Parts of Speech

A Brief Overview

Parts of speech are categories of words or types of words that serve different functions. In order to discuss how parts of a sentence work, we need to understand the different categories of words.

nouns – name things: people, places, things, or ideas

pronouns – words that substitute for a noun such as he, she, they, theirs

verbs – words that describe action (fly, run, go) or existence (is, were, appear)

adjectives – words (or groups of words) that describe a person, place, thing, or idea: cute kitten (adjective, noun)

adverbs – words (or groups of words) that describe an adjective, verb, or adverb. Adverbs tell something about how: the brightly lit hallway The adverb brightly describes the adjective lit which is describing the noun hallway.

prepositions – words that describe position: in, at, under, around, of, within, and so on. Prepositions begin word groups (phrases) that tell about the position: The cat went under the table.

conjunctions – words that connect parts of the sentence:

coordinating conjunctions (words that join parts of equal importance): for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (FANBOYS)

subordinating conjunctions (words that join a part of the sentence which is subordinate or dependant on the other part such as it though since, although after, because before, while when (ITS AA BB WW)

relative pronoun conjunctions (whose that which whichever, who whoever, whom whomever, what whatever (WTWW WW WW WW)

articles – a, an, the





Nouns are words that refer to people, places, things, or ideas.
dog student pencil
supermarket love freedom

Proper nouns

Proper nouns are names of people, places, works of art, buildings, geographic locations, and more which must have the first letter capitalized.
Mona Lisa Empire State Building USS Enterprise Georgia the South

Note: Names of works of art, buildings, and ships (even starships) also go in italics. See Italics for more information.
Some words that are not proper nouns can become proper nouns when part of a name.
high school Gulf High School

See Capitalization for more information.

Plural nouns

Plural nouns refer to more than one. Usually, we make nouns plural by adding s or es.
trees pencils boxes heroes

Irregular Nouns

Irregular nouns make their plural in other ways. You must memorize the exceptions.
crisis/crises furniture/furniture ox/oxen
memorandum/memoranda child/children

Singular words tell whether a singular or plural noun follows.

o I visit my mother each year.
o I love both children.
o Pete answered every question correctly

Always Singular Always Plural Depends on the Noun
one either anybody each neither everybody another anything everyone much neither nobody nothing both many two (or more) most some few several lots none all

Hyphenated Nouns

make their plural by adding –s or –es the the main word.
fathers-in-law mothers-to-be secretaries-of-state runners-up
See Plurals for more information.


Pronouns are words that take the place of or refer to nouns, other pronouns, or phrases.

• Ms. Poland broke her shoe when she twisted her ankle. The pronoun her refers to Ms. Poland
• Florida is a state which has the majority of residents living along its coastline. The pronoun its refers to Florida.
• Anyone who studies will pass his or her tests. Anyone is singular and must have a singular pronoun referring back to it.


There are three cases: nominative (for subjects), objective (for objects), and possessive (for possessives)

The man chased the cat. subject He chased the cat.

The cat chased the man. object The cat chased him.
The cat is hiding from the man. object The cat is hiding from him.

That is my pen. possessive (adjective)
That is mine. possessive (pronoun)

Problem areas:
1. Compound Constructions

My mother and I went to the store. I went to the store.
• She asked my brother and me to be quiet. She asked me to be quiet.
• She bought a chocolate bar for my brother and me. She bought it for me.

2. Comparisons

• My brother is taller than I. My brother is taller than I am.
• The movie scared my brother more than me. The movie scared me.
• His house is more expensive than mine. His house is more expensive than mine is.

3. Who vs. Whom

• Who knows the answer? (Subject) knows the answer.
• Whom do you love? Do you love (object)?
• The doctor helps whoever needs treatment. The doctor helps (subject) needs treatment.
• The doctor helps whomever he treats. The doctor treats (object).

Pronouns with Collective Nouns

Collective nouns are a group of several people or things, but are treated as a singular noun.

• The class turned in its work.
• The jury made its decision.
• The government should provide help to its people.
• Our team placed first in its division.

See Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement and Pronoun Reference


A verb is a word that is used to show action or state of being. See Parts of the Sentence for more information.


Adjectives only describe nouns or pronouns. They tell number (such as five) and what kind (such as large).

I liked the five, large dogs.

• Usually adjective go before the nouns or pronouns they describe.

She is a good cook.

• Sometimes they follow a sensing verb like to be, feel, look, seem, smell, taste, or feel.

He looks sad.


Adverbs usually describe verbs. They tell how (ex. quietly).

She spoke quietly.

Adverbs can also describe adjectives.

Those dogs are really big.

Adverbs also describe other adverbs.

She spoke extremely quickly.

Making Adjectives into Adverbs:

• Often adverbs are formed by adding –ly to an adjective.
loud/loudly quick/quickly

• Not all adverbs end in –ly. She sings very well.
• Some adjectives end in –ly. That dog is quite friendly.

Well vs. Good:

• Usually well is the adverb form of the adjective good.

He is a good athlete. He swims well.

• Sometimes well is used to mean “healthy.”

He does not look like a well child.


• Usually –er and –est are added to adjectives to show they are more or the most of something. Sometimes we have to say more and the most.

Words that are one-syllable long use –er and –est: small, smaller, smallest.

Words that are most than one-syllable long, usually use more and most: intelligent, more intelligent, most intelligent.

She is small. She is intelligent.
She is smaller. She is more intelligent. (Comparative)
She is the smallest. She is the most intelligent. (Superlative)

Irregular Comparisons:
• The comparison forms of good, well, bad, and badly are irregular. You must memorize them.
good better best
bad worse worst

Conjunctive Adverbs – Fact, I’m Thin

There are many, many different conjunctive adverbs. However, these are some of the most common:

Furthermore Indeed Then
Also Moreover However
Consequently In fact
Therefore Nevertheless

Rules for using conjunctive adverbs:
1. The comma always goes immediately after the conjunctive adverb.

Also, you should memorize these words.

2. Always start a sentence with a conjunctive adverb. If you use a period, don’t forget to capitalize the conj. adverb.

• You can use a period before it. Moreover, there is another way.
• The other way is to use a semicolon; in fact, this is a very sophisticated method.

*Be careful about “however.”Sometimes it is a conj. adverb needing a comma and period or semicolon, and sometimes it an interjection which only needs commas. If you have two complete sentences joined, it is a conjunctive adverb. If there is only one complete sentence, it is an interjection.
• I was late for class; however, the teacher didn’t notice. (conj. adverb)
• She usually, however, notices everything. (interjection)


A preposition is a word that shows position or direction such as up, down, in, out, around, over, among, and so on.


A conjunction is a word that joins parts of a sentence.

Coordinating conjunctions: FANBOYS – for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so

Subordinating conjunctions: words which subordinate or make dependent such as it though since, although after, because before, when while (ITS AA BB WW). There are many more subordinate conjunctions.

Relative pronoun conjunctions: whose that which whichever, who whoever, whom whomever, what whatever (WTWW WW WW WW)

See Coordination and Subordination and Parts of a Sentence.


Articles consist of the following words: a, an, the. Articles are used before nouns to add meaning.

The book means This book – a specific book.

A book means any book.

An is the form of A which is used before words beginning with vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and words beginning with the letter h which sound the h: an historical era, a huge mistake.