Parts of Speech | 8 Parts of Speech | Parts of Speech Definitions

The Parts of Speech

What is a Verb?
What is a Noun?
What is a Prnoun?
What is an Adjective?
What is an Adverb?
What is a Prepsition?
What is a Cnjunction?
What is an Interjection?


What is a Verb?

The verb is perhaps the most important part of the sentence. A verb or compound verb asserts something about the subject of the sentence and express actions, events, or states of being. The verb or compound verb is the critical element of the predicate of a sentence.

In each of the following sentences, the verb or compound verb is highlighted:

Dracula bites his victims on the neck.

The verb “bites” describes the action Dracula takes.

In early October, Giselle will plant twenty tulip bulbs.

Here the compound verb “will plant” describes an action that will take place in the future.

My first teacher was Miss Crawford, but I remember the janitor Mr. Weatherbee more vividly.

In this sentence, the verb “was” (the simple past tense of “is”) identifies a particular person and the verb “remembered” describes a mental action.

Karl Creelman bicycled around the world in 1899, but his diaries and his bicycle were destroyed.

In this sentence, the compound verb “were destroyed” describes an action which took place in the past.


What is a Noun?

A noun is a word used to name a person, animal, place, thing, and abstract idea. Nouns are usually the first words which small children learn. The highlighted words in the following sentences are all nouns:

Late last year our neighbours bought a goat.
Portia White was an opera singer.
The bus inspector looked at all the passengers’ passes.
According to Plutarch, the library at Alexandria was destroyed in 48 B.C.
Philosophy is of little comfort to the starving.

A noun can function in a sentence as a subject, a direct object, an indirect object, a subject complement, an object complement, an appositive, an adjective or an adverb.
Noun Gender

Many common nouns, like “engineer” or “teacher,” can refer to men or women. Once, many English nouns would change form depending on their gender — for example, a man was called an “author” while a woman was called an “authoress” — but this use of gender-specific nouns is very rare today. Those that are still used occasionally tend to refer to occupational categories, as in the following sentences.

David Garrick was a very prominent eighteenth-century actor.
Sarah Siddons was at the height of her career as an actress in the 1780s.
The manager was trying to write a want ad, but he couldn’t decide whether he was advertising for a “waiter” or a “waitress”

Noun Plurals

Most nouns change their form to indicate number by adding “-s” or “-es”, as illustrated in the following pairs of sentences:

When Matthew was small he rarely told the truth if he thought he was going to be punished.
Many people do not believe that truths are self-evident.

As they walked through the silent house, they were startled by an unexpected echo.
I like to shout into the quarry and listen to the echoes that returned.

He tripped over a box left carelessly in the hallway.
Since we are moving, we will need many boxes.

There are other nouns which form the plural by changing the last letter before adding “s”. Some words ending in “f” form the plural by deleting “f” and adding “ves,” and words ending in “y” form the plural by deleting the “y” and adding “ies,” as in the following pairs of sentences:

The harbour at Marble Mountain has one wharf.
There are several wharves in Halifax Harbour.

Warsaw is their favourite city because it reminds them of their courtship.
The vacation my grandparents won includes trips to twelve European cities.

The children circled around the headmaster and shouted, “Are you a mouse or a man?”
The audience was shocked when all five men admitted that they were afraid of mice.

Other nouns form the plural irregularly. If English is your first language, you probably know most of these already: when in doubt, consult a good dictionary.

Possessive Nouns

In the possessive case, a noun or pronoun changes its form to show that it owns or is closely related to something else. Usually, nouns become possessive by adding a combination of an apostrophe and the letter “s.”

You can form the possessive case of a singular noun that does not end in “s” by adding an apostrophe and “s,” as in the following sentences:

The red suitcase is Cassandra’s.
The only luggage that was lost was the prime minister’s.
The exhausted recruits were woken before dawn by the drill sergeant’s screams.
The miner’s face was covered in coal dust.

You can form the possessive case of a singular noun that ends in “s” by adding an apostrophe alone or by adding an apostrophe and “s,” as in the following examples:

The bus’s seats are very uncomfortable.
The bus’ seats are very uncomfortable.

The film crew accidentally crushed the platypus’s eggs.
The film crew accidentally crushed the platypus’ eggs.

Felicia Hemans’s poetry was once more popular than Lord Byron’s.
Felicia Hemans’ poetry was once more popular than Lord Byron’s.

You can form the possessive case of a plural noun that does not end in “s” by adding an apostrophe and a “s,” as in the following examples:

The children’s mittens were scattered on the floor of the porch.
The sheep’s pen was mucked out every day.
Since we have a complex appeal process, a jury’s verdict is not always final.
The men’s hockey team will be playing as soon as the women’s team is finished.
The hunter followed the moose’s trail all morning but lost it in the afternoon.

You can form the possessive case of a plural noun that does end in “s” by adding an apostrophe:

The concert was interrupted by the dogs’ barking, the ducks’ quacking, and the babies’ squalling.
The janitors’ room is downstairs and to the left.
My uncle spent many hours trying to locate the squirrels’ nest.
The archivist quickly finished repairing the diaries’ bindings.
Religion is usually the subject of the roommates’ many late night debates.

Using Possessive Nouns

When you read the following sentences, you will notice that a noun in the possessive case frequently functions as an adjective modifying another noun:

The miner’s face was covered in coal dust.

Here the possessive noun “miner’s” is used to modify the noun “face” and together with the article “the,” they make up the noun phrase that is the sentence’s subject.

The concert was interrupted by the dogs’ barking, the ducks’ quacking, and the babies’ squalling.

In this sentence, each possessive noun modifies a gerund. The possessive noun “dogs”‘ modifies “barking,” “ducks”‘ modifies “quacking,” and “babies”‘ modifies “squalling.”

The film crew accidentally crushed the platypus’s eggs.

In this example the possessive noun “platypus’s” modifies the noun “eggs” and the noun phrase “the platypus’s eggs” is the direct object of the verb “crushed.”

My uncle spent many hours trying to locate the squirrels’ nest.

In this sentence the possessive noun “squirrels”‘ is used to modify the noun “nest” and the noun phrase “the squirrels’ nest” is the object of the infinitive phrase “to locate.”

Types Of Nouns


There are many different types of nouns. As you know, you capitalise some nouns, such as “Canada” or “Louise,” and do not capitalise others, such as “badger” or “tree” (unless they appear at the beginning of a sentence). In fact, grammarians have developed a whole series of noun types, including the proper noun, the common noun, the concrete noun, the abstract noun, the countable noun (also called the count noun), the non-countable noun (also called the mass noun), and the collective noun. You should note that a noun will belong to more than one type: it will be proper or common, abstract or concrete, and countable or non-countable or collective.

If you are interested in the details of these different types, you can read about them in the following sections.

Proper Nouns

You always write a proper noun with a capital letter, since the noun represents the name of a specific person, place, or thing. The names of days of the week, months, historical documents, institutions, organisations, religions, their holy texts and their adherents are proper nouns. A proper noun is the opposite of a common noun

In each of the following sentences, the proper nouns are highlighted:

The Marroons were transported from Jamaica and forced to build the fortifications in Halifax.
Many people dread Monday mornings.
Beltane is celebrated on the first of May.
Abraham appears in the Talmud and in the Koran.
Last year, I had a Baptist, a Buddhist, and a Gardnerian Witch as roommates.

Common Nouns

A common noun is a noun referring to a person, place, or thing in a general sense — usually, you should write it with a capital letter only when it begins a sentence. A common noun is the opposite of a proper noun.

In each of the following sentences, the common nouns are highlighted:

According to the sign, the nearest town is 60 miles away.
All the gardens in the neighbourhood were invaded by beetles this summer.
I don’t understand why some people insist on having six different kinds of mustard in their cupboards.
The road crew was startled by the sight of three large moose crossing the road.
Many child-care workers are underpaid.

Sometimes you will make proper nouns out of common nouns, as in the following examples:

The tenants in the Garnet Apartments are appealing the large and sudden increase in their rent.
The meals in the Bouncing Bean Restaurant are less expensive than meals in ordinary restaurants.
Many witches refer to the Renaissance as the Burning Times.
The Diary of Anne Frank is often a child’s first introduction to the history of the Holocaust.

Concrete Nouns

A concrete noun is a noun which names anything (or anyone) that you can perceive through your physical senses: touch, sight, taste, hearing, or smell. A concrete noun is the opposite of a abstract noun.

The highlighted words in the following sentences are all concrete nouns:

The judge handed the files to the clerk.
Whenever they take the dog to the beach, it spends hours chasing waves.
The real estate agent urged the couple to buy the second house because it had new shingles.
As the car drove past the park, the thump of a disco tune overwhelmed the string quartet’s rendition of a minuet.
The book binder replaced the flimsy paper cover with a sturdy, cloth-covered board.

Abstract Nouns

An abstract noun is a noun which names anything which you can not perceive through your five physical senses, and is the opposite of a concrete noun. The highlighted words in the following sentences are all abstract nouns:

Buying the fire extinguisher was an afterthought.
Tillie is amused by people who are nostalgic about childhood.
Justice often seems to slip out of our grasp.
Some scientists believe that schizophrenia is transmitted genetically.

Countable Nouns

A countable noun (or count noun) is a noun with both a singular and a plural form, and it names anything (or anyone) that you can count. You can make a countable noun plural and attach it to a plural verb in a sentence. Countable nouns are the opposite of non-countable nouns and collective nouns.

In each of the following sentences, the highlighted words are countable nouns:

We painted the table red and the chairs blue.
Since he inherited his aunt’s library, Jerome spends every weekend indexing his books.
Miriam found six silver dollars in the toe of a sock.
The oak tree lost three branches in the hurricane.
Over the course of twenty-seven years, Martha Ballad delivered just over eight hundred babies.

Non-Countable Nouns

A non-countable noun (or mass noun) is a noun which does not have a plural form, and which refers to something that you could (or would) not usually count. A non-countable noun always takes a singular verb in a sentence. Non-countable nouns are similar to collective nouns, and are the opposite of countable nouns.

The highlighted words in the following sentences are non-countable nouns:

Joseph Priestly discovered oxygen.

The word “oxygen” cannot normally be made plural.

Oxygen is essential to human life.

Since “oxygen” is a non-countable noun, it takes the singular verb “is” rather than the plural verb “are.”

We decided to sell the furniture rather than take it with us when we moved.

You cannot make the noun “furniture” plural.

The furniture is heaped in the middle of the room.

Since “furniture” is a non-countable noun, it takes a singular verb, “is heaped.”

The crew spread the gravel over the roadbed.

You cannot make the non-countable noun “gravel” plural.

Gravel is more expensive than I thought.

Since “gravel” is a non-countable noun, it takes the singular verb form “is.”
Collective Nouns

A collective noun is a noun naming a group of things, animals, or persons. You could count the individual members of the group, but you usually think of the group as a whole is generally as one unit. You need to be able to recognise collective nouns in order to maintain subject-verb agreement. A collective noun is similar to a non-countable noun, and is roughly the opposite of a countable noun.

In each of the following sentences, the highlighted word is a collective noun:

The flock of geese spends most of its time in the pasture.

The collective noun “flock” takes the singular verb “spends.”

The jury is dining on take-out chicken tonight.

In this example the collective noun “jury” is the subject of the singular compound verb “is dining.”

The steering committee meets every Wednesday afternoon.

Here the collective noun “committee” takes a singular verb, “meets.”

The class was startled by the bursting light bulb.

In this sentence the word “class” is a collective noun and takes the singular compound verb “was startled.”


What is a Pronoun?

A pronoun can replace a noun or another pronoun. You use pronouns like “he,” “which,” “none,” and “you” to make your sentences less cumbersome and less repetitive.

Grammarians classify pronouns into several types, including the personal pronoun, the demonstrative pronoun, the interrogative pronoun, the indefinite pronoun, the relative pronoun, the reflexive pronoun, and the intensive pronoun.

Personal Pronouns


A personal pronoun refers to a specific person or thing and changes its form to indicate person, number, gender, and case.

Subjective Personal Pronouns

A subjective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as the subject of the sentence. The subjective personal pronouns are “I,” “you,” “she,” “he,” “it,” “we,” “you,” “they.”

In the following sentences, each of the highlighted words is a subjective personal pronoun and acts as the subject of the sentence:

I was glad to find the bus pass in the bottom of the green knapsack.

Objective Personal Pronouns

An objective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as an object of a verb, compound verb, preposition, or infinitive phrase. The objective personal pronouns are: “me,” “you,” “her,” “him,” “it,” “us,” “you,” and “them.”

In the following sentences, each of the highlighted words is an objective personal pronoun:

Seamus stole the selkie’s skin and forced her to live with him.

Possessive Personal Pronouns

A possessive pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as a marker of possession and defines who owns a particular object or person. The possessive personal pronouns are “mine,” “yours,” “hers,” “his,” “its,” “ours,” and “theirs.” Note that possessive personal pronouns are very similar to possessive adjectives like “my,” “her,” and “their.”

In each of the following sentences, the highlighted word is a possessive personal pronoun:

The smallest gift is mine.

Here the possessive pronoun “mine” functions as a subject complement.

Demonstrative Pronouns

A demonstrative pronoun points to and identifies a noun or a pronoun. “This” and “these” refer to things that are nearby either in space or in time, while “that” and “those” refer to things that are farther away in space or time.

The demonstrative pronouns are “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those.” “This” and “that” are used to refer to singular nouns or noun phrases and “these” and “those” are used to refer to plural nouns and noun phrases. Note that the demonstrative pronouns are identical to demonstrative adjectives, though, obviously, you use them differently. It is also important to note that “that” can also be used as a relative pronoun.

In the following sentences, each of the highlighted words is a demonstrative pronoun:

This must not continue.

Here “this” is used as the subject of the compound verb “must not continue.”

Relative Pronouns

You can use a relative pronoun is used to link one phrase or clause to another phrase or clause. The relative pronouns are “who,” “whom,” “that,” and “which.” The compounds “whoever,” “whomever,” and “whichever” are also relative pronouns.

You can use the relative pronouns “who” and “whoever” to refer to the subject of a clause or sentence, and “whom” and “whomever” to refer to the objects of a verb, a verbal or a preposition.

In each of the following sentences, the highlighted word is a relative pronoun.

You may invite whomever you like to the party.

The relative pronoun “whomever” is the direct object of the compound verb “may invite.”

Indefinite Pronouns

An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun referring to an identifiable but not specified person or thing. An indefinite pronoun conveys the idea of all, any, none, or some.

The most common indefinite pronouns are “all,” “another,” “any,” “anybody,” “anyone,” “anything,” “each,” “everybody,” “everyone,” “everything,” “few,” “many,” “nobody,” “none,” “one,” “several,” “some,” “somebody,” and “someone.” Note that some indefinite pronouns can also be used as indefinite adjectives.

The highlighted words in the following sentences are indefinite pronouns:

Many were invited to the lunch but only twelve showed up.

Here “many” acts as the subject of the compound verb “were invited.”

Reflexive Pronouns

You can use a reflexive pronoun to refer back to the subject of the clause or sentence.

The reflexive pronouns are “myself,” “yourself,” “herself,” “himself,” “itself,” “ourselves,” “yourselves,” and “themselves.” Note each of these can also act as an intensive pronoun.

Intensive Pronouns

An intensive pronoun is a pronoun used to emphasise its antecedent. Intensive pronouns are identical in form to reflexive pronouns.

The highlighted words in the following sentences are intensive pronouns:

I myself believe that aliens should abduct my sister.
The Prime Minister himself said that he would lower taxes.
They themselves promised to come to the party even though they had a final exam at the same time.


What Is An Adjective?

An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun by describing, identifying, or quantifying words. An adjective usually precedes the noun or the pronoun which it modifies.

In the following examples, the highlighted words are adjectives:

The truck-shaped balloon floated over the treetops.
Mrs. Morrison papered her kitchen walls with hideous wall paper.

Possessive Adjectives

A possessive adjective (“my,” “your,” “his,” “her,” “its,” “our,” “their”) is similar or identical to a possessive pronoun; however, it is used as an adjective and modifies a noun or a noun phrase, as in the following sentences:

I can’t complete my assignment because I don’t have the textbook.

In this sentence, the possessive adjective “my” modifies “assignment” and the noun phrase “my assignment” functions as an object. Note that the possessive pronoun form “mine” is not used to modify a noun or noun phrase.

Demonstrative Adjectives

The demonstrative adjectives “this,” “these,” “that,” “those,” and “what” are identical to the demonstrative pronouns, but are used as adjectives to modify nouns or noun phrases, as in the following sentences:

When the librarian tripped over that cord, she dropped a pile of books.

In this sentence, the demonstrative adjective “that” modifies the noun “cord” and the noun phrase “that cord” is the object of the preposition “over.”

Interrogative Adjectives

An interrogative adjective (“which” or “what”) is like an interrogative pronoun, except that it modifies a noun or noun phrase rather than standing on its own (see also demonstrative adjectives and possessive adjectives):

Which plants should be watered twice a week?

Like other adjectives, “which” can be used to modify a noun or a noun phrase. In this example, “which” modifies “plants” and the noun phrase “which plants” is the subject of the compound verb “should be watered”:

Indefinite Adjectives

An indefinite adjective is similar to an indefinite pronoun, except that it modifies a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase, as in the following sentences:

Many people believe that corporations are under-taxed.

The indefinite adjective “many” modifies the noun “people” and the noun phrase “many people” is the subject of the sentence.


What is an Adverb?

An adverb can modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a phrase, or a clause. An adverb indicates manner, time, place, cause, or degree and answers questions such as “how,” “when,” “where,” “how much”.

While some adverbs can be identified by their characteristic “ly” suffix, most of them must be identified by untangling the grammatical relationships within the sentence or clause as a whole. Unlike an adjective, an adverb can be found in various places within the sentence.

In the following examples, each of the highlighted words is an adverb:

Conjunctive Adverbs

You can use a conjunctive adverb to join two clauses together. Some of the most common conjunctive adverbs are “also,” “consequently,” “finally,” “furthermore,” “hence,” “however,” “incidentally,” “indeed,” “instead,” “likewise,” “meanwhile,” “nevertheless,” “next,” “nonetheless,” “otherwise,” “still,” “then,” “therefore,” and “thus.” A conjunctive adverb is not strong enough to join two independent clauses without the aid of a semicolon.

The highlighted words in the following sentences are conjunctive adverbs:

The government has cut university budgets; consequently, class sizes have been increased.

The seamstress quickly made the mourning clothes.

In this sentence, the adverb “quickly” modifies the verb “made” and indicates in what manner (or how fast) the clothing was constructed.


What is a Preposition?

A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that the preposition introduces is called the object of the preposition.

A preposition usually indicates the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence as in the following examples:

The book is on the table.
The book is beneath the table.
The book is leaning against the table.
The book is beside the table.
She held the book over the table.
She read the book during class.

In each of the preceding sentences, a preposition locates the noun “book” in space or in time.

A prepositional phrase is made up of the preposition, its object and any associated adjectives or adverbs. A prepositional phrase can function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. The most common prepositions are “about,” “above,” “across,” “after,” “against,” “along,” “among,” “around,” “at,” “before,” “behind,” “below,” “beneath,” “beside,” “between,” “beyond,” “but,” “by,” “despite,” “down,” “during,” “except,” “for,” “from,” “in,” “inside,” “into,” “like,” “near,” “of,” “off,” “on,” “onto,” “out,” “outside,” “over,” “past,” “since,” “through,” “throughout,” “till,” “to,” “toward,” “under,” “underneath,” “until,” “up,” “upon,” “with,” “within,” and “without.”


What is a Conjunction?

You can use a conjunction to link words, phrases, and clauses, as in the following example:

I ate the pizza and the pasta.
Call the movers when you are ready.

Co-ordinating Conjunctions

You use a co-ordinating conjunction (“and,” “but,” “or,” “nor,” “for,” “so,” or “yet”) to join individual words, phrases, and independent clauses. Note that you can also use the conjunctions “but” and “for” as prepositions.

In the following sentences, each of the highlighted words is a co-ordinating conjunction:

Lilacs and violets are usually purple.

In this example, the co-ordinating conjunction “and” links two nouns.

Subordinating Conjunctions

A subordinating conjunction introduces a dependent clause and indicates the nature of the relationship among the independent clause(s) and the dependent clause(s).

The most common subordinating conjunctions are “after,” “although,” “as,” “because,” “before,” “how,” “if,” “once,” “since,” “than,” “that,” “though,” “till,” “until,” “when,” “where,” “whether,” and “while.”

Each of the highlighted words in the following sentences is a subordinating conjunction:

After she had learned to drive, Alice felt more independent.

The subordinating conjunction “after” introduces the dependent clause “After she had learned to drive.”

Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions always appear in pairs — you use them to link equivalent sentence elements. The most common correlative conjunctions are “both…and,” “either…or,” “neither…nor,”, “not only…but also,” “so…as,” and “whether…or.” (Technically correlative conjunctions consist simply of a co-ordinating conjunction linked to an adjective or adverb.)

The highlighted words in the following sentences are correlative conjunctions:

Both my grandfather and my father worked in the steel plant.

In this sentence, the correlative conjunction “both…and” is used to link the two noun phrases that act as the compound subject of the sentence: “my grandfather” and “my father”.

Bring either a Jello salad or a potato scallop.

Here the correlative conjunction “either…or” links two noun phrases: “a Jello salad” and “a potato scallop.”


What is an Interjection?

An interjection is a word added to a sentence to convey emotion. It is not grammatically related to any other part of the sentence.

You usually follow an interjection with an exclamation mark. Interjections are uncommon in formal academic prose, except in direct quotations.

The highlighted words in the following sentences are interjections:

Ouch, that hurt!
Oh no, I forgot that the exam was today.
Hey! Put that down!
I heard one guy say to another guy, “He has a new car, eh?”
I don’t know about you but, good lord, I think taxes are too

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