Quick explanations with simple examples
First, what’s the benefit of knowing the parts of speech? Isn’t this just nerd language about language, irrelevant to daily life? Nope. Learning what words do and how to categorize them will result in:
- Clarity. When you learn the building blocks of language, just like place value and the decimal number system in math, you’ll be less confused. Language becomes more of a friend instead of a stumbling block.
- Confidence. Once you have the basics down, you’ll be sure of your ability to wield language and stand behind your words.
- Communication. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll write and speak more effectively.
- Connections. Understanding the foundations of your own language will enable you to identify correlations in other languages.
- Conquest. Nothing will stand in your way. You’ll slice your way through every obstacle using only words. All your dreams will come true.*
So, let’s get down to grammatical tacks.
The 8 Parts of Speech: Words for Words
- Noun: Words that name something — a person, place, thing, or idea.
- Mary had a little lamb.
- Its fleece was white as Iceland.**
- The pencil broke into two pieces.
- Your kindness warms my cold, dead heart.
- His proficiency in Spanish is astounding.
- We know of multiple states of consciousness.
- Pronouns: Words used to name something in order to avoid repetition. They are used as replacements for nouns. There are several types of pronouns, grouped based on the job they perform in a sentence.
- I ate too much broccoli for breakfast.
- “Stop hitting yourself,” Tom’s older brother said.
- He used Tom’s arm to smack Tom in the face repeatedly.
- We are fed up with Tom’s older brother.
- Their dog is small and creepy.
- We laughed at ourselves for being scared of it.
- Everybody jumped when the dog came around the corner.
- “A rat!” somebody yelled.
- No one wanted to pet the creepy dog.
- Verbs: Words used for actions or states of being. They can sometimes work with other verbs (as helpers or links). They also change based on who is doing the action (subject-verb agreement) and when (verb tense).
- The thief bamboozled us all.
- I proofread until my eyeballs fell out.
- My mom is sighing again.
- I have eaten three cups of broccoli.
- I am sorry about the excessive burping.
- Adverbs: Words used to modify or describe other parts of speech, such as verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. They’re often known as “-ly” words, but there are many adverbs that don’t end in “-ly.” Different types of adverbs answer different questions, such as: “How?” “How much?” “To what extent?” “Where?”
- I walked sadly to school.
- Because I walked slowly, I arrived much later than normal.
- My teacher fussed angrily at me when I interrupted class.
- I feel really beautiful when I wear extremely floppy hats.
- Adjectives: Words used to describe nouns.
- A red, floppy hat rested on the coffee table.
- The young dog was impatient to bite the colorful hat.
- I can never be beautiful now; the blasted hat is gone.
- Articles: Words that come before nouns to make them specific or general. There are three: “a,” “an,” and “the.” We use “a” before words that start with a consonant sound and “an” before words that begin with a vowel sound.
- An eagle soared through the sky.
- The eagle passed over my head.
- A university as prestigious as hers has mighty expensive tuition.
- The eagle doesn’t have an academic degree, but he’s still full of himself.
- Prepositions: Words that help us connect nouns and pronouns to other words. Sound weird? Check out the examples.
- Let’s go to the store.
- She went with us.
- They plunked the change on the counter to pay.
- We sat in the chairs and ate chips.
- Conjunctions: Words that connect words, phrases, or clauses. There are different types of conjunctions based on the structure of what they’re connecting and what information they’re introducing.
- I like food and sleep.
- I can’t sleep because I didn’t eat.
- She has neither a car nor a bicycle to get around.
- He wants either a bucket or a bowl for water.
Some grammarians break down the parts of speech more precisely, resulting in additional groupings with more explicit definitions and uses. But these eight are a great starting point and sufficient for most people.
It’s also important to note that words often perform a job in one setting and another part of speech in a different context. That’s why you see dictionary entries with multiple parts of speech.
Questions or comments? Drop us a line below. We love hearing from you.
*Maybe. This is not a guarantee. See Merriam Webster entry on “hyperbole,” also known as “the air we breathe.”
**We know Iceland isn’t all white. Cut us some slack.