Parts of Speech

What Are the Parts of Speech?

by Owen Fourie

This is basic to your understanding of English grammar.

Once you have begun to learn the grammar of the English language, this is the first thing that should be mastered as a tool to understanding the rest of grammar.

If it is mastered at the outset, there should be no need to repeat it every year as though it is entirely new. Mastery here would ensure competence in other areas of grammar.

The building blocks

There are eight parts of speech in English grammar. These are the building blocks that are used to put together sentences that express the ideas we wish to convey to others. Each part has a particular function and a relationship with other parts.

The articles a, an, and the are sometimes considered as a separate part of speech. Since they are so closely related to nouns, they qualify as adjectives–a special category of adjectives.

The eight parts of speech are

  • nouns
  • pronouns
  • verbs
  • conjunctions
  • prepositions
  • adjectives
  • adverbs
  • interjections

Be aware that often the position of a word in a sentence determines its part of speech. Therefore, the word walking is

  • a noun in “Walking is a good exercise.”;
  • an adjective in “They went on a walking tour.”

Useful tabulation for quick and easy reference


Part of Speech

What it does tells us what it is

How it relates to the other parts

Noun Names a person, a place, a thing, a quality, an action. It is a naming word: girl, river, tree, beauty, conversation Subject of a verb, object of a verb, object of a preposition, an appositive: The river is wide. The girl is crossing the river. The girl fell into the river. The girl, my sister, fell into the river.
Pronoun Used instead of a noun when the person or thing it refers to is clear. It is a substitute for a naming word: she, it, they It relates to the noun previously used to name a person or a thing in the same context: Emma likes cars. She is keen to buy one.
Verb Expresses action, occurrence, or existence: run, born, is Describes the action or state of a noun: I run to keep fit. He was born in July. The man is tall.
Conjunction Connects words, phrases, clauses, and sentences: and, but, or Can relate to most other parts, joining nouns, pronouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives, and adverbs: bat and ball; he or she; ran but fell; up and down the stairs; cold but pleasant weather; thinking quickly but cautiously
Preposition Placed before a noun or a pronoun to show relationship between words or concepts in a sentence: to, for, in. They indicate time, place, or position. The preposition has an object – a noun. The preposition and its object form a prepositional phrase that functions as an adverb or as an adjective: The boy in black shorts ran with a limp.
Adjective Modifies a noun or a pronoun by specifying any of its distinguishing characteristics or qualities: red, tall, silent. The articles a, an, and the are regarded as adjectives. It exists for nouns: red hair, tall man, silent moment. It can also modify a pronoun: He is healthy.
Adverb Modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb: clearly, beautifully, painfully It relates to verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs but not to nouns: speak clearly; beautifully moonlit night; moved painfully slowly
Interjection A word expressing emotion: Wow! Ugh! It usually stands on its own


Are there any of the above-mentioned parts of speech that you find difficult? If so, which are they and what is the problem that you have with them? Do you have any useful insights? What are your particular struggles? Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

Click here for a cute Parts of Speech song.

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

Copyright © 2011 by English Essay Writing Tips


Skip to comment form

    • jack on September 24, 2017 at 13:35

    are there helping verbs and linking verbs

    1. Yes.
      Go to this pdf for a concise demonstration of the difference.
      Go to this site for more detail.

    • Princess on January 11, 2013 at 12:02

    Wow! this article is superb.i have learnt so much from it.

    1. Glad you found it useful, Princess. Thank you for commenting.

Comments have been disabled.