Understanding How To Use Parts of Speech

What Is a Part of Speech?

A part of speech can be defined as a group in which a word is allocated to, based on its syntactic functions. We have eight parts of speech in the English language. These are noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. The purpose of a part of speech is to denote the functions of a word in a sentence regarding its meaning and grammar.

It should be noted that, depending on how a word is used, it can fall into more than one part of speech. It is therefore very important to get to understand the different parts of speech especially when you want to define the meaning of words as used in a sentence.

The Existing Different Parts of Speech

Having mentioned the definition of parts of speech, let’s have an in-depth look at the various types of speech present in the English language. As mentioned above, we have eight parts of speech in English.


A noun is any word that describes a person, thing or place. The function of a noun in a sentence is to provide answers to the basic question, who or what is involved.

For example:

  1. The cat jumped over the wall.
  2. In this sentence, we have two nouns, the cat, and the wall.

The following are some of the list of characteristics of nouns:

  • Nouns can either be abstract or concrete
  • Either proper or common
  • Either singular or plural
  • Some nouns are collective

Abstract vs. Concrete nouns

A concrete noun is a noun that can be touched or seen. For example, in the example above we have a cat and a wall.

On the other hand, an abstract noun is something intangible; it cannot be seen or touched.

For example:

  1. She was looking for love
  2. Integrity is an important virtue

Love and integrity cannot be seen or touched making them abstract nouns.

   Proper vs. Common nouns

Proper nouns are the ones that denote a particular place, person, thing, or idea. The first letter of a proper noun should be capitalized.

Common nouns refer to a type of thing or a whole class. Their first letters are therefore not capitalized.


Hopkins hospital is an important hospital

Manchester United football club is a very popular club

   Singular vs. Plural nouns

Majority of the nouns can be transformed to plural form by either adding s or es. For example, the girl becomes girls, and the box becomes boxes. Other nouns take irregular form in plural such as child becomes children, man becomes men and person changes to people.

Example in sentences:

A child is very important in a society

Children are very important in a society

A man should be responsible for his actions

Men ought to be responsible for their actions.

Note: Other nouns maintain the same format in both singular and plural form.

Collective nouns

These are nouns that name a group of items or things. Usually, they take the single form yet they refer to a group of things. The reason behind this is because the members act in unison.

For example:

The choir performed a nice song.

In some cases, collective nouns may be used to refer to a group which is not united or in other words have different independent opinions or actions towards something. This case, therefore, requires the collective noun to be handled in plural so that it can bring out the differences among the members of the group.

For example:

The juries were not able to agree on the judgement.


A pronoun is a word that usually replaces a noun when they are not used in a sentence.

For example:

She is married.

In this case, she is our pronoun.

Just like nouns, pronouns can either be subjects or objects in any sentence.

For example:

He had arranged to surprise him

Here we have he and him as the pronouns. He is the subject in this sentence while he takes the place of the object.

All the pronouns have their object form. The following are some of the pronouns in both their subject and object form.

  • Subject     Object

I              Me

We         Us

She         Her

He          Him

You        You

Apart from personal pronouns, here are examples of some other common pronouns:

  •    Possessive pronouns

Mine, his, hers, yours, ours theirs

The white dog is ours

  •    Reflexive pronouns

myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, oneself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves

He cut himself while playing with the knife

  •    Reciprocal pronouns

each other, one another

They love each other

  •    Relative pronouns

that, which, who, whose, whom, where, when

The car that you bought is nice

  •    Demonstrative pronouns

this, that, these, those

This is a bright color

  •    Interrogative pronouns

who, what, why, where, when, whatever

When are you going home?

  •    Indefinite pronouns

anything, anybody, anyone, something, somebody, someone, nothing, nobody, none, no one

There is no one in class


These are words that come before a noun in a sentence. They include a, an, and the.

For example:

The class is too small for you

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

In our examples above, we can see that the articles precede the noun phrases.

  •    Adjectives

An adjective is a word that is usually used to describe a pronoun or noun. Adjectives are usually used before a noun or in some case they may come after a reflective verb.

For example:

  1. He is very smart in class
  2. We live in the hottest town in the country

In our first example, the adjective very smart follows the reflective verb is and it is used to describe our subject she.

The second example, hottest is the adjective describing the noun town.

  •    Verbs

A verb is a doing word, that is a word that shows a state of being or action in a sentence.

For example:

  1. Albert walks to school
  2. Peter was a passionate reader

In the first example, the verb ‘is walks’ which describe the action of the subject, Albert. In the second example, our verb is; was, and it is in the sentence to describe the state of being of passionate making it a verb.

A sentence can have some verbs, or a verb phrase can carry both the verb and the helping verb.

For example:

  1. She drunk tea while reading the book
  2. Peter was cooking when I visited him.

In the first example, our subject is performing two actions, that is drunk and reading

The second example has a verb phrase which has a verb and a helping verb.

In some sentences, you can have some words which look like verbs, but they are not necessarily verbs as they perform different functions. Such verbs are known as verbals.

Types of verbs

  1. Action verbs – They show specific actions.
  2. Transitive verbs – These are verbs that indicate activities that are doable. They usually go with direct objects
  3. Intransitive verbs – These are action verbs that also show possible activities but are not followed by direct verbs d.   Auxiliary verbs. They are also referred to as helping verbs; they usually go with the main verb to portray the tense of the verb, the negative nature or to develop a question.
  4. Irregular verbs – These are verbs that don’t follow a regular pattern regarding spelling change with different tense changes.
  5. Phrasal verbs – These are a combination of words that work together to modify the central verb.
  6. Modal verbs – These are auxiliary verbs whose main purpose is to show obligations, abilities, permissions or possibility
  7. Stative verbs – These are verbs that mainly relate to states of being, thoughts, relationships, emotions, senses and measurements.
  •  Adverbs

The same adjectives give more information about nouns; adverbs also describe the verbs further. Modifiers can also be used to describe attributes. In most cases, adverbs end in –ly.

For example:

  1. He smiled widely when he saw her
  2. The sun is scorching today

In case one, we have extensively as the adverb that modifies the verb smiled and in example two, extremely is the adverb that modifies the adjectives hot which gives information about the noun sun.  As mentioned earlier, the nouns give answers to the questions what or who. In this case, the adverbs answer the questions why, how, when and where.

Let’s look at the basic types of adverbs:

There are five main types of adverbs; manner, time, place, frequency and degree.

  • Adverbs of time

Adverbs of time give more information on when the action takes place. They are usually placed at the beginning or the end of a sentence. If it is very important to state the moment the action took place, then the adverb of time should be placed at the beginning of the sentence.

Examples of adverbs of time include:

Just, lately, always during, recently, soon, yet, sometimes, so far, usually, during

I recently bought a new house

Soon, I will finish school.

So far, we have covered 12 miles.

  • Adverbs of place

This tells where the action is taking place or happening. They usually come after the main verb, or the noun being referred to or at the end of the sentence.

Examples include:

here, there, nowhere, everywhere, out, in, above, below, inside, outside, into

This morning was so cold, mist-covered almost everywhere.

  • Adverbs of manner

This tells how the verb is performed or done. These are the most common types of adverbs. Most of these adverbs end with –ly, making them very easy to spot

Examples of adverbs of manner: kindly, slowly, calmly, neatly, loudly, sadly, quickly, politely, lazily

  1. She walked lazily to class
  2. He spoke kindly to the children

The young girl knows how to fold her clothes neatly.

  • Adverbs of degree

These adverbs show the level of intensity of an adjective, verb or another adverb in the sentence.

Examples of these adverbs are:

So, hardly, simply, almost, quite, nearly, too, just, enough

It is quite obvious that she loves him

I need a brief nap and I will be ok

I am so happy to see you once again.

  • Adverbs of frequency

These adverbs give information on how often the verb repeats itself. They usually come before just before the main verb in the sentence.

Some examples of adverbs of frequency are:

Sometimes, never, rarely, always, normally, again, usually, seldom

I rarely party these days

I seldom go for take away foods. I prefer cooking.

I sometimes think arguing is a waste of time.


A conjunction is a joining word and it, therefore, brings together either two sentences or independent clauses.

For example:

The students are supposed to take chemistry and physics

Peter aspires to travel to France, so he needs to learn the French language.

In our first example, we have and as the conjunction that brings together chemistry and physics.

In the second example, so is the conjunction that joins two complete sentences. It has been supported by a comma.

Examples of conjunctions include:

And, so, for, nor, or yet, but


Prepositions are words that work in conjunction with either a pronoun or a noun to come up with phrases that can be used to describe verbs, adjectives or nouns/pronouns. The purpose of prepositional phrases is to either give a directional, temporal or spatial meaning.

For example:

Paul climbed up the ladder against the house.

In this sentence, we have two prepositional phrases:

Up the ladder- this is an adverbial phrase since it has been used to verb climbed.

Against the house – this is a proposition that describes the noun house; it tells the ladder was against the house.

Some examples of prepositions are:

Aboard, about, above, across, after, against, along, amid, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, besides, between, beyond, by, down, during, except, for, from, in, into, like, near, of, off, on, onto, out, over, past, since, throughout, to, toward, under, underneath, until, unto, up, upon, with, within, without.

With this guide you are sure to classify different parts of speech and understand them. If you need any help with your speech or need professional assistance, we know the right place.