Parts of Speech

A part of speech is any grammatical group, such as noun, verb, and adjective, into which words are classified based on their use.

Intermediate
"Parts of Speech" in the English Grammar

What Does 'Part of Speech' Mean?

Part of Speech (also called word class) is one of the grammatical groups into which words are classified according to their use.
We have nine main categories of word class:

Tip

The category of 'noun' is the biggest word class category in English. After that, verbs comprised the majority of words.

Words with Several Parts of Speech

We have words that are sometimes one part of speech and other times another. For example:

I don't feel very well. (adjective)

Did you sleep well? (adverb)

Well, let's see now! (interjection)

Open and Closed Word Classes

The different classes of parts of speech are commonly divided into open (or lexical) classes and closed (or functional) classes.

Open Word Classes

By 'open,' it means that there is always this possibility that new words be added to this group as language develops.

  1. nouns
  2. verbs
  3. adjectives
  4. adverbs

Closed Word Classes

And by 'closed,' it means that they have a limited number of words and not another word can be added to them later.
For example, new nouns are created every day, but articles never change.

  1. pronouns
  2. prepositions
  3. conjunctions
  4. articles/determiners
  5. interjections

Tip!

The term 'part of speech' is no longer used commonly in grammar. Instead, linguists use the terms 'word class' or 'syntactic category.'

Nouns

Nouns are words that are used to refer to people, places, things, or concepts. Nouns can be subject or object in a sentence.
We have different types of nouns, such as proper, common, mass, concrete, abstract, etc. Take a look at some examples:

  • tree
  • Leonardo
  • country
  • happiness
  • bathtub

Verbs

Verbs are words that tell us about the action or state of the subject. Verbs can take different forms based on their tenses and number. We have different types of verbs, such as modals, auxiliaries, or linking verbs. Here are some examples:

  • be (am/is/are)
  • continue
  • love
  • make
  • can

using 'well' as an adverb

Pronouns

Pronouns are words that substitute for a noun (or a noun phrase). By using pronouns, we do not need to say the whole noun phrase or repeat it unnecessarily. We have different types of pronouns, such as personal, possessive, and reflexive, etc. Here are some examples:

Adjectives

Adjectives describe or modify nouns and pronouns. Adjectives give us information about the quality, the size, the number, and many more qualities of nouns or pronouns. We have different types of adjectives, such as demonstrative, gradable, descriptive, numeral, etc. Here are some examples:

  • funny
  • beautiful
  • second
  • slow
  • nice

Adverbs

Adverbs describe or modify verbs, adjectives, and sometimes other adverbs. They give us more information about when, where, how, why, to what extent, how often something happened. We have different types of adverbs, such as place, manner, degree, frequency, etc. Here are some examples:

  • slowly
  • always
  • only
  • extremely
  • well

Prepositions

Prepositions are words that appear before a noun or pronoun and describe the relationship between words (such as a verb and a noun). We have different types of prepositions, such as spatial, temporal, directional, etc. Here are some examples:

  • at
  • in
  • around
  • by
  • from

Determiners

Determiners are words that come before nouns and like adjectives modify nouns. However, they are different than adjectives in that they are essential for a sentence. We have different types of determiners, such as possessive, interrogative, demonstrative, articles, etc. Here are some examples:

  • a
  • this
  • some
  • the
  • much

Tip!

In traditional grammar, articles were treated as a distinct part of speech. However, in modern grammar, articles are included in the category of determiners. Articles are essential to the sentence, just as determiners, while adjectives are optional.

Conjunctions

Conjunctions are words that join one word, phrase, or clause to another word, phrase, or clause. We have different types of conjunctions, such as coordinating, subordinating, demonstrative, and correlative conjunctions. Here are some examples:

  • if
  • but
  • yet
  • because
  • however

Interjections

Interjections (also called exclamations) are words that show people's emotions and show their reactions to events and situations. We have different types of interjections, such as interjections of greeting, joy, surprise, sorrow, understanding, etc. Here are some examples:

  • oh
  • ouch
  • gosh
  • hey
  • oops

How to Identify the Part of Speech

Except for interjections that can stand alone by themselves, every other part of speech should appear within a sentence and some are essential for creating sentences (like nouns and verbs).
To identify the part of speech of a word:

  • look at the word itself
  • look at its meaning
  • look at its position
  • look at its use

Tip!

Here are a few tips to help you identify what part of speech a word has:

  1. Sometimes but not always, a suffix can tell us if a word is a noun, verb, adjective or adverb.
  2. An adjective plus the suffix '-ly,' means the word is an adverb. For example: slowly, beautifully.
  3. When a word can substitute for a noun and the sentence still makes sense, the word is a pronoun.
  4. When a words represents an action you do, the word is a verb.
  5. When a word can be removed but the sentence still makes sense (only not as detailed), the word is most likely an adjective.
  6. When a word is removed and the meaning of the sentence doesn't make sense, the word is probably a preposition.
  7. And if none of the above tips works, just look the word up in a dictionary.

Review

In traditional grammar, a 'part of speech' ( known as word-class nowadays) or part-of-speech is a category of words that have similar grammatical properties. Remember a particular word can have different word classes. So to find out the word class of a word you should:

  • look at the word itself
  • look at its meaning
  • look at its position
  • look at its use

Here are the open word classes that are supposed to get any words added to them.

nouns verbs
adjectives adverbs

Here are some closed word classes to which no terms can be added.

pronouns prepositions
articles/determiners interjections
conjunctions

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