Grammarians categorize English words into groups, which we call Parts of Speech. Most guides will tell you that there are eight or nine parts of speech, depending on a few factors, like whether they include interjections. Each part of speech serves a particular function, which I will describe below.
The parts of speech we will cover are:
- determiner, and
I’ve also put together a table with all the parts of speech and examples of their use in sentences. Below the table, you’ll find a breakdown of each part of speech with further examples.
Parts of Speech Cheat Sheet
|Part of Speech||Description||Examples||In a Sentence (bolded)||Notes|
|Noun||A person, place, thing, or idea||John, forest, car, joy, house, business, Minneapolis||Wow! Those hikers walked surprisingly quickly through the long and steep trail that they had planned.||“Hikers” is a plural noun (more than one) and “trail” is a singular noun (just one). Nouns are divided into common nouns, like “city,” and proper nouns, like “Detroit.”|
|Pronoun||Substitutes for a noun||He, she, they, it, my, these, those||Wow! Those hikers walked surprisingly quickly through the long and steep trail that they had planned.||In the example, “they” substitutes for the noun “hikers.”|
|Verb||Expresses actions and states||Go, sit, draw, walk, do, be, was, were, driving, talking||Wow! Those hikers walked surprisingly quickly through the long and steep trail that they had planned.||This verb is a past tense verb — it describes something that happened in the past.|
|Adjective||Modifies or describes a noun||Happy, red, interesting, nice, wonderful, spooky||“Long” and “steep,” adjectives, both describe the noun “trail.”|
|Adverb||Modifies or describes a verb, adjective, or other adverb||Happily, softly, angrily, intriguingly, forcefully||“Quickly” modifies the verb “walked.” “Surprisingly” modifies “quickly.”|
|Preposition||Links a noun to another word; shows location or time||Above, along, by, on, in, with, under, at, upon, during, before, after, despite, via, through||Though there are lots of other words in this sentence, we can see how the conjunction “through” links a noun with another word if we pare it down to walked through the trail, where “through” connects the noun “trail” to the verb “walked.” We can also say that it shows the location of the walking (the trail).|
|Conjunction||Joins words, phrases, or clauses||For, and, but, or, because||The conjunction “and” joins the words “long” and “steep.”|
|Determiner||Articles and other words that limit or determine a noun||A, an, the, that, those, these, which||Determiners often answer the questions, “Which?” or, “What?” For example, “Which hikers?” “Those hikers.” Possessives, like his, her, my, your, etc., can serve as determiners.|
|Interjection||A short exclamation||Oh!, Ouch!, Blast!, Yikes!, @#$%!||Sometimes other types of words can serve as interjections. For example, “Mom! You cut your hair!”, where “Mom!” is both a noun and an interjection.|
Nouns are things. Stuff. People. Places. Ideas. (Yeah, things, stuff, people, places, and ideas are all nouns.)
Common and Proper Nouns
Nouns can be common, like city, park, and building, or proper, like New York City, Central Park, and The Chrysler Building. Proper nouns are names. Michael and Mr. Blackwood, for example, are proper nouns.
Singular or Plural Nouns
Nouns can be singular or plural. A singular noun is when there’s only one. One man, one dog, one person. Plural nouns occur when there’s more than one. Two men, ten dogs, a million people.
Nouns can also be possessive, which means a noun “owns,” belongs to, or is otherwise attached to another noun. In English, we use the apostrophe to denote possession. In the phrase “the man’s dog,” for example, man’s is possessive. Man owns (or belongs to) dog.
Pronouns substitute for nouns. Pronouns include he, she, they, you, it, and many more.
Plural, Possessive, and Plural–Possessive, Oh My
Pronouns can be possessive, like my, your, his, and her. Pronouns can also be plural like we and they. And pronouns can be plural and possessive, like our and their.
Words like that and which do double (or triple!) duty. That can be a determiner (see below), as in the phrase “I ate that apple,” but can also become a pronoun, as in the phrase, “I ate that” — where that substitutes for a noun, like apple.
To be or not to be, that is the…ultimate verb. Verbs show actions and states of being. This includes to be and its derivatives: is, are, were, will be, have been, etc. Verbs show all the things you can do. Crawl. Walk. Run. Sit, watch, enjoy, laugh, cry, and eat.
Verb Tense & Aspect
Verbs have a tense, which refers to when the thing is being done. There are three main tenses: Past, present, and future. In the past tense, I wrote. In the present tense, I write. In the future, I will write (which enlists the help of the “helping verb” will).
Furthermore, the tenses all have an aspect, which demonstrates further details, like whether an action is ongoing. The aspects are simple, perfect, continuous, and perfect continuous. So you can have any combination of aspects with tense; for example, simple past or perfect continuous future.
The subject of tenses and aspects is pretty complicated — it deserves its own article. But for now, here’s a simple chart that breaks down the tenses and aspects with examples.
Verb Tense and Aspect Chart
|Simple||I wrote.||I write.||I will write.|
|Perfect||I had written.||I have written.||I will have written.|
|Continuous||I was writing.||I am writing.||I will be writing.|
|Perfect Continuous||I had been writing.||I have been writing.||I will have been writing.|
This information is pretty esoteric, so don’t get too distracted by it. The main thing to remember is that verbs show action and states of being.
Adjectives describe nouns.
When you’re telling someone about your favorite English language blog, you would use adjectives to describe it. Smart, witty, clever, helpful, accessible, and concise are all adjectives.
And were you to describe the writer of that blog you would continue to use adjectives. Smart, witty, clever, helpful, handsome, kind, approachable, and single are also adjectives.
Adverbs are like adjectives, except that they don’t describe nouns, they describe other parts of speech: verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Adverbs often end in -ly, but not always. They can come before verbs, as in, “she quickly ran,” or after, as in “she ran quickly.”
Here are some examples of adverbs in a sentence:
Modifying a verb: He quietly tip-toed through the dark hallway.
(Quietly modifies the verb tip-toed.)
Modifying an adjective: He quietly tip-toed through the eerily dark hallway.
(Eerily modifies the adjective dark.)
Modifying another adverb: He totally quietly tip-toed through the eerily dark hallway.
(Totally modifies the other adverb quietly.)
Prepositions link nouns to other words, showing us the relationship between them. They show location or time. For example, “We will meet on the bridge during sunset.”
Prepositions can also be used to show purpose, as in, “I am walking for my heart.”
Prepositions include in, on, toward, with, through, at, upon, toward, via, and many more.
Conjunctions join words, phrases, and clauses together, so we can create complex sentences and express multiple ideas at once.
Conjunctions include and, but, or, yet, although, because, and others.
In this sentence, the conjunction joins two clauses: “I don’t like apples but I do like oranges.” And in this sentence, the conjunction joins just two words: “I like apples and oranges.”
One group of conjunctions (called correlative conjunctions) comes in pairs, like either/or, if/then, not only/but also. Here’s an example:
“Either you will peel the oranges for me, or I won’t eat them.”
Determiners (Includes Articles)
Back in the day, your English teacher, like mine, may have taught you about articles: the, a, and an.
Grammarians more and more frequently include these in a group of words called determiners, words that limit or “determine” nouns, which, in addition to articles include that, this, these, those, and others — showing exactly which noun or nouns are being talked about. This includes possessive pronouns like my, your, their, her, and his.
Think of it this way: determiners often answer the questions What?, Which?, or Whose? For example, “Which article?” “This article.” “Whose blog?” “Our blog.”
Consult more than one English grammar guide, and you’re likely to see that there are eight or nine parts of speech. Why the difference? Well, some sources don’t include the interjection as its own part of speech. But some sources do, so you ought to know about it.
Interjections can be, um, tricky to define. They are spontaneous, sometimes emotional, and they come before or between complete thoughts. Sometimes they interrupt a sentence right in its tracks. They include exclamations like Wow!, Yikes!, and Oh! They also include curses (damn!), greetings (like hi), and filler words (like um).
Some examples of interjections:
- Wow! Look at that sunset.
- Let’s go to the, um, store.
- I don’t understand why you would—oh! Now I get it.
Sometimes, other parts of speech can be interjections.
- Fantastic! Let’s do it! (Here the adjective fantastic serves as an interjection.)
- I’m just going to open the blinds and—snow! It’s snowing now! (The noun snow serves as an interjection.)
The Parts of Speech in Sum
There you have it — the nine parts of speech. Noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, determiner, and interjection.
Got an exam coming up? Working on your writing? Consult this guide anytime you need a refresher.
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