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Parts of Speech

Written by tutor Suzanne R.

There are eight different types of words, commonly referred to as "parts of speech," in the English language. These are: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections. Some scholars also consider articles a ninth part of speech, and to be thorough we will consider articles as well.

Parts of speech are important in determining how a word should be used, and recognizing the part of speech of a given word is essential to having correct grammar.

The Parts of Speech Defined

1. Noun: A noun is a naming word, usually described as a person, place or thing.

a. A noun can be a concrete thing (ball, dog, Sally, park, New York City).
b. A noun can also be something more abstract, like a quality or an idea (love, honesty, health).

2. Pronoun: A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. A pronoun can be used to replace a person's name: She walked to school. It can also be used to avoid repeating a noun: I don't eat meat (noun) because I don't like it (pronoun).

a. Subject pronouns are those that do an action (I, we, you, he, she, they, it).
b. Object pronouns are those that have an action done to them (me, us, you, her, him, it, them).
c. Example: She hit him. "She" is a subject pronoun, the one that does the hitting, while "him" is the object, the one that is hit.

3. Verb: A verb describes an action (run, jump, cry) or a state of being (is, was).

a. Every sentence requires at least on noun (the subject) and one verb (the predicate).
Example: The dog (noun) ran (verb).
b. Sometimes verbs are also used together in a "verb phrase." Example: He was sleeping.

4. Adjective: An adjective is a word that modifies or described a noun or a pronoun (young, tall, smart).

a. Adjectives may precede the noun: The quiet girl.
b. They can also come after a reflexive "to be" verb (am, are, was, etc.): I am sad.

5. Adverb: An adverb is a word that modifies or describes a verb: He skipped happily. The music played softly. Many (though not all) adverbs end in "ly."

a. An adverb can also be used to modify an adjective: The pants were extremely dirty.
b. Adverbs also answer questions of when, why, how, or where. The party is there. She sang well yesterday.

6. Conjunction: A conjunction is a word that links two independent words, clauses or sentences. I had no food in the house, so I went grocery shopping.

a. Other conjunctions are: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet, because

7. Preposition: A preposition is another descriptive word, one that works with a noun or pronoun to create a "prepositional phrase" to modify another noun, or a verb or adjective.

a. Prepositions can provide spatial meaning: The dog was under the bed. (Under is the preposition and under the bed is the prepositional phrase.)
b. They can also provide modify time: She left before the end of the play.
c. And finally, they can indicate direction: He drove toward the beach.
d. Adverbial phrases modify the verb ("Under the bed" describes where the dog was.)
e. Phrases can also modify a noun: ("of the play" modifies, "the end")

8. Interjection: An interjection is a short exclamation that is used to express an emotion. It is usually followed by an exclamation mark (Hurray!, Ha!)

a. An interjection can stand alone: Hi!, Ouch!

9. Article: An article is used to introduce a noun (the, a, an)

Words with Multiple Parts of Speech

Some words can work as a verb or a noun. Pay attention to how the word is used to be able to tell what part of speech it is.

Example: In the sentence, "I walk to school," walk is a verb. In the sentence, "We went for a walk," it is a noun.



Parts of Speech Quiz

Choose the adjective in the following sentence: They walked quickly because the street was scary.

A. quickly
B. because
C. street
D. scary
The correct answer here would be D.

Scary is an adjective because it describes "street," a noun.

What part of speech is the bolded word? There was a fence around the dog run.

A. noun
B. verb
C. article
D. preposition
The correct answer here would be A.

A dog run is a place where dogs can exercise; therefore, "run" is a noun in this case.

Which word is the preposition: The cat darted into the street.

A. cat
B. into
C. street
D. darted
The correct answer here would be B.

"Into" tells where the cat went; "into the street" modifies the verb, darted, by answering the question "darted where?"

What part of speech is the word "she"?

A. object pronoun
B. adverb
C. subject pronoun
D. article
The correct answer here would be C.

"She" is used to replace a female proper noun (like Susan), and is used as a subject (such as "She walked to the store.") The complimentary object pronoun would be "her."

Choose the adverb in the following sentence: She looked at the bratty child angrily.

A. bratty
B. child
C. she
D. angrily
The correct answer here would be D.

"Angrily" modifies the verb "looked" in order to explain how she looked at the child.

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