To set the stage for excellent writing and editing skills, a solid foundation in English grammar basics is essential, especially when it comes to understanding the eight parts of speech. While many of us have learned these basics when we were younger, over time, it is easy to fall into bad habits.
There are times when a word can technically be used as more than one part of speech. When this happens, the word is used in a sentence as an example in the dictionary. Each part of speech serves a purpose and determines how the word is defined, as well as how it functions grammatically in a sentence.
The eight parts of speech include: nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. Here is a simple grammar guide to the eight parts of speech.
What are the Eight Parts of Speech?
Nouns refer to people, places, or things. Concepts or ideas are considered things, even though they are intangible.
There are three main types of nouns: common nouns, proper nouns, and mass nouns.
A common noun is the generic or non-specific name of an item. For example, an apple, a notebook, a dog, or a phone would be a common noun.
A proper noun is the name of a specific person, place, or thing. Always capitalized a proper noun. For example, Rome, Jane, and Lake George are all considered proper nouns.
A mass noun is one that denotes something uncountable because it’s either abstract, refers to a group of people, or things that take on a whole meaning as one word. These nouns are not pluralized. For example, food, rice, water, luggage, scissors, or literature are considered mass nouns.
Pronouns are words that substitute nouns. One thing to remember is that pronouns require antecedents. You must mention the noun (person, place, or thing) somewhere earlier in the sentence or paragraph before using the pronoun. Otherwise, this may cause confusion for the reader.
One reason to use pronouns is to avoid needless repetition of the noun throughout the text.
Some pronouns do not require antecedents. For example, when you are using first-person pronouns, like I and we (or me and us), this stands for the speaker or writer, and almost never requires an antecedent.
There are seven classes of pronouns. It is important to note that, except for personal pronouns, many pronouns may function as more than one type listed below depending on its use in the text.
- Personal (I, you, he, she, it, we, and they)
- Demonstrative (that and this)
- Reciprocal (each other and one another)
- Interrogative (what, which, and who)
- Relative (that, what, which, and who)
- Indefinite (another, any, each, either, and none)
- Adjective (any, each, that, this, what, and which)
Adjectives are descriptive words that modify a noun or pronoun and add more detail to the story. Most adjectives derive from nouns.
There are many suffixes that distinguish an adjective including, -able, -al, -ary, -ed, -en, -esque, -ive, -less, -like, -ly, -ous, -some, and -y.
Always capitalize a proper adjective. It’s derived from a proper noun, like “a New York minute” or “Italian food.”
There are three degrees of adjectives: the positive or absolute (fast), the comparative (faster), and the superlative (fastest).
The positive adjective simply describes the object without comparing it to anything else.
The comparative adjective expresses the relationship between two things. The suffix -er is usually what signals the comparative form when the adjective has one or two syllables. When the adjective has three or more syllables, it typically takes the word “more” (or greater, less, fewer, etc.) instead of the -er suffix.
A superlative adjective expresses a relationship between at least three things. The suffix -est is usually used for the superlative form of a common adjective that has one or two syllables. When the adjective has three or more syllables, it typically takes the word “most” instead of the suffix –est to form the superlative.
Verbs are action words, in simplest terms. They describe what the subject is doing in the sentence or story.
A verb is the most essential part of a sentence. It is the only part of speech that can express a full thought on its own.
There are five properties of verbs including, voice, mood, tense, person, and number.
Voice shows whether the subject acts or is acted on; in other words, does the subject perform or receive the action of the verb. The passive voice is always formed by joining an inflected form of to be with the verb’s past participle. In an active voice, the subject is the one performing the action. For example, the matter will be given full consideration versus we will consider the matter carefully. The first is active voice and the latter is passive voice.
The verb mood shows the way the verb expresses an action or state of being. There are three moods: indicative, imperative, and subjunctive. The indicative mood is the most commonly used. It is used to express facts and opinion and to ask questions. The imperative mood expresses commands, direct requests, and sometimes permission. The subjunctive mood is not as common as the other two listed above. It’s used to express an action or state not as a reality but as a concept. For example, it is what it is or be that as it may.
Verb tense shows the time in which an act or condition occurs. The three major parts of time are present, past, and future. Each of these tenses can be broken down even further into a perfect tense, such as present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect.
A verb’s person shows whether the act or condition is coming from the person speaking (first person), the person spoken to (second person), or the person or thing spoken of (third person).
The number of the verb must agree with the number of the noun or pronoun used with it. Verbs can either be singular or plural.
Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, or an entire sentence.
A sentence adverb modifies an entire sentence and most commonly indicates doubt or emphasizes uncertainty. Common examples include, maybe, possibly, and, however.
Most adverbs typically end in the suffix –ly. Although many common adverbs do not’ have an identifying suffix such as, almost, never, here, now, just, seldom, later, near and too.
Like adjectives, adverbs have three degrees: the positive, the comparative, and the superlative.
Positive adverbs are identical to the dictionary form of the adverb. All adverbs in English have a positive form.
A comparative adverb compares the quality of an action done by two things. Most one syllable adverbs take the comparative form by adding the suffix –er, For example, faster, softer, easier. However, multisyllable adverbs usually form the comparative form by using the words more or less.
A superlative adverb compares the quality of an action done by at least three things. The superlative is usually used for emphasis versus comparison. Most one-syllable adverbs that end in –ly form the superlative by using the suffix –est. Multisyllable adverbs usually form the superlative with most or least.
To avoid confusion by the reader, adverbs should generally be placed as close to the word it is intended to modify in the sentence.
Prepositions are words that tell the reader when or where something is in the sentence. They help link a noun element with another part of the sentence to show the relationship between them. Prepositions can express position (about, above, below, on, under), direction (in, into, to, toward), time (after, before, during, until), and source (from, of, out of).
A preposition’s object is usually a noun or a pronoun.
A preposition can be simple or complex. A simple preposition consists of a single, one syllable word, while a compound preposition has two or more syllables.
Avoid overuse of prepositions. A good rule of thumb to follow is to use one preposition for every ten to fifteen words.
A conjunction is a function word that connect clauses, concepts, or parts of a sentence.
A conjunction can be simple or compound. A simple conjunction is a single word such as, and, but, if, or, or though. Compound conjunctions are single words formed by combining two or more words like, although, because, nevertheless, and unless.
There are two main classes for conjunctions: coordinating and subordinating.
A coordinating conjunction joins words of groups of words of equal grammatical rank, like two nouns or two verbs. The most common coordinating conjunctions are and, for, but, or, nor, yet, and so. And correlative conjunctions are a pair of conjunctions that work together like either/or, neither/not, and not only/but also.
A subordinating conjunction connects clauses of unequal grammatical rank. These types of conjunctions link independent and dependent clauses together. They typically result in a cause-and-effect relationship between the sentence. Common subordinating conjunctions include because, since, as, although, though, while, and whereas.
Despite widespread belief, you can, in fact, begin a sentence with a conjunction like but or however. Just make sure that the sentence is clear to the reader when structuring the sentence this way. If it is unclear, consider reworking the sentence.
Interjections are words we use to convey intense emotion. An interjection has little or no grammatical function in a sentence. It’s frequently allowed to stand as a sentence on its own.
Interjections are natural in speech and often used in dialogue. They are often followed by an exclamation mark to express emotion.
There are some words that are used exclusively as interjections such as, ouch, whew, ugh, psst, and oops.
When it comes to the eight parts of speech and having a foundational understanding of English grammar basics, it goes beyond what I have listed above. However, I think this article provides a great mini refresher to the eight parts of speech in the English language and will help you improve your writing skills as you continue sharing your food, nutrition, and health & wellness messages with your audiences.
In addition to your writing skills, having a foundation of English grammar basics will also help you to edit and proofread your work more efficiently and effectively as well.
Reference: The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition
*As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission on qualifying purchases through affiliate links.