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If you can’t tell the difference between a noun and a hole in the ground, that’s because there isn’t one! Come learn more about these and the seven other parts of speech and their functions in this lesson.

Part of Speech Defined

If you’re like many of us, you might still have nightmares of diagramming sentences in English class. With all the circling and lines drawn from one end to the other, your sentence diagram may have ended up looking like a tangled mess. However, if you recall, you probably started with a very orderly system of classification. Typically, the first step in diagramming a sentence is identifying what part of speech, or group of words categorized by their function in a sentence, a word belongs to.Not counting articles – which only consist of the words ‘the,’ ‘a’ and ‘an’ – there are eight parts of speech.

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Though there might be a lot of differences between modern English and ancient Greek, the same parts of speech and their functions are used in both (and many others) and have remained virtually the same across time and cultures. Keep watching to discover more about these eight parts of speech and the vital services they perform in our sentences!


This part of speech is probably the one we’re most familiar with since nouns identify pretty much anything we can see, hear, touch, taste, smell or think. This group of words is commonly noted as consisting of people, places, things and ideas, leading nouns to make up a huge portion of practically any dictionary.Nouns can fall into two broad classifications: concrete and abstract. Concrete nouns are those that you can experience directly with your senses – ‘car,’ ‘human,’ ‘garden’ and ‘water.

‘ The abstract ones are those like ‘patriotism’ or ‘love’ that represent emotions or other intangible experiences.Whether concrete or abstract, though, nouns are the words that can actually get things done or have things done to them. In fact, the other parts of speech are really used to describe the actions of various nouns and the other relationships between them.


Nouns might be important, but without verbs, they wouldn’t be doing anything.

Often referred to as action words, verbs are indeed the part of speech responsible for telling us what nouns are doing or experiencing. But verbs aren’t always the action-packed words you might expect.For example, the simple act of existing really doesn’t take any effort, but it’s not really a passive process either. With that in mind, verbs such as ‘to be’ and others like it denoting a state of being, sensing, feeling or thinking are known as linking verbs.

Instead of allowing nouns to act or to be acted upon like other verbs, these simply link two parts of a sentence together: ‘He is tall,’ or ‘I feel sick.’


People might be nouns, but ‘you’ and ‘I’ are pronouns. As their name suggests, these words are used in the place of nouns, especially when we already know what noun we’re talking about. For instance, instead of repeating people’s names or saying ‘book’ over and over, we can replace these nouns with pronouns like ‘she,’ ‘they’ or ‘it.’


We learned our colors and numbers long before we ever knew they were adjectives, but this part of speech helps us make language more colorful from an early age.

Adjectives are words used to modify nouns or pronouns in some way, usually by providing extra details about them. For example, ‘The dog fetched the balls’ can be made a little more descriptive by adding adjectives: ‘The shaggy brown dog fetched five green balls.’


With adjectives, we can answer questions like ‘How many?’ or ‘What kind?’ With adverbs, though, we get answers to things like ‘When?’ or ‘In what way?’ Instead of modifying nouns and pronouns, adverbs are used to provide more details and describe verbs, adjectives and even other adverbs.These words frequently ending in ‘-ly’ (such as ‘happily’) and are often modified versions of their adjectival cousins (such as ‘happy’), but there are many others that have distinct forms all their own. Take for instance ‘almost’ and ‘never’ in ‘The dog almost never fetches the brightly colored balls.


You might remember from elementary school that you can often identify words as prepositions by whether or not they can describe a rabbit in relation to a log: the rabbit can be ‘on’ the log, ‘behind’ it, or ‘beneath’ it. In fact, describing relationships between different nouns or pronouns is a preposition‘s primary function.In a larger context, prepositional phrases consist of a preposition, along with its object (a noun or pronoun) and any words modifying it. These phrases are adverbial in nature, considering they typically describe when, where or in what way an action is performed: ‘He put it on the table,’ ‘She opened the gift at midnight,’ and ‘The dog fetched the ball with glee.’


Of all the songs Schoolhouse Rock ever sang about grammar, their ‘Conjunction Junction’ is by far the most memorable.

Following that example, let’s think about what a junction actually is. We can find junctions on highways, railroads and even shipping lanes – they’re points at which different paths intersect. In our sentences, conjunctions (such as ‘and,’ ‘but,’ ‘although’ or ‘because’) are responsible for maintaining these intersections between different words and phrases, making sure the transitions from one to the other are smooth and understandable.


You’re very unlikely to find this part of speech in use unless you’re at a football game or some other place where people are likely to be excited, and if we take a look at its name, we might see why. If someone interjects into a conversation, that means he or she has interrupted its flow with something usually unrelated to it.Likewise, interjections are unrelated to any other part of speech and therefore actually serve to break the flow of a sentence in order to demonstrate emotion: ‘The dog actually fetched the ball, huh?’ (surprise) or ‘Wow! Did you see that catch?’ (excitement).

Lesson Summary

A part of speech is a group of words categorized by their function in a sentence, and there are eight of these different families.

  • Nouns – consist of people, places, things, and ideas.

    They may be either concrete or abstract.

  • Pronouns – take the place of nouns
  • Verbs – action words
  • Adjectives – modify nouns and pronouns
  • Adverbs – modify verbs, adjectives and adverbs
  • Prepositions – describing relationships between nouns and pronouns
  • Conjunctions – connect different words and phrases
  • Interjections – break the flow of a sentence in order to demonstrate emotion. Given their role, interjections are grammatically unrelated to the rest.

Learning Outcome

When you are finished, you should be able to state and describe the use of the eight parts of speech.

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