The 8 Parts of Speech: Examples and Rules
Every word in English can be classified as one of eight parts of speech. The term part of speech refers to the role a word plays in a sentence. And like in any workplace or on any TV show with an ensemble cast, these roles were designed to work together.
Read on to learn about the different parts of speech that the words we use every day fall into, and how we use them together to communicate ideas clearly.
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The 8 parts of speech
A noun is a word that names a person, place, concept, or object. Basically, anything that names a “thing” is a noun, whether you’re talking about a basketball court , San Francisco , Cleopatra , or self-preservation .
Nouns fall into two categories: common nouns and proper nouns. Common nouns are general names for things, like planet and game show . Proper nouns are names or titles for specific things, like Jupiter and Jeopardy!
>> Read more about nouns
Pronouns are words you substitute for specific nouns when the reader or listener already knows which specific noun you’re referring to.
You might say, “Jennifer was supposed to be here at eight,” then follow it with “ She’s always late; next time I’ll tell her to be here a half hour earlier.”
Instead of saying Jennifer’s name three times in a row, you substituted she and her, and your sentences remained grammatically correct. Pronouns are divided into a number of categories, and we cover them all in our guide to pronouns:
>> Read more about pronouns
Adjectives are the words that describe nouns. Think about your favorite movie. How would you describe it to a friend who’s never seen it?
You might say the movie was funny , engaging , well-written , or suspenseful . When you’re describing the movie with these words, you’re using adjectives. An adjective can go right before the noun it’s describing (“I have a black dog”), but it doesn’t have to. Sometimes, adjectives are at the end of a sentence (“My dog is black ”).
>> Read more about adjectives
Go ! Be amazing! Run as fast as you can! Win the race! Congratulate every participant who put in the work and competed !
Those bolded words are verbs. Verbs are words that describe specific actions, like running , winning , and being amazing.
Not all verbs refer to literal actions, though. Verbs that refer to feelings or states of being, like to love and to be , are known as nonaction verbs . Conversely, the verbs that do refer to literal actions are known as action verbs .
>> Read more about verbs
An adverb is a word that describes an adjective, a verb, or another adverb. I entered the room quietly .
Quietly is describing how you entered (verb) the room.
A cheetah is always faster than a lion.
Always is describing how frequently a cheetah is faster (adjective) than a lion.
>> Read more about adverbs
Prepositions tell you the relationships between other words in a sentence.
You might say, “I left my bike leaning against the garage.” In this sentence, against is the preposition because it tells us where you left your bike.
Here’s another example: “She put the pizza in the oven.” Without the preposition in , we don’t know where the pizza is.
>> Read more about prepositions
Conjunctions make it possible to build complex sentences that express multiple ideas.
“I like marinara sauce. I like alfredo sauce. I don’t like puttanesca sauce.” Each of these three sentences expresses a clear idea. There’s nothing wrong with listing your preferences like this, but it’s not the most efficient way to do it.
Consider instead: “I like marinara sauce and alfredo sauce, but I don’t like puttanesca sauce.
In this sentence, and and but are the two conjunctions that link your ideas together.
>> Read more about conjunctions
A pear. The brick house. An exciting experience. These bolded words are known as articles.
Articles come in two flavors: definite articles and indefinite articles . And similarly to the two types of nouns, the type of article you use depends on how specific you need to be about the thing you’re discussing.
A definite article, like the or this, describes one specific noun.
Did you buy the car?
From the above sentence, we understand that the speaker is referring to a specific previously discussed car.
Now swap in an indefinite article:
Did you buy a car?
See how the implication that you’re referring back to something specific is gone, and you’re asking a more general question?
>> Read more about articles
Figuring out parts of speech
Sometimes, it’s not easy to tell which part of speech a word is. Here are a few easy hacks for quickly figuring out what part of speech you’re dealing with:
- If it’s an adjective plus the ending – ly , it’s an adverb . Examples: commonly , quickly .
- If you can swap it out for a noun and the sentence still makes sense, it’s a pronoun . Example: “ He played basketball.” / “ Steve played basketball.”
- If it’s something you do and you can modify the sentence to include the word do , it’s a verb . Example: “I have an umbrella.” / “I do have an umbrella.”
- If you can remove the word and the sentence still makes sense but you lose a detail, the word is most likely an adjective . Example: “She drives a red van.” / “She drives a van.”
And if you’re ever really stumped, just look the word up. Dictionaries typically list a word’s part of speech in its entry, and if it has multiple forms with different parts of speech, they are all listed, with examples.
That brings us to another common issue that can confuse writers and language learners.
When a word can be different parts of speech
Just like y is sometimes a vowel and sometimes a consonant , there are words that are sometimes one part of speech and other times another. Here are a few examples:
- “I went to work ” (noun).
- “I work in the garden” (verb).
- “She paints very well ” (adverb).
- “They are finally well now, after weeks of illness” (adjective).
- “I dropped a penny into the well ” (noun).
- “ I cooked breakfast and lunch, but Steve cooked dinner” (conjunction).
- “I brought everything but the pens you asked for” (preposition).
And sometimes, words evolve to add forms that are new parts of speech. One recent example is the word adult . Before the 2010s, adult was primarily a noun that referred to a fully grown person. It could also be used as an adjective to refer to specific types of media, like adult contemporary music. But then, at right about the turn of the 2010s, the word adulting , a brand-new verb, appeared in the internet lexicon. As a verb, adulting refers to the act of doing tasks associated with adulthood, like paying bills and grocery shopping.
Open and closed word classes
The parts of speech fall into two word classes : open and closed .
The open word classes are the parts of speech that regularly acquire new words. Language evolves, and usually, that evolution takes place in nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. In 2022, new words added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary included dumbphone (noun), greenwash (verb), and cringe (adjective).
The closed word classes are the parts of speech that don’t readily acquire new words. These parts of speech are more set in stone and include pronouns, conjunctions, articles, and prepositions.
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- Parts of speech
The 8 Parts of Speech | Chart, Definition & Examples
A part of speech (also called a word class ) is a category that describes the role a word plays in a sentence. Understanding the different parts of speech can help you analyze how words function in a sentence and improve your writing.
The parts of speech are classified differently in different grammars, but most traditional grammars list eight parts of speech in English: nouns , pronouns , verbs , adjectives , adverbs , prepositions , conjunctions , and interjections . Some modern grammars add others, such as determiners and articles .
Many words can function as different parts of speech depending on how they are used. For example, “laugh” can be a noun (e.g., “I like your laugh”) or a verb (e.g., “don’t laugh”).
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Table of contents
Other parts of speech
Interesting language articles, frequently asked questions.
A noun is a word that refers to a person, concept, place, or thing. Nouns can act as the subject of a sentence (i.e., the person or thing performing the action) or as the object of a verb (i.e., the person or thing affected by the action).
There are numerous types of nouns, including common nouns (used to refer to nonspecific people, concepts, places, or things), proper nouns (used to refer to specific people, concepts, places, or things), and collective nouns (used to refer to a group of people or things).
Ella lives in France .
Other types of nouns include countable and uncountable nouns , concrete nouns , abstract nouns , and gerunds .
A pronoun is a word used in place of a noun. Pronouns typically refer back to an antecedent (a previously mentioned noun) and must demonstrate correct pronoun-antecedent agreement . Like nouns, pronouns can refer to people, places, concepts, and things.
There are numerous types of pronouns, including personal pronouns (used in place of the proper name of a person), demonstrative pronouns (used to refer to specific things and indicate their relative position), and interrogative pronouns (used to introduce questions about things, people, and ownership).
That is a horrible painting!
A verb is a word that describes an action (e.g., “jump”), occurrence (e.g., “become”), or state of being (e.g., “exist”). Verbs indicate what the subject of a sentence is doing. Every complete sentence must contain at least one verb.
Verbs can change form depending on subject (e.g., first person singular), tense (e.g., simple past), mood (e.g., interrogative), and voice (e.g., passive voice ).
Regular verbs are verbs whose simple past and past participle are formed by adding“-ed” to the end of the word (or “-d” if the word already ends in “e”). Irregular verbs are verbs whose simple past and past participles are formed in some other way.
“I’ve already checked twice.”
“I heard that you used to sing .”
Other types of verbs include auxiliary verbs , linking verbs , modal verbs , and phrasal verbs .
An adjective is a word that describes a noun or pronoun. Adjectives can be attributive , appearing before a noun (e.g., “a red hat”), or predicative , appearing after a noun with the use of a linking verb like “to be” (e.g., “the hat is red ”).
Adjectives can also have a comparative function. Comparative adjectives compare two or more things. Superlative adjectives describe something as having the most or least of a specific characteristic.
Other types of adjectives include coordinate adjectives , participial adjectives , and denominal adjectives .
An adverb is a word that can modify a verb, adjective, adverb, or sentence. Adverbs are often formed by adding “-ly” to the end of an adjective (e.g., “slow” becomes “slowly”), although not all adverbs have this ending, and not all words with this ending are adverbs.
There are numerous types of adverbs, including adverbs of manner (used to describe how something occurs), adverbs of degree (used to indicate extent or degree), and adverbs of place (used to describe the location of an action or event).
Talia writes quite quickly.
Other types of adverbs include adverbs of frequency , adverbs of purpose , focusing adverbs , and adverbial phrases .
A preposition is a word (e.g., “at”) or phrase (e.g., “on top of”) used to show the relationship between the different parts of a sentence. Prepositions can be used to indicate aspects such as time , place , and direction .
I left the cup on the kitchen counter.
A conjunction is a word used to connect different parts of a sentence (e.g., words, phrases, or clauses).
The main types of conjunctions are coordinating conjunctions (used to connect items that are grammatically equal), subordinating conjunctions (used to introduce a dependent clause), and correlative conjunctions (used in pairs to join grammatically equal parts of a sentence).
You can choose what movie we watch because I chose the last time.
An interjection is a word or phrase used to express a feeling, give a command, or greet someone. Interjections are a grammatically independent part of speech, so they can often be excluded from a sentence without affecting the meaning.
Types of interjections include volitive interjections (used to make a demand or request), emotive interjections (used to express a feeling or reaction), cognitive interjections (used to indicate thoughts), and greetings and parting words (used at the beginning and end of a conversation).
Ouch ! I hurt my arm.
I’m, um , not sure.
The traditional classification of English words into eight parts of speech is by no means the only one or the objective truth. Grammarians have often divided them into more or fewer classes. Other commonly mentioned parts of speech include determiners and articles.
A determiner is a word that describes a noun by indicating quantity, possession, or relative position.
Common types of determiners include demonstrative determiners (used to indicate the relative position of a noun), possessive determiners (used to describe ownership), and quantifiers (used to indicate the quantity of a noun).
My brother is selling his old car.
Other types of determiners include distributive determiners , determiners of difference , and numbers .
An article is a word that modifies a noun by indicating whether it is specific or general.
- The definite article the is used to refer to a specific version of a noun. The can be used with all countable and uncountable nouns (e.g., “the door,” “the energy,” “the mountains”).
- The indefinite articles a and an refer to general or unspecific nouns. The indefinite articles can only be used with singular countable nouns (e.g., “a poster,” “an engine”).
There’s a concert this weekend.
If you want to know more about nouns , pronouns , verbs , and other parts of speech, make sure to check out some of our language articles with explanations and examples.
Nouns & pronouns
- Common nouns
- Proper nouns
- Collective nouns
- Personal pronouns
- Uncountable and countable nouns
- Verb tenses
- Phrasal verbs
- Types of verbs
- Active vs passive voice
- Subject-verb agreement
A is an indefinite article (along with an ). While articles can be classed as their own part of speech, they’re also considered a type of determiner .
The indefinite articles are used to introduce nonspecific countable nouns (e.g., “a dog,” “an island”).
In is primarily classed as a preposition, but it can be classed as various other parts of speech, depending on how it is used:
- Preposition (e.g., “ in the field”)
- Noun (e.g., “I have an in with that company”)
- Adjective (e.g., “Tim is part of the in crowd”)
- Adverb (e.g., “Will you be in this evening?”)
As a part of speech, and is classed as a conjunction . Specifically, it’s a coordinating conjunction .
And can be used to connect grammatically equal parts of a sentence, such as two nouns (e.g., “a cup and plate”), or two adjectives (e.g., “strong and smart”). And can also be used to connect phrases and clauses.
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Parts of Speech Overview
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This handout defines the basic parts of speech and provides examples of their uses in sentences. Links to more handouts and exercises on particular parts of speech are also provided. If you are learning English as a Second Language (ESL), you may also want to browse through a complete listing of our ESL resources.
A noun is a word that denotes a person, place, or thing. In a sentence, nouns answer the questions who and what.
In the sentence above, there are two nouns, dog and ball . A noun may be concrete (something you can touch, see, etc.), like the nouns in the example above, or a noun may be abstract, as in the sentences below.
The abstract concepts of integrity and love in the sentences above are both nouns. Nouns may also be proper.
Chicago , Thanksgiving , and November are all proper nouns, and they should be capitalized. (For more information on proper nouns and when to capitalize words, see our handout on Capital Letters .)
You may also visit our handout on Count and Noncount Nouns .
Learn how to spot verbs that act as nouns. Visit our handout on Verbals: Gerunds, Participles, and Infinitives .
A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun in a sentence.
In the sentence above, she is the pronoun. Like nouns, pronouns may be used either as subjects or as objects in a sentence.
In the example above, both she and him are pronouns; she is the subject of the sentence while him is the object. Every subject pronoun has a corresponding object form, as shown in the table below.
For more information on pronouns, go to our handout on Pronouns .
To find out what part of speech are that , which , and whom ? Visit our handout on Relative Pronouns .
Articles include a , an , and the . They precede a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence.
In example 1, the article a precedes the noun house , and a also precedes the noun phrase big porch , which consists of an adjective (big) and the noun it describes (porch). In example 2, the article the precedes the noun phrase blue sweater , in which sweater is the noun and blue, the adjective.
For more information, go to our handouts on Articles: A vs. An and How to Use Articles (a/an/the) .
An adjective is a word that modifies, or describes, a noun or pronoun. Adjectives may precede nouns, or they may appear after a form of the reflexive verb to be (am, are, is, was, etc.).
In example 1, two consecutive adjectives, red and brick , both describe the noun house. In example 2, the adjective tall appears after the reflexive verb is and describes the subject, she .
For more on adjectives, go to our handouts Adjective or Adverb and How to Use Adjectives and Adverbs .
A verb is a word that denotes action, or a state of being, in a sentence.
In example 1, rides is the verb; it describes what the subject, Beth, does. In example 2, was describes Paul’s state of being and is therefore the verb.
There may be multiple verbs in a sentence, or there may be a verb phrase consisting of a verb plus a helping verb.
In example 1, the subject she performs two actions in the sentence, turned and opened . In example 2, the verb phrase is was studying .
Some words in a sentence may look like verbs but act as something else, like a noun; these are called verbals. For more information on verbs that masquerade as other parts of speech, go to our handout on Verbals: Gerunds, Participles, and Infinitives .
To learn more about conjugating verbs, visit our handouts on Verb Tenses , Irregular Verbs , and Two-Part (Phrasal) Verbs (Idioms) .
Just as adjectives modify nouns, adverbs modify, or further describe, verbs. Adverbs may also modify adjectives. (Many, though not all, adverbs end in - ly .)
In the first example, the adverb wildly modifies the verb waved . In the second example, the adverb extremely modifies the adjective bright , which describes the noun shirt . While nouns answer the questions who and what , adverbs answer the questions how , when , why , and where .
For a more detailed discussion of adverbs, visit our handout Adjective or Adverb and become an expert.
A conjunction is a word that joins two independent clauses, or sentences, together.
In the examples above, both but and so are conjunctions. They join two complete sentences with the help of a comma. And, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet can all act as conjunctions.
Prepositions work in combination with a noun or pronoun to create phrases that modify verbs, nouns/pronouns, or adjectives. Prepositional phrases convey a spatial, temporal, or directional meaning.
There are two prepositional phrases in the example above: up the brick wall and of the house . The first prepositional phrase is an adverbial phrase, since it modifies the verb by describing where the ivy climbed. The second phrase further modifies the noun wall (the object of the first prepositional phrase) and describes which wall the ivy climbs.
For a more detailed discussion on this part of speech and its functions, click on Prepositions .
Below is a list of prepositions in the English language:
Aboard, about, above, across, after, against, along, amid, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, down, during, except, for, from, in, into, like, near, of, off, on, onto, out, over, past, since, through, throughout, to, toward, under, underneath, until, unto, up, upon, with, within, without.