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What Is a Part of Speech?

By E. Reeder
Updated Jan 28, 2024
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The English language has eight or nine categories into which words fall in the context of a sentence. Each of these categories, divided by type or function, is considered a part of speech. Each part of speech has a different job within a sentence. Every language is structured differently but, in English, the parts of speech are nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections. Some also include articles as the ninth category.

Nouns are people, places or things mentioned in sentences. In the sentence, “The kangaroo kicked the ball down the hall,” the words “kangaroo”, “ball”, and “hall” are nouns. To be complete, a sentence must contain a noun and a verb and must express a complete thought.

Pronouns are parts of speech that rename nouns. They are useful because they mean that nouns do not have to be repeated endlessly, which can interrupt the flow of a sentence or paragraph, as in the following example. “Angela works full-time at the video store. Angela also works part-time at the hospital.” In the second sentence, the pronoun “she” could be used to rename “Angela”.

Verbs express actions or states of being. In the following sentence, “James pushed the button,” “pushed” is the verb, because it illustrates action. An example of a verb expressing a state of being is the word “is” in the sentence, “The dog is large.”

Adjectives as parts of speech describe nouns and, thus, help to add detail and life to sentences. They are useful in making writing more descriptive. In the sentence, “We passed a narrow, yellow bridge,” both “narrow” and “yellow” are adjectives.

Adverbs are another part of speech that can make sentences more vivid. They describe verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. “Roughly” is an adverb in the sentence, “The coach spoke roughly to the referee,” because "roughly" modifies the verb "spoke".

Prepositions are words that link nouns to other words. They can be comprised of one, two or three words. Prepositions include words and phrases such as “off”, “beside”, “according to”, “over”, and “in addition to”. “Off” is a preposition in the sentence, “He veered off the road for a split second.”

Conjunctions are words that also help to link phrases or sentences together and show relationships between words. They include “and”, “or”, “for”, “nor”, “so”, “but”, and “yet”. In the sentence, “I would do that, but I don’t have time,” the word “but” is a conjunction.

Interjections are single words that express strong emotion. They help to highlight the fact that people have strong feelings. In this text, “Hey, bring back my lunchbox,” the word “Hey” is an interjection.

Articles are easy to identify because there are only three of them: “a”, “an”, and “the”. This part of speech indicates that a noun will follow. In the sentence, “She walked the dog,” “the” is an article.

These elements help to structure the English language. Each part of speech determines functions for words and phrases. When used properly, they work together to form a cohesive unit.

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Discussion Comments

By Lostnfound — On May 14, 2014

@Grivusangel -- There's no telling how many times I watched those cartoons over the years. We used to hope for certain ones, and the "Conjunction Junction" was one of our favorites.

In my college "basic" grammar class, we spent the first four weeks on the parts of speech, and the last eight on diagramming. About two weeks of those first four were spent solely on pronouns. I had no idea pronouns were so darn complicated! They've probably changed more than any other part of speech in English over the centuries. Learning all the permutations and declensions just about did me in!

By Grivusangel — On May 13, 2014

I wonder how many kids my age learned the parts of speech first from the "Schoolhouse Rock" cartoons on Saturday mornings. I can still sing, "Conjunction Junction, what's your function?" or "A noun is a person, place or thing!" I know many other adults can probably do the same thing.

Even the parts of speech can be learned easily if you set them to catchy tunes!

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