Traditional Terms for the Basic Word Classes in English
One way to begin studying basic sentence structures in English is to identify the traditional parts of speech (also known as word classes). Here you’ll learn the names and basic functions of these eight sentence parts.
As you study the table below, note that only interjections (“Hooray!”) have a habit of standing alone (or alongside complete sentences). The other parts of speech–nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions– come in many varieties and may appear just about anywhere in a sentence. To know for sure what part of speech a word is, we have to look not only at the word itself but also at its meaning, position, and use in a sentence.
There are basically 8 parts of speech.
Each part of speech explains not what the word is, but how the word is used. In fact, the same word can be a noun in one sentence and a verb or adjective in the next. The next few examples show how a word’s part of speech can change from one sentence to the next, and following them is a series of sections on the individual parts of speech, followed by an exercise.
Let us illustrate it on a table manner:
- Books are made of ink, paper, and glue.
In this sentence, “books” is a noun, the subject of the sentence.
- Deborah waits patiently while Bridget books the tickets.
Here “books” is a verb, and its subject is “Bridget.”
- We walk down the street.
In this sentence, “walk” is a verb, and its subject is the pronoun “we.”
- The mail carrier stood on the walk.
In this example, “walk” is a noun, which is part of a prepositional phrase describing where the mail carrier stood.
- The town decided to build a new jail.
- The sheriff told us that if we did not leave town immediately he would jail us.
Here “jail” is part of the compound verb “would jail.”
- They heard high pitched cries in the middle of the night.
In this sentence, “cries” is a noun acting as the direct object of the verb “heard.”
- The baby cries all night long and all day long.
But here “cries” is a verb that describes the actions of the subject of the sentence, the baby.
The next few sections explain each of the parts of speech in detail. When you have finished, you might want to test yourself by trying the exercise.
For a discussion Video:
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Parts of Speech Table
This is a summary of the 8 parts of speech*. You can find more detail if you click on each part of speech.
|part of speech||function or “job”||example words||example sentences|
|Verb||action or state||(to) be, have, do, like, work, sing, can, must||EnglishClub.com is a web site. I like EnglishClub.com.|
|Noun||thing or person||pen, dog, work, music, town, London, teacher, John||This is my dog. He lives in my house. We live in London.|
|Adjective||describes a noun||a/an, the, 2, some, good, big, red, well, interesting||I have two dogs. My dogs are big. I like big dogs.|
|Adverb||describes a verb, adjective or adverb||quickly, silently, well, badly, very, really||My dog eats quickly. When he is very hungry, he eats really quickly.|
|Pronoun||replaces a noun||I, you, he, she, some||Tara is Indian. She is beautiful.|
|Preposition||links a noun to another word||to, at, after, on, but||We went to school on Monday.|
|Conjunction||joins clauses or sentences or words||and, but, when||I like dogs and I like cats. I like cats and dogs. I like dogs but I don’t like cats.|
|Interjection||short exclamation, sometimes inserted into a sentence||oh!, ouch!, hi!, well||Ouch! That hurts! Hi! How are you? Well, I don’t know.|
* Some grammar sources categorize English into 9 or 10 parts of speech. At EnglishClub.com, we use the traditional categorization of 8 parts of speech. Examples of other categorizations are:
- Verbs may be treated as two different parts of speech: Determiners may be treated as a separate part of speech, instead of being categorized under Adjectives
- Lexical Verbs (work, like, run)
- Auxiliary Verbs (be, have, must)