Understanding the Parts of Speech
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This page will provide a review of the parts of speech and sentences so that you can identify for yourself when you are using them properly (and possibly understand your instructor's comments better). We'll start with the basics and move on to the very confusing.
PARTS OF SPEECH
- NOUN: These name persons, things, places, ideas -- can be concrete or abstract. EX: Stephanie, door, biology, honor.
- PRONOUN: These substitute for nouns but act in the same way. They can be individual (I, you, he) or collective (everyone, each). EX: they, who, which, she.
- ADJECTIVE: These describe or modify nouns. EX: slow, quiet, useful, blue, much.
- VERB: These state an action or a state of being. EX: kick, call, create, is, will be. Verbs can be transitive, meaning that they act on something else, or intransitive, meaning that they don't. EX: Transitive: Walter kicked the football. Intransitive: I was asleep. Verbs can also be linking verbs, meaning that they connect a subject to a word or group of words which describe or complete its meaning. EX: The car was blue and full of bullet holes.
When a verb is in its present participle ("ing") form, it can operate as a noun (called a gerund). EX: Walking, throwing a football, going downtown.
- ADVERB: These modify several things: verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Adverbs are often made from adjectives (careful -- carefully). They answer these questions about an action: where? when? why? how? in what way? how much? EX: tomorrow, next, quietly, honorably, very.
- CONJUNCTION: These join words, phrases and clauses. There are three kinds of conjuctions:
- Coordinating Conjunctions: these are single words that join words, phrases, and clauses of equal grammatical importance in the sentence. EX: and, but, or, so.
- Coorelative Conjunctions: these are pairs of words that join equally important words, phrases, and clauses. EX: either...or, both...and, not only...but also.
- Subordinating Conjuctions: these begin clauses that cannot stand on their own and tell you how that clause relates to the rest of the sentence. These words help you create sentences with increasingly complicated ideas and relationships between those ideas. EX (not a complete list): if, because, although, when, where, unless, until, since.
- PREPOSITIONS: These words or phrases relate nouns or pronouns to other words in a sentence, and often indicate some sort of positional relationship. EX: of, in, about, to, around, next to, on top of.
- PHRASE: a group of related words that does not have a subject, or does not have a predicate, or both. A phrase acts collectively as a single part of speech, and is usually a noun, adject or adverb. EX: Noun phrase: The winningest football team is at Greenville High. Adjective phrase: I went down the street with a smile on my face. Adverb phrase: I went down the street more slowly than I ever had before.
There are, however, some special types of phrases:
Prepositional Phrases: prepositions and their objects and modifiers. EX: That book is on top of the bookcase. Alice went through the looking glass.
Verbal Phrases: A verbal is a form of a verb that doesn't act as a verb. This is not as confusing as it sounds; we all know that infinitive forms of verbs (to go, to be) do not function as verbs in that form. Phrases that include verbals are gerund phrases, participial phrases, and infinitive phrases.
- Gerund phrases: these always function as nouns. Their verbals are the present participle ("ing") forms of verbs. EX: Lying around all day is the worst thing you can do in your condition!
- Participal phrases: these always function as adjectives. Their verbals are present participles (the "ing" form) or past participles (the "ed") form. EX: (Present) The book lying on the counter is overdue. (Past) Tired from his workout, Jason rested for an hour.
- Infinitive phrases: these can function as nouns, adjectives or adverbs. Their verbals are always infinitive forms. EX: I have lost the chance to say I am sorry. To be a good friend is my goal.
PARTS OF SENTENCES
- SUBJECT: Who or what the sentence is about. The noun, pronoun, or group of words acting as a noun, that performs the action indicated in the predicate of the sentence or clause. EX: Katie is going downtown. Stopping at a red light is always a good idea.
- PREDICATE: Basically, the rest of the sentence or clause other than the subject; it usually has a verb, and thus indicates some action, but may have other functions such as modifying the subject. EX: Katie is going downtown. Stopping at a red light is always a good idea.
- OBJECT: A word or group of words which receives the action of a verb or that completes the description or statement being made about the subject. Lots of confusing possibilities here; here are a few major ones.
- Direct Objects: a word or group of words that follow transitive verbs (see above), and name the receiver of the action. EX: I threw the baseball.
- Indirect Objects: a noun or pronoun that come before or behind a direct object, and tells to whom or for whom or what the action is done. EX: I gave the ball to Jack.
- Subject complements: follow a linking verb (see above) and describe or complete the meaning of the subject. These can be nouns (I am the manager), or adjectives (I am so stupid!).
- Object complements: like a subject complement, but applied to something else: a word or group of words that describes or completes a direct object's meaning. These can also be nouns or adjectives. EX: Love makes the world a happier place. Yes, I am calling you ridiculous.
- CLAUSES: unlike a phrase, a clause contains both a subject and a predicate. If a clause can stand by itself as a sentence, it is an independent clause. If the clause is acting as a noun, adjective or adverb and cannot stand by itself, it is a dependent or subordinate clause.
If you need help understanding the way sentences are put together, click here to skip to the Sentences page in this chapter.
If you would like to move on to the next page in this chapter, click here for the Using Pronouns page.