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Parts of speech
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Parts of speech: A simple guide and test to master grammar

By Joyanne James. Learning the parts of speech in English is not only a topic for school children to get a good grade in English. It affects every type of writing, subject, letter, email, text message, social media post or job application you may write in your lifetime.

Get your parts of speech right and avoid bad grades in school and embarrassment when you communicate with others in writing. Use this simple guide with a test to make sure you walk away from this article a far better writer than you were when you started. To begin, you must first know what is a sentence.

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What is a sentence?

A sentence is made up of a subject, a verb and an object. The subject is the doer, the verb is either an action, a link or a help, and the object is the receiver in the sentence. Knowing this information tells you which parts of speech you should use in your sentence and where they should be placed.

You should also know that a sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop. This means that it is possible to use many parts of speech to make up the subject, verb and object in a sentence before you put down that full stop.

There are 8 main parts of speech and other helpful ones that are important in sentences. These are placed under subject, verb and object. Only nouns, pronouns and verbs have long explanations and everything else is a piece of cake. Here are 8 main parts of speech and 2 useful ones that need mentioning.

8 Main parts of speech

1. Nouns are names of persons, places, animals and things

Keep the definition of nouns in mind and you would understand all the other parts of speech easily. They all link the nouns together in a sentence. Both the subject and the object of a sentence may have nouns, and sometimes the object may not have nouns.

e.g. Chelsea walks to school.

Chelsea is a noun and school is a noun.

Chelsea walks fast.

This is a complete sentence that does not end with a noun.

6 types of nouns

1. Common noun

Common noun is a generic word or common word for a person, place, animal or thing. It always starts with a common letter.

e.g. boy, school, dog or bag

2. Proper noun

Proper noun is a specific name of a person, place, animal or thing. It always starts with a capital letter.

e.g. Bob, Study Zone Institute, Rover or Nike

3. Possessive noun

Possessive noun shows ownership by a person, place, animal or thing. It is marked by an apostrophe “s” when singular and “s” apostrophe when plural.

e.g. boy’s pen, boys’ school, Bob’s dad, Study Zone Institute’s website, Rover’s bone, or Nike’s bags

4. Collective noun

Collective noun is one word that describes a collection of persons, places, animals or things. It is learned when you do English or the word “group” can be used in some cases when you are uncertain.

e.g. class of students, chain of islands, litter of kittens, bunch of bananas, or group of friends

5. Compound noun

Compound noun is the joining of two nouns to make one word or phrase that describes a person, place, animal or thing. It may be written as one or more words.

e.g. policeman, Port-of-Spain, German Shepherd, or book bag

6. Abstract noun

Abstract noun is a thing that has no physical existence. All other nouns that can be seen, tasted or felt are called concrete nouns. Abstract nouns are emotions, days, months, music, state, idea and quality.

e.g. love, Tuesday, November, neighbourhood, excitement

2. Pronouns replace nouns

Pronoun is easy to remember because it has the name “noun” in it. It works hand in hand with nouns and you use it every day when speaking and writing. Since you do not want to sound like Tarzan, you use pronouns to sound realistic.

e.g. Tarzan is hungry and Tarzan wants Jane to eat with Tarzan.

If you are telling the story, you would say:

Tarzan is hungry and he wants Jane to eat with him.

If Tarzan uses pronouns, he would say:

I am hungry and want Jane to eat with me.

This is where you see how important it is to know that a sentence has a subject, verb and an object. Let us look at the pronouns that fall under subject, verb, object, possessive and reflexive.

Subject pronouns

I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they

These pronouns must have a verb that follows them since they are doers in a sentence. Here are 8 examples using each pronoun with an action verb.

I go to school by bus.

You walk the entire way.

He runs as fast as he can.

She drives every day.

It starts at 8 am.

We get there long before.

You greet your teachers politely.

They send you out the door.

Object pronouns

me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them

The best way to understand object pronouns is to flip a sentence placing the subject in the position of the object. In other words, you move the doer into the position of the receiver. Here are 8 examples to explain this.

I gave Donna a pen. / Donna received a pen from me.

You drove Mark’s car. / Mark’s car was driven by you.

He texted Kim a short message. / Kim received a short message from him.

She wrote a nice book. / The nice book was written by her.

It bit the boy. / The boy was bitten by it.

We threw the party. / The party was thrown by us.

You disturb the entire school. / The entire school is disturbed by you.

They asked Daddy to bring candy. / Daddy was asked to bring candy for them.

Possessive pronouns

my/mine, your/yours, his/his, her/hers, its/its, our/ours, your/yours and their/theirs

You can also understand possessive pronouns by flipping the sentence to know which word to use in the position that it is placed. Using the subject pronouns as a guide, here are 8 examples to show possessive pronouns used as subject and object.

I own the book. This is my book. The book is mine.

You own the car. This is your car. The car is yours.

He owns the pen. This is his pen. The pen is his.

She owns the dress. This is her dress. The dress is hers.

It owns the tail. This is its tail. The tail is its.

We own the shop. This is our shop. The shop is ours.

You own the books. These are your books. The books are yours.

They own the house. This is their house. The house is theirs.

Reflexive pronouns

Think of reflexive pronouns like a boomerang that starts with you, goes out and comes back to you. In an English sentence, reflexive pronouns replace object pronouns that are used in the same sentence with its subject. This means that when a sentence starts with “I” and must end with “me”, the reflexive pronoun steps in and replaces “me” with “myself”. Here are 8 examples to show this.

I clean up after myself.

You do the dishes by yourself.

He shared out food for himself.

She talks to herself.

It messed itself.

We cooked dinner for ourselves.

You worked hard so be proud of yourselves.

They did their homework by themselves.

3. Verbs – show action, link or help

The topic of verbs is extensive, but we are going to touch on it enough to keep your grammar in check. Remember, a sentence has a subject, verb and an object. There are 3 types of verbs that tell us different things about the subject and the object.

Action verb says that the subject is doing something to the object.

Mike walks to school.

Subject – Mike

Action verb – walks

Object – to school

Linking verb shows the state of the subject in relation to the object.

Mike is walking to school.

Subject – Mike

Linking verb – is

Object – walking to school

Helping verb alters the action of the subject in relation to the object.

Mike will walk to school.

Subject – Mike

Helping verb – will

Object – walk to school

Tense is a very important part of understanding verbs. You must use the correct verb tense when you talk about situations in the time that they happened, happen, or will happen. You can read about the 12 types of verb tenses here.

4. Adjectives describe nouns

Any word that describes a noun is an adjective. You can say tall person, far place, vicious animal, and blue thing.

5. Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives and adverbs

Adverbs that describe verbs usually end in -ly except for the word fast.

e.g. He runs around the park. / He runs quickly around the park.

Adverbs that describe adjectives make a sentence more descriptive as adjectives already describe nouns.

e.g. The teacher is polite. / The teacher is very polite.

Adverbs that describe other adverbs also add description to something already being described.

e.g. She sings beautifully. / She sings rather beautifully.

6. Conjunctions join nouns

Conjunctions are the words that we use to join nouns together in a sentence. We use them often and know exactly which ones should be used around the other parts of speech.

e.g. Bob and Fay eat lunch together. Fay brings a sandwich for Bob. He offers her juice but she refuses.

Here are some conjunctions to remember.

and, but, because, for, once, though, whether, while, when, so, yet

7. Prepositions show the relationship between nouns

While a conjunction joins nouns, a preposition shows how one noun affects another.

e.g. The pen is on the table. Your feet are under it. The teacher is behind you. You are sitting next to your best friend.

Here are some prepositions to remember.

above, after, among, as, at, between, but, by, concerning, despite, except, from, in, in spite of, like, minus, opposite, outside, past, regarding, to, until, with

8. Interjections express exclamations

When speaking or writing, we use exclamations consistently to express emotions strongly. These add excitement to what we have to say to stir the interest of our listener or reader.

e.g. Oh my! Hmm, Oh oh, What in the world! Bam!

Other parts of speech

9. Articles generalise nouns

When we talk about any random person, place, animal or thing, we use the article “a” or “an” in the sentence. Remember, “a” is used before a word that starts with a consonant and “an” is used before a word that starts with a vowel.

e.g. A man is standing outside. “A” tells us that the man is a stranger.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. “An” tells us that all apples are healthy.

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10. Determiners specify nouns

When we talk about a particular person, place, animal or thing, we use the determiners such as “the”, “my”, “this”, “some”, “eight”, “each”, “any”, which are used before nouns. 

e.g. The man is standing outside. “The” tells us that the man is a known person.

Test yourself on parts of speech

Look at this long sentence that consists of most of the parts of speech that are covered in this article. Get out pen and paper. Write down each word in a separate line. Label each word or phrase with the correct part of speech. Check the answers below to see if you got it right.


Mya was driving her mother’s very expensive car on the highway and thought she would be early until a herd of cows ran out of the Port-of-Spain neighbourhood onto the street causing her to shout, “Oh my gosh!”

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Mya – proper noun

was driving – linking verb

her – possessive pronoun

mother’s – possessive noun

very – adverb

expensive – adjective

car – common noun

on – preposition

the – determiner

highway – common noun

and – conjunction

thought – linking verb

she – subject pronoun

would be – helping verb

early – adjective

until – preposition

a herd of cows – collective noun

ran – action verb

out of – preposition

the – determiner

Port-of-Spain – compound noun

neighbourhood – abstract noun

onto – preposition

the – determiner

street – common noun

causing – present continuous verb

her – object pronoun

to – conjunction

shout – action verb

“Oh my gosh!” – interjection

Wrapping up

Grammar is a crucial part of English mechanics. Your sentence construction must be grammatically correct when writing for English, social studies, business studies, history, emails, text messages and social media. Remember that a sentence is made up of a subject, verb and an object. The verb connects the subject to the object showing action, link or a help to the action. These 3 parts comprise of the parts of speech to give the sentence meaning. Check out the 5 critical grammar checks to make on assignments and your writing would improve drastically.


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