- I (subject, pronoun) walk (verb) to (preposition) the (article) store (object, noun).
Complex sentences also contain a subject and a verb, but can not stand alone as independent clauses. For example:
“since the weather is sunny.”
Here, “weather” would be the subject, and “is” would be the verb. So, “I walk to the store since the weather is sunny” would be a complex sentence. The parts of speech in the second part here would be:
- since (conjunction) the (article) weather (noun) is (verb) sunny (adjective).
Parts of Speech in English | Pictures
In the English language, there are eight different parts of speech and each one serves its own purpose. Without them, we would not be able to form a coherent sentence and so it is important that we are familiar with what each of them is. In these images, we are going to look at each of the different parts of speech, what they are used for, and some examples of how they work within a sentence.
Parts of Speech in English Image 1
English Parts of Speech Table Image 2
Parts of Speech Video
Learn all parts of speech in English with a useful video lesson.
These eight parts of speech can all be merged together to help you in creating grammatically correct and cohesive sentences in English. Whilst some are further split into subcategories, others function on their own, but each one is just as important as the next.
Parts Of Speech Quiz
A. In the sentence “I ran to the tallest tree”, what part of speech is the word “tallest”?
- An adverb
- A preposition
- An adjective
B. In the 2000s, the word staycation described the act of staying home for a vacation. Since “staycation” is a noun and a new word, what class of words does it belong to?
- The Open word class
- The Closed word class
- The Infinitive word class
C. In the sentence “I’ll have a few tacos”, what part of speech are the words “a few”?
Answers: A) 3, B) 1, C) 3