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The Eight Parts of Speech

Traditional Terms for the Basic Word Classes in English

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One way to begin studying basic sentence structures in English is to identify the traditional parts of speech (also known as word classes). Here you'll learn the names and basic functions of these eight sentence parts.

As you study the table below, note that only interjections ("Hooray!") have a habit of standing alone (or alongside complete sentences). The other parts of speech--nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions-- come in many varieties and may appear just about anywhere in a sentence. To know for sure what part of speech a word is, we have to look not only at the word itself but also at its meaning, position, and use in a sentence.

For example, in the first sentence below, work functions as a noun; in the second sentence, as a verb; and in the third sentence, as an adjective:

  • Bosco showed up for work two hours late. [The noun work is the thing Bosco shows up for.]
  • He will have to work until midnight. [The verb work is the action he must perform.]
  • His work permit expires next month. [The attributive noun work modifies the noun permit.]

Don't let this variety of meanings and uses discourage you. Keep in mind that learning the names of the basic parts of speech is just one way to understand how sentences are put together.

Now review the parts of speech listed below, and for each one see if you can provide examples of your own. (Click on each term to visit a glossary page where you'll find additional examples and more detailed explanations.) You'll grow more familiar with the parts of speech as you practice using them in other lessons on this site.

GETTING STARTED WITH SENTENCES
Basic Sentence Parts and Structures

The Parts of Speech

PART OF SPEECH BASIC FUNCTION EXAMPLES
noun names a person, place, or thing pirate, Caribbean, ship
pronoun takes the place of a noun I, you, he, she, it, ours, them, who
verb identifies action or state of being sing, dance, believe, be
adjective modifies a noun hot, lazy, funny
adverb modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb softly, lazily, often
preposition shows a relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other words in a sentence up, over, against, by, for
conjunction joins words, phrases, and clauses and, but, or, yet
interjection expresses emotion ah, whoops, ouch
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