Parts of Speech

Words can be classified into one of eight parts of speech: verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.  These divisions describe what the word's purpose is in that particular sentence.  A word may serve as an adjective in one sentence and as a pronoun in another depending on its position and use.

  • Which boot goes on the right foot? (adjective)
  • Which goes on the right foot? (pronoun)


A sentence is made up of a subject and a verb. The verb is one of the parts of speech. It tells what the subject is or does. It may describe what the subject does, did, or will do; help to form the verb tense of the main verb; or connect a name or description to the subject.

  • Connecticut served America's first hamburger.

Served is an action verb in the sentence above. It tells what Connecticut did.

  • You might have wondered about the origin of teddy bears.

In the sentence above, "wondered" is the main verb, and "might" and "have" are helping verbs. "Might have wondered" is the entire verb phrase.

  • Woody was a folksinger.

In the sentence above, was links "Woody" with "folksinger." The word folksinger names Woody's occupation.


The noun, which names a person, place, or thing, is another of the parts of speech.  It may be one word, or it may be two or more words. One can group types of nouns by precision, physicality, number, gender, and function.  Thus, the noun may be common or proper; concrete or abstract; singular or plural; collective; and masculine, feminine, or neuter while functioning in a nominative, objective, or possessive case.

baseball, keyboard, cat, orchids,
Thanksgiving Day, Queen Mary,
mother, Jasmin's, deer


Another of the parts of speech is the pronoun, which takes the place of a noun or a noun phrase. Rather than using the same noun over and over again, we use pronouns.

Without pronouns, our language would be quite tiresome:

  • Mr. Hurshee was eating Mr. Hurshee's breakfast on Mr. Hurshee's way to work. Unfortunately, Mr. Hurshee's milk dribbled down the front of Mr. Hurshee's shirt. Now, Mr. Hurshee needs to ask Mr. Hurshee's sister to bring Mr. Hurshee a clean shirt …

Pronouns (italicized) simplify the passages:

  • Mr. Hurshee was eating his breakfast on his way to work. Unfortunately, his milk dribbled down the front of his shirt. Now, he needs to ask his sister to bring him a clean shirt …

Pronouns are the words (such as he, she, it, we, they) that we use to refer to people, places, and things that have already been mentioned. Pronouns are italicized in the example below.

  • Andres kicked the ball, and he watched it fly over Wally's head.

In the sentence above, the pronoun he replaces "Andres," and the pronoun it replaces "ball."


Another of the parts of speech is the adjective,  which describes a person, place, or thing. There are many different kinds of adjectives. There are descriptive adjectives, limiting adjectives such as a, an, and the; demonstrative adjectives such as this, that, those, and these; numbers; possessive adjectives such as his, her, their, our, its, your, and my; and indefinites.

  • addition problem
  • an hour
  • these sticks
  • sixteen years
  • my patriotism
  • Bob's bicycle
  • some wagons
  • smaller houses


Adverbs, another of the parts of speech, are descriptive words that modify or add information to verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They answer the questions "how," "when," "where," "why," and "how much" (or "to what extent"). The italicized adverbs below modify the verb whispers:


Eric whispers quietly.
He whispers now.
He whispers there.
He whispers because.
He whispers more.

An adverb usually appears near the verb it modifies, but an adverb can appear almost anywhere in a sentence.

Abe will soon leave for home.
Soon, Abe will leave for home.


Prepositions are words belonging to the part of speech that shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and another word. Notice how a preposition (italicized) shows the space relationship between a bug and the straw:

  • Bug #1 is on the straw. 
  • Bug #2 is under the straw. 
  • Bug #3 is inside the straw. 
  • Bug #4 is jumping over the straw. 
  • Bug #5 is walking around the straw.

Prepositions also show time relationships:

  • Noah giggled before lunch, at lunch, during lunch, throughout lunch, after lunch, and until midnight. He's been giggling since yesterday!

Besides showing space and time relationships, prepositions also show abstract (thought or idea) relationships. The prepositions listed below show abstract relationships.






Conjunctions are one of the parts of speech that serve as connecting words. They connect words, phrases, and clauses. There are three kinds of conjunctions: coordinating, correlative, and subordinating.

A coordinating conjunction connects a word to a word, a phrase to a phrase, or a clause to a clause that are equal in form.

Here are the common coordinating conjunctions:

and     but     or     nor     for     yet     so

  • We love his aunt and uncle.
  • He is always singing loudly or humming softly.
  • Anna rushes to the car, for she is late.

Correlative conjunctions are similar to coordinating conjunctions in that they connect parts of a sentence that are equal, or parallel, and are always used in pairs. Here we list the most common ones:


not only—but also

In the sentences below, the parallel elements are italicized.

  • Both the girls and the boys will participate in the soccer tournament.

A subordinating conjunction introduces a dependent clause. In the dependent clauses below, though, because, and when are subordinating conjunctions.

I like Texas.
He looks silly.
He was successful.

Though I like Texas,…
Because he looks silly,…
When he was successful,…


A word or short phrase used to show strong emotion is called an interjection. It can express excitement, happiness, joy, rage, surprise, pain, or relief, or it can be a sound too. Interjections are italicized below.

  • Ah! Now I remember.
  • Oh dear, I have forgotten your name.

An interjection is not a sentence and has no relationship with the words around it. For this reason, it is usually set apart from the rest of the sentence by some sort of punctuation. Generally, an exclamation point follows an interjection, but if the emotion is not very intense, a comma follows the interjection.

  • INTENSE: Wow! Did you see that shooting star?
  • NOT INTENSE: Okay, I understand now.
  • INTENSE: Yuck! There's mold growing on that bread.
  • NOT INTENSE: Shh, the librarian allows no talking.
  • INTENSE: Bravo! You passed the test.
  • NOT INTENSE: Oh yes, I recall Harry Truman.