Understanding Parts of Speech

Parts of Speech – What You Need to Know

Understanding parts of speech is a key component to writing well. Knowing how words function in a sentence allows you to construct correct sentences and better understand how to edit your own writing.

There are nine main lexical categories (or parts of speech): noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection.


Nouns are words that name people, animals, places, things or qualities. They may be common or proper. They may be countable (like “piece”) or uncountable (like “energy”). They may have a masculine, feminine or neutral gender. They may be animate or inanimate.

Nouns are one of the open word classes, which regularly acquire new words. They are sometimes listed as a part of speech, along with pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs. They can also occur as the articles a and an, which precede nouns or noun phrases. Articles are not always included in the list of parts of speech, but they may be used to modify nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.


Learning adjectives probably won’t make you witty, healthy or wealthy, but it can help you understand how sentences are constructed. Like nouns and verbs, adjectives also have specific word endings that can help distinguish them from other parts of speech.

Adjectives modify or describe a noun or pronoun. They can be used to modify other adjectives, or they can be modified by adverbs (very, quite).

Some adjectives are coordinate, meaning that they modify the same noun to the same degree. These are called relative adjectives. Other adjectives can become nouns, a process called nominalization. For example, the noun book became the adjective happy book.


Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, prepositions, or clauses. They also tell us how, where, or to what extent something happened. Many of them end in -ly. Some common adverbs include again, always, sometimes, today, never, often, and even more.

They can also undergo comparison, taking comparative and superlative forms (such as more quickly, much quicker). They can also add intensifications to verbs, such as angrily and hungrily. These can change the meaning of the original verb to convey the mood or intensity of the action. They are often difficult to distinguish from other modifiers, though. The best way to find an adverb is to look for the suffix -ly.


A preposition is a word that shows a relationship between a noun or pronoun and another word in a sentence. In English, prepositions are usually used in conjunction with adverbs (such as very or very well) or other prepositional phrases.

Prepositions often show spatial relationships in a sentence, such as across from, beside, or behind. They can also indicate time relationships, such as now, then, or after. The complexity of prepositions can make them difficult for students to learn. They are also frequently confused with other parts of speech. This confusion can lead to embarrassing errors in writing and speaking. This is why it’s important to understand how they function in a sentence.


Conjunctions are words that connect other words, phrases and clauses in sentences. They come in several types and serve different purposes. For example, coordinating conjunctions join elements of equal grammatical rank or value. These include and, or, but and so. They are also referred to as linkers and glue sentence parts together.

There are seven coordinating conjunctions in the English language. Some people use the acronym FANBOYS to remember them. They can be used to link two independent clauses, but it’s always good practice to place a comma before a coordinating conjunction when joining an independent clause with a dependent clause. This will help you avoid sentence fragments.


Whether you’re writing fiction or a nonfiction book, you can add interjections to your speech and writing to make it feel more natural. However, you have to be careful not to overuse them, as they can come across as distracting and grating.

Interjections are words, phrases, or short clauses that express spontaneous emotions. They’re usually surrounded by punctuation, such as a comma or period (full stop) or an exclamation mark. Examples include yikes, uh-oh, and eek! They also serve as filler words, which are used to fill in gaps in conversation. These are a great alternative to emoticons. They show emotion and urgency when an emoji can’t.

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