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Learning English: The 8 Parts of Speech and How to Use Them

When you begin learning the English language, you will probably start by studying the basics, like the 8 Parts of Speech and How to Use Them. In the English language, every single word in a sentence can be classified as a part of speech. The role a word plays in a sentence tells you what part of speech it belongs to and how to use it.

Now, the grammatical rules of English can get a bit confusing. We’re going to focus on the basics today and leave the more nuanced complexities for another time. So what are the 8 parts of speech, and how do you know which words are classified in each part?

What is a Part of Speech?

Parts of speech can be defined as categories of words that perform different roles or serve a similar grammatical purpose in a sentence. In the English language, the 8 basic parts of speech would be nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. Each of the categories plays a different part in communicating meaning within a sentence. While these 8 parts of speech also have subcategories, we’re just going to focus on the basics today.

The 8 Parts of Speech with Examples

#1 | Nouns

Nouns are a category of words that generally refer to people, living creatures, places, objects, ideas, and events. Again, this is a pretty simplistic definition, but we don’t want to get into the more abstract possibilities today.

Nouns can be classified into two main groups: common nouns and proper nouns. Common nouns are used to indicate a generic noun and don’t name specific items. They refer to things like people (the woman, the boy), living creatures (horse, tree), places (country, school), objects (book, car), ideas (culture, justice), states of being (integrity, beauty), and events (party, concert).

Proper nouns are more specific than common nouns. Names are considered proper nouns. For example, while “country” is a common noun, Mexico is a proper noun since it refers to a specific country. You’ll usually see the first letter of a proper noun capitalized, which can help give you clues when you’re learning to distinguish between common and proper nouns.

Examples of nouns used in sentences:

  • He is my father. (person)
  • I have a pet and a plant. (living creatures)
  • This is my house. (place)
  • He drew a picture. (object)
  • She is full of excitement. (idea)
  • They are going to a party. (event)

#2 | Pronouns

Pronouns are pretty simple. They are (generally short) words that can be substituted for either a noun or a noun phrase. We use them to make language less awkward by allowing us to refer to someone or something without having to repeat the noun over and over. For example, if I’m telling you about my cousin Javier, it would start to sound strange if I repeated his name too frequently. So instead, I’d use a pronoun, like he or him, to refer to Javier throughout the story.

There are a few different types of pronoun classes. The most commonly used pronouns are personal pronouns: she, her, he, him, I, me, you, it, we, us, they, and them. Then you have possessive pronouns that you would use to indicate ownership: my, your, its, his, her, our, their, and whose. Other examples of pronouns would include: these, those, who, what, which, and whose. While this list is not exhaustive, it’s a pretty good foundation for beginners learning English.

Examples of pronouns used in sentences:

  • He is my father.
  • I have a pet and a plant.
  • This is my house.
  • He drew a picture.
  • She is full of excitement.
  • They are going to her party.

#3 | Verbs

You might hear verbs referred to as action words in early lessons. In sentences, verbs explain or describe what the subject of the sentence is doing or their state of being. To make a complete sentence, you must have both a subject and a verb. Some basic examples would include run, jump, speak, listen, and play. Sometimes verbs have helper words. It would be grammatically correct to say both “I can jump” and “I am jumping”, although they mean slightly different things.

English has a whole bunch of irregular verbs as well, which we won’t be diving into today. They are easier to pick up for native speakers as you can generally “hear” when they sound correct or not. It’s more difficult to explain why they are that way, even when we know they’re right or wrong. English is weird.

Examples of verbs used in sentences:

  • He is my father. I am Luke.
  • I have a pet and a plant.
  • We listened to the teacher in class.
  • He painted a picture for his mother.
  • She ate cake at the party.
  • They are going on vacation.

#4 | Adjectives

Adjectives add color and description to your sentences. We use adjectives to describe a noun or pronoun and give more detail by describing how they look, smell, feel, taste, sound, feel, and more. Adjectives often let us answer the questions of which one, what kind, or how many. Articles, short words that are often considered adjectives, would be words like a, an, and, and the.

Examples of adjectives used in sentences:

  • My father enjoys fresh, green apples.
  • I have a furry pet and a spiky plant.
  • My house has a large yard.
  • He drew a colorful picture.
  • She is excited to watch the graceful dancers.
  • They are going to a birthday party.
Parts of Speech Function Examples
Noun Used to name people, places, animals, ideas, and things Is this your book?

I have a dog that likes to eat socks.

Pronoun Used as a substitute for a noun in a sentence I went to the store to buy a present for my mom.

Do you know who called earlier?

Verb Indicates an action or a state of being They are going to class.

The dog plays with the ball every day.

Adjective Describes a noun or subject of the sentence The classroom was large and full of happy students.
Adverb Modifies an adjective, verb, or another adverb Did you come here to buy a book? (Adverb of place)

I did not go to the store today. (Adverb of time)

She reads books everyday. (Adverb of frequency)

Can you please come quickly? (Adverb of manner)

He was so tired that he could hardly keep his eyes open. (Adverb of degree)

Preposition Shows the position/relation of an object or the subject in a sentence The man searched under the car for the cat that ran past him.
Conjunction Joins words, phrases, and clauses The students and the teachers were ready for the weekend.
Interjection Expresses emotion or excitement Wow! Yikes! Ouch! Oh my!

#5 | Adverbs

Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs in a sentence. Adverbs usually answer the questions how?, when?, where?, in what way?, and to what extent? There are five main types of adverbs: adverbs of place, time, manner, degree, and frequency. While adverbs commonly end in -ly, not all do. Some examples of adverbs are today, slowly, here, often, randomly, early, 8 a.m. etc.

Examples of adverbs used in sentences:

  • Did you come here to buy a book? (Adverb of place)
  • I did not go to the store today. (Adverb of time)
  • Can you please come quickly? (Adverb of manner)
  • He was so tired that he could hardly keep his eyes open. (Adverb of degree)
  • She reads books everyday. (Adverb of frequency)

#6 | Prepositions

Prepositions are pretty simple. They are words we use to link one part of the sentence to another and to show the position of the object or subject in a sentence. Prepositions convey things such as position, place, direction, movement, time, possession, comparison, and how an action is completed. Some examples of prepositions are under, above, in, out, besides, in front of, through, near, opposite, across from, etc.

Examples of prepositions used in sentences:

  • My father found an apple underneath the tree.
  • The boy ran through the yard looking around for his dog.
  • The grocery store is across from the gas station.
  • We need to get gas before we go to the concert.
  • Because of the rain, she grabbed the umbrella next to the door.

#7 | Conjunctions

We’re almost done, hang in there! Let’s take a look at conjunctions. These are words we use to connect different parts of a sentence, clause, or phrase in English. Conjunctions are also used when making lists within sentences. Some of the most common conjunctions are for, and, but, nor, yet, so, and or, but there are many more out there!

Examples of conjunctions used in sentences:

  • My father found an apple underneath the tree, so he ate it.
  • The boy ran through the yard looking, and then he jumped over the fence.
  • We went to the grocery store for cookies, and they were delicious!
  • We need to get gas before we go to the concert, or we won’t make it.
  • She grabbed the umbrella, her raincoat, and her boots.

#8 | Interjections

Woohoo! We’re almost done, and the last part of speech you need to learn about today is one of the easiest to identify. Interjections are words that are used to convey strong feelings or emotions, and they are often, but not always, followed by an exclamation mark. They’re usually at the beginning of a paragraph, but that’s not always the case. Some examples of interjections would be oh, wow, ugh, woohoo, yikes, alas, yippee, etc.

Examples of interjections used in sentences:

  • Wow! That meal was delicious.
  • Ouch! You stepped on my foot.
  • Oh my! That is a beautiful dress.
  • Ugh! We’re having sandwiches again?
  • Woohoo! We won the game!

Feeling Overwhelmed? Excel English Institute Can Help You Learn English

That may seem like a lot to learn, especially when you’re just getting started. But don’t feel overwhelmed! These are the basic building blocks for the sentences in English, and they will begin to feel more natural as you continue to learn and practice.

If you want to improve any area of your English language skills, you might be interested in one of our English classes. We have new sessions starting every few weeks, and you can apply anytime!

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