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.

"Parts of Speech" in the English Grammar

What Does 'Part of Speech' Mean?

Part of Speech (also called word class) refers to the grammatical groups into which words are classified according to their use.

English Parts of Speech

We have nine main parts of speech:

Open and Closed Word Classes

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

Open Word Classes

An open word class indicates the fact that new words can be added to it over time as the language evolves and changes. The following is a list of open parts of speech:

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

Closed Word Classes

A closed (or functional) word class refers to groups that include a limited number of words and other words cannot be added to them. For example, new nouns are created every day, but articles never change.
The following is the list of closed parts of speech:

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

Tip!

The term 'part of speech' is no longer commonly used 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 serve as the subject or object in a sentence.
We have different types of nouns, such as proper and common, collective, concrete and 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 tense 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 replace a noun (or a noun phrase) to avoid unnecessary repetition of the noun or noun phrase. We have different types of pronouns, such as personal, possessive, and reflexive pronouns. Here are some examples:

Adjectives

Adjectives describe or modify nouns and pronouns. Adjectives give us information about the quality, size, number, and many other features of nouns or pronouns. We have different types of adjectives, such as attributive, gradable, descriptive, 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, or how often something happens. We have different types of adverbs, such as adverbs of 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 place, time, direction and movement, etc. Here are some examples:

  • at
  • in
  • around
  • by
  • from

Determiners

Determiners are words that come before nouns and, like adjectives, modify them. However, they are different from adjectives in that they are essential for the completeness of the 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, they are considered determiners. Articles are essential to the sentence, just like determiners.

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, 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 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, all other parts of speech must appear within a sentence, and some, such as nouns and verbs, are essential for forming complete sentences. To identify the part of speech of a word:

  • look at the word itself
  • pay attention to its meaning
  • pay attention to its position
  • pay attention to its use

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

  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' forms an adverb. For example: slowly, beautifully.
  3. When a word can replace a noun without changing the meaning of the sentence, the word is a pronoun.
  4. When a word represents an action, the word is a verb.
  5. When a word can be removed and the sentence would still make sense, the word is most likely an adjective.
  6. When a word is removed and the sentence loses its meaning, the word is probably a preposition.
  7. If none of these tips works, just look the word up in a dictionary.

Words with Several Parts of Speech

Some words can function as multiple parts of speech depending on the context of the sentence. For example:

I don't feel very well. (adjective)

Did you sleep well? (adverb)

Well, let's see! (interjection)

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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