9 Different Parts of Speech (Word Types)

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A man analyzing the parts of speech written on the blackboard.


It’s important to understand the different parts of speech because they show us how the words relate to one another. Each word has a role to play and is categorized according to the different parts of speech.

Here we’re going to discuss its many different types, cite examples for each, and many more.

Types

Adjectives

A close-up shot from the dictionary of the word adjective.

Adjectives modify or describe either a noun or pronoun. They answer questions such as what kind, how many, and which one. Adjectives normally precede nouns or pronouns, except in sentences that contain linking verbs. If the adjective is strong enough, it can produce the tone or image you were hoping for, but if you need more than three adjectives in a sentence, in fact, you just need a better noun.

  • Article adjectives: articles include words such as the, an, and a. They answer the question, which one, and they modify a noun or pronoun. They do this by limiting reference to a known or particular thing, either plural or singular.
  • Demonstrative adjectives: these adjectives answer the question, which one? These are the only types of adjectives that have both a plural and a singular form. Demonstrative adjectives point to previously or particular named things.
  • Descriptive adjectives: these are detailed adjectives that conjure up certain feelings, tones, and images. Most descriptive adjectives have hyphens in them, although if they follow the noun or they are compound adjectives, they do not.
  • Indefinite adjectives: these adjectives include the words all, few, several, some, any, and many.
  • Possessive adjectives: these adjectives answer the question, whose?
  • Questioning adjectives: these adjectives modify a noun or pronoun and include words such as which or what.

Adverbs

Letters on small wooden chips, forming the word "adverb."

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. They usually do this by telling how, where, why, when, under what conditions, and to what degree. Most often, you can add -ly to an adjective and make it an adverb. There are also various characteristics that apply to adverbs, such as conjunctive adverbs. Conjunctive adverbs are those adverbs that function as both adverbs and conjunctions. Good examples of conjunctive adverbs include besides, likewise, and accordingly.

Adverbs can also be categorized in the following types:

  • Positive adverbs: their main characteristic is that they have the presence, not an absence, of distinguishing characteristics.
  • Comparative adverbs: adverbs that judge or measure by estimating either the similarity or the dissimilarity between one thing and another.
  • Superlative adverbs: describe the highest quality or degree of something.

Conjunctions

The word conjunction emphasized with the black font color.

The purpose of a conjunction is to join phrases, clauses, or words. There are three different types of conjunctions, which describe the relationship between the joined elements. These are described here:

  • Coordinating conjunctions: link elements of equal value. There are seven different coordinating conjunctions, which can be remembered by the acronym FANBOY: for, and, nor, but, so, yet.
  • Correlative conjunctions: used in pairs, they establish a specific relationship between elements of equal value.
  • Subordinating conjunctions: indicate that one of the elements is of lesser value than another element. In other words, it is subordinate to the other element.

Determiners

Determiners are modifying words that determine the type of reference either a noun or a noun group has; for example, determiners are words such as the, every, and a. Called noun modifiers, determiners provide additional information about the noun by the use of quantifiers, articles, interrogatives, demonstratives, and possessives. There are numerous types of determiners, which are used to indicate definiteness, proximity, quantity, and questions that a particular noun has. They are generally placed before the noun or noun phrases and express the feeling of the speaker regarding the specific thing or person.

Determiners can have different meanings and even different purposes within the sentence. They are used to clarify a noun or noun phrase, and they determine whether a certain noun is specific or unspecific. Determiners that have different meanings that are important within the sentence.

Interjections (Exclamations)

A woman looking all surprised and overwhelmed.

These are words that are meant to express various levels of surprise or emotion. They are usually viewed as grammatically independent from the main sentence. Most often, interjections stand alone and are punctuated with an exclamation point (My goodness!), although some mild interjections can be found within a sentence and are set off by commas (Well, it’s about time you woke up).

Nouns

Letters clipped on a string, forming the word "noun."

A noun is a word that symbolizes a person, place, thing, or idea. Proper nouns always start with a capital letter and include names of countries and people, although this is not the same for common nouns. When nouns are used to show possession, the phrase ‘s is added to the word. Nouns can also be either concrete, abstract, singular, or plural, and they can function in various roles within the same sentence. For example, nouns can be subjects, direct objects, indirect objects, the object of a preposition, or a subject complement. There are also known rules regarding nouns, and below are a few of them.

  • Every noun is either a common or a proper noun. If the noun refers to a specific person, animal, place, thing or idea, it is a proper noun. This includes nouns such as Bidwell Park, Bob Jones, the Rangers, and Mr. Smith. If it does not refer to a specific person, animal, place, thing, or idea, it is a common noun. Examples of common nouns include team, park, beer, and dog. Furthermore, common nouns are not capitalized, but proper nouns are.
  • All nouns are either concrete or abstract. If the noun describes things you are unable to see, touch, or readily detect through the five senses, it is called an abstract noun. These nouns can indicate measurements such as weight, emotions such as love or hate, ideas, including democracy, and qualities such as responsibility. Conversely, concrete nouns are things you are able to detect through the five senses. Examples include places such as the beach, animals such as Roger Rabbit, and food including beer and roast.
  • Most nouns or either plural or singular. Most nouns can be made a plural by adding an s or es. Therefore, class turns into classes, and the table turns into tables. However, many nouns have irregular plural forms. For example, child becomes children, and man becomes men. In addition, some nouns have the same form in both plural and singular; examples include moose, fish, and deer.
  • Although rare, some nouns are collective. Collective nouns indicate a collection or a group of things. However, even though it is indicative of a group of things, it is normally in singular form. For example, even though the word army is a collective noun because it represents a group of individuals, you still use the term “is” after it like you would a singular noun. In other words, “the army is withdrawing from that country,” and “the jury was unable to reach a verdict.”

Prepositions

Commonly found in the English language, prepositions are not flashy, and, in fact, they are often small words. Words such as on, unlike, and in are prepositions. If you combine a preposition with a noun or pronoun, in that order, you get a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases usually tell when or where, or they can show the relationship of something such as time or location.

With prepositions, you can talk about the way two parts of a sentence are related to one another. Very frequently, these relationships have to do with either space or time. However, other relationships, such as cause and effect, possession, and method, are also expressed with prepositions. Usually, prepositions are short and simple, yet some of them can be multi-word units. Examples of the latter include instead of, in spite of, by means of, and out of. Prepositions are always followed by a phrase which contains a noun unless they are part of a verb (for instance, switch off, pick up). Prepositional phrases include in the summer, over the moon, and at school, among many others.

Pronouns

Examples of pronouns on an organized table.

Pronouns are words that are used in place of a noun. They are usually substituted for a specific noun, which is called its antecedent. There are also different types of pronouns, as described below.

Personal pronouns refer to specific things or persons. There are also specific characteristics that apply to personal pronouns, which include:

  • Case: this refers to the job a pronoun can perform within the sentence. Some pronouns are subjects, some are not. This is why you say “I expect to get a pay raise,” rather than “Me expect to get a pay raise.”
  • Number: this refers to whether the pronoun is plural (e.g., them) or singular (e.g., him).
  • Person: this one is a little abstract. There are three different types: first person, which refers to the person speaking; second person, which refers to the person who is spoken to; and third person, which means the person spoken of.

Pronouns have to agree with or match their antecedents in number and in person. For example, a plumber is a he or she, while students have to be called they or them. There are also subject and object pronouns. When pronouns are subjects, they are said to be in the subjective case, because they are subject pronouns. Pronouns can be the subject of a sentence. In addition, they are used as indirect objects, direct objects, or objections of a preposition. When they are objective, they are called object pronouns.

Reflexive pronouns are utilized to emphasize another noun or pronoun. They always follow either a noun or a personal pronoun, so they never appear alone in a sentence. They also show that someone did something to himself or herself, for example, “She surprised himself with her current grades.”

Possessive pronouns always indicate ownership. They replace possessive nouns but never contain apostrophes.

Demonstrative pronouns identify, refer to, or point to nouns. They always indicate specific persons, places, or things, and can refer also to an abstract noun idea.

Relative pronouns are there to introduce a subordinate clause. Relative pronouns begin a clause which refers to a noun within a sentence. A clause is a word group that has its own subject and verb. “Who” begins a clause that refers to people; “that” might refer to either persons or things; and “which” begins clauses referring to things.

Indefinite pronouns refer to general persons, places or things. They are third-person pronouns that may be used as either objects or subjects when used in sentences, and they can be singular or plural.

Verbs


The word "verb" written on a notebook placed on a table together with a laptop, a phone and a pair of eyeglasses.

Verbs always express action or being. There is always the main verb in every sentence, and there can also be one or more helping verbs. In the sentence, “she can paint,” paint is the main verb and can is the helping verb. All verbs have to agree with their subject in number, in other words, both have to be plural or both will be singular. Verbs also take different forms in order to express tense. There are also various types of verbs, described below.

  • Action verbs: action verbs tell what the subject does. They express either mental or physical activity, and some of them seem more active than others.
  • Auxiliary verbs: these verbs express grammatical meaning.
  • Helping verbs: these verbs essentially fine-tune the meaning of the main verb. They usually express when something occurred. When you refer to the main verb plus all of its helping verbs, that is called the complete verb. Verbs also have three separate forms, present (simple) form, past form, and participle form.
  • Lexical verbs: also called a full verb, these verbs usually represent a state, action, and other predicate meanings. It represents a contact word, not a function word.
  • Linking verbs: these are verbs without much action. They usually connect a subject with more details on the subject and tells what the subject is, not what it does. In other words, they express a state of being.

More information on parts of speech can be found here.

Examples of Parts of Speech

Adjectives

Examples include:

  • Article adjectives: the, an, a.
  • Demonstrative adjectives: this, that, these, those.
  • Descriptive adjectives: historical, quick, tall, laughing, happy, extreme, somewhat, only.
  • Indefinite adjectives: several, few, some, most, many.
  • Possessive adjectives: your, my, her, his, their.
  • Questioning adjectives: which, what.

Adverbs

Examples include: quickly, exceptionally, almost, very, often, sometimes, never, somewhat, scarcely, as well as:

  • Positive adverbs: well, constructively, enthusiastically, reassuringly.
  • Comparative adverbs: relative, qualified.
  • Superlative adverbs: most remarkably, most excellently, magnificently, matchlessly.

Other examples: quickly (positive), more quickly (comparative), most quickly (superlative).

Conjunctions

Examples include:

  • Coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet (FANBOY).
  • Correlative conjunctions: as…as, both…and, whether…or, neither…nor, not only…but also, either…or.
  • Subordinating conjunctions: after, even though, while, until, because, in order that, whenever, rather than, if, though.

Determiners

Examples include all, that, this, few, party, three, both, the.

Interjections (Exclamations)

Examples include: oh, wow, my goodness, yeah, ouch, gosh, hey, darn.

Nouns

Noun examples include:

  • Common noun: table, lamp, recorder, door, book, violin.
  • Proper noun: Cardinals, Mr. Smith, John Brown, Walt Disney.
  • Concrete noun: Uncle Mike, photograph, house, suitcase.
  • Abstract noun: love, pride, happiness, fear.
  • Plural noun: heroes, ships, elbows, babies.
  • Singular noun: hero, ship, elbow, baby.
  • Collection noun: bunch, team, flock, village.

You can find many other nouns by visiting this website.

Prepositions

Prepositions include under, below, above, in, around, for, on, atop, between, beside, from, outside, upon, along.

Pronouns

Examples of each category are shown below.

Personal Pronouns.

Case: I.
Number: him (singular); them (plural).
Person: I, we (first person); you (second person); he, she, them her (third person).

Reflexive pronouns.

Examples include myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself.

Possessive pronouns.

Examples include its, mine, ours, hers, theirs, his.

Demonstrative pronouns.

Examples: these, those, this, that.

Relative pronouns.

Examples include: which, whomever, whose, whoever, that, who.

Indefinite Pronouns.

Examples: anybody, nobody, anything, nothing, something, everyone, any (singular); both, many, few, several (plural).

Verbs

  • Action verbs: dances, collides, realized.
  • Auxiliary verbs: do, did (positive); don’t, didn’t (negative).
  • Helping verbs: collude, choose (present form); collided, chose (past form); collided, chosen (participle).
  • Lexical verbs: listen, study, eat.
  • Linking verbs: are, am, is (present); was, were (past); [have] been (present perfect), [had] been (past perfect).

Things to Know About Parts of Speech

A woman whispering something to the man.

Their Groups Can Overlap

Although nouns, adjectives, and other parts of speech usually fall into certain categories, these categories can overlap, which means that very few of them fit into one category and only one category. Below are a few examples.

  • I didn’t give him an immediate answer. (Here, the word “answer” is being used as a noun. Take a look at the adjective “immediate” and the word “an.” Both indicate the following noun.)
  • Do not scribble on the back of the answer sheet. (Here, the word “answer” tells you what type of sheet is being discussed, and, therefore, it is an adjective.)
  • I was surprised when she answered my letter. (Here, the word “answer” is a verb, not a noun or an adjective. This is indicated by the subject “she” and the ending “-ed”.)

Because of rules such as these, the English forms of word classes are a bit more flexible than other types of languages. Some of those languages, in fact, would require different endings in order to show the class of the word.

Interesting Facts about English Word Classes (Parts of Speech)

Letters coming from the woman's mouth to visualize speech.

  • The shortest sentence in the English language is, “I am.”
  • The longest English word is NOT supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It is actually the word, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. This refers to a lung disease that is caused by inhaling dust and ash.
  • The oldest, shortest, and most commonly used word is, “I.”
  • There is actually a term for words we used quite often. They are called crutch words, and they offer no actual value to the sentence. Words such as like, actually, basically, and honestly are great examples of crutch words.
  • English is the official “language of the air,” which means all pilots, regardless of where they are from, have to identify themselves and speak in English as long as they are in the air.
  • Not many people know what a pangram sentence is, but it refers to a sentence that uses every single letter in the alphabet. An example of a pangram is the sentence, “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” which many people recognize from typing class all those years ago.
  • There are actual words that mean absolutely nothing, and they are called ghost words. These words include “dord,” which was printed in a dictionary in the mid-1900s but was actually just a typographical error. Tweed, gravy, and syllabus were ghost words at one time until someone assigned them a specific meaning.
  • Every two hours, a word is added to the dictionary. This means that on average, over 4,000 words are added to the dictionary every year.
  • Ambigrams are curious and interesting. They refer to words that spell the same thing whether they are upside-down or right-side-up. One of those words is “swims.”
  • “Girl” didn’t always mean what it does today. At what time in history, the word “girl” referred to both a young girl and a young boy. It didn’t refer to a specific gender; it just meant a young child of any gender.
  • Syntactic ambiguity refers to sentences that can have multiple meanings. Examples include, “I’m glad I’m a man and so is Lola,” from a popular song by The Kinks. It can mean, “I’m glad I’m a man, and Lola is also glad to be a man,” or “I’m glad Lola and I are both men,” among other meanings.
  • Paraprosdokians are sentences that catch you off guard and cause you to have to look again at the first part of the sentence. Examples include a Groucho Marx line that says, “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” These sentences, in essence, end with something that resembles a punchline.
  • Semantic nonsense refers to sentences that follow grammatically correct words but which do not make any sense. Examples include Noam Chomsky’s, “colorless green ideas sleep funny,” which some people have interpreted to mean, “newly formed bland ideas are inexpressible in an infuriating way.”
  • Malapropism occurs when the meaning of the sentence comes to mean something completely different than the writer intended it to mean. One example is, “our watch, sir, we have comprehended two auspicious persons.” Written in a scene from the play, “Much Ado About Nothing,” it seems the writer meant to use the word “apprehended” instead of “comprehended.”

Other examples of quirky facts about the English language can be found here.





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