Parts of Speech

By Joe Essberger

Like all teachers, you can use parts of speech perfectly in speaking. But do you sometimes come unstuck in trying to explain them to your students? Learners need to understand parts of speech, and they will certainly ask you lots of tricky questions about them. Prepare yourself with this short primer.

What are parts of speech?

Words can be classified by the grammatical function they perform in a sentence (the job they do). For example, and very simply, verbs are actions, nouns are things. Verbs are one part of speech, nouns are another. There are nine parts of speech and each one has its own job.

In the table below notice that the words in each column are interchangeable. If you change them you will change the meaning but you will still have a grammatical sentence.

det.nounverbadverb
Mydogrunsfast
Ourcateatsslowly
Herrabbitlearnsquickly

Another term for part of speech is word class.

You will often read that “An adjective qualifies a noun” or “An adverb modifies a verb”. To qualify or to modify just means to add more information (to a part of speech in this case). For example, car is a noun and red is an adjective. If we say red car we have qualified the noun with an adjective. Now we know more about the car.

How many parts of speech are there?

Depending on the exact classification used, grammarians may consider there to be 8, 9 or even 10 parts of speech. Generally speaking, most textbooks and websites today work on the basis of 9 parts of speech, as shown below.

Verb

A verb expresses action or state:

  • actiondo, go, run, look after, rain, stop
  • state or changing state – be, have, seem, become, develop

More about verbs

Noun

A noun is a person, place or thing:

  • personboy, woman, teacher, Donald, Mary
  • placehome, office, city, jungle, Europe
  • thingdesk, car, apple, money, music, love, monkey

More about nouns

Pronoun

A pronoun stands for (pro-) a noun. It takes the place of a noun so that we don’t have to endlessly repeat the noun. There are several types of pronoun, for example:

  • personal pronounI, me, you, he, him, she…
  • demonstrative pronounthis, that, these, those
  • possessive pronounmine, yours, his…

More about pronouns

Adjective

An adjective qualifies, modifies or tells us more about a noun or pronoun:

  • adjective modifying noun before nouna big dog, a dark sky, a boring film
  • adjective modifying noun after verbYour dog looks big. The sky became dark. Their film seemed boring.
  • adjective modifying pronoun after verbThey were full. It seemed believable. Those are not cheap.

More about adjectives

Adverb

Most but not all adverbs end in -ly. An adverb can:

  • qualify a verbusually sleep, run quickly, work hard
  • qualify an adjectivea very big dog, be strangely quiet
  • qualify another adverbvery quickly, probably soon

More about adverbs

Determiner

A determiner is a word that introduces a noun. There are several kinds of determiner, for example:

  • article determinera cup, an egg, the music
  • demonstrative determinerthis idea, those animals
  • possessive determinermy house, your sister, its outcome…

More about determiners

Preposition

A preposition usually come before (pre-) a noun or pronoun and relates that noun or pronoun to other words in the sentence. It typically describes something’s place in space or time, or the manner in which something is done, for example:

  • preposition of placeinside the box, under it, over the shop
  • preposition of timein July, after Monday, at 10am
  • preposition of mannerby email, without speaking, on foot

More about prepositions

Conjunction

A conjunction joins words, phrases and clauses. There are two main types of conjunction:

coordinating conjunctionThey ate bread and butter. The water was cold so she didn’t go swimming.
subordinating conjunctionRam went swimming although it was cold. When he got home he had a shower.

More about conjunctions

Interjection

An interjection or exclamation is a small word with no grammatical value that expresses emotion such as surprise, pleasure or anger. It is often followed by an exclamation mark (point) and may stand alone or be written into the sentence:

  • interjection examples – Hey! Don’t be so lazy! Well, let’s think about it. Ouch! That hurts!

More about interjections

Written by Joe Essberger for TEFL.net October 2020
Joe Essberger is founder of TEFL.net and EnglishClub and has taught EFL in Europe and Asia.

3 Comments

  • Saima says:

    Its is very informative and helpful please send me more grammatical lessons.

  • The King Of Love From IRAN says:

    Teacher Joe,

    I have learned many best subjects Of English language here.
    Thank you so much for creating the best website.

  • EXANTUS says:

    Thank you very much.

    It’s very important your courses.

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