GRAMMAR: PARTS OF SPEECH

Traditional grammar classifies words based on eight parts of speech: the verb, the noun, the pronoun, the adjective, the adverb, the preposition, the conjunction, and the interjection. Each part of speech explains not what the word is, but how the word is used. In fact, the same word can be a noun in one sentence and a verb or adjective in the next. The next few examples show how a word's part of speech can change from one sentence to the next, and following them is a series of sections on the individual parts of speech, followed by an exercise.

Books are made of ink, paper, and glue.

In this sentence, ``books创 is a noun, the subject of the sentence.

Deborah waits patiently while Bridget books the tickets.

Here ``books创 is a verb, and its subject is ``Bridget.创

We walk down the street.

In this sentence, ``walk创 is a verb, and its subject is the pronoun ``we创.

The mail carrier stood on the walk.

In this example, ``walk创 is a noun, which is part of a prepositional phrase describing where the mail carrier stood.

The town decided to build a new jail.

Here ``jail创 is a noun, which is the object of the infinitive phrase ``to build.创

The sheriff told us that if we did not leave town immediately he would jail us.

Here ``jail创 is part of the compound verb ``would jail.创

They heard high pitched cries in the middle of the night.

In this sentence, ``cries创 is a noun acting as the direct object of the verb ``heard.创

The baby cries all night long and all day long.

But here ``cries创 is a verb that describes the actions of the subject of the sentence, the baby.


The next few sections explain each of the parts of speech in detail.


THE VERB

The verb is perhaps the most important part of the sentence. A verb or compound verb asserts something about the subject of the sentence and express actions, events, or states of being. The verb or compound verb is the critical element of the predicate of a sentence. In each of the following sentences, note the verb or compound verb:

MOE really grooves on the tune, "Unchained Melody, a midi he transloaded from Terri's "Kool Midis" website."

The verb "grooves" describes the reaction of MOE upon hearing the tune.

Dracula bites his victims on the neck.

The verb ``bites创 describes the action Dracula takes.

In early October, Giselle will plant twenty tulip bulbs.

Here the compound verb ``will plant创 describes an action that will take place in the future.

My first teacher was Miss Crawford, but I remember the janitor Mr. Weatherbee more vividly.

In this sentence, the verb ``was创 (the simple past tense of ``is创) identifies a particular person and the verb ``remembered创 describes a mental action.

Karl Creelman bicycled around in world in 1899, but his diaries and his bicycle were destroyed.

In this sentence, the compound verb ``were destroyed创 describes an action which took place in the past.


THE NOUN

A noun is a word used to name a person, animal, place, thing, and abstract idea. Nouns are usually the first words which small children learn. The highlighted words in the following sentences are all nouns:

Late last year our neighbours bought a goat. Portia White was an opera singer.

The bus inspector looked at all the passengers' passes.

According to Plutarch, the library at Alexandria was destroyed in 48 B.C.

Philosophy is of little comfort to the starving.

A noun can function in a sentence as a subject, a direct object, an indirect object, a subject complement, an object complement, an appositive, an adjective or an adverb.

Noun Gender

Many common nouns, like ``engineer创 or ``teacher,创 can refer to men or women. Once, many English nouns would change form depending on their gender -- for example, a man was called an ``author创 while a woman was called an ``authoress创 -- but this use of gender-specific nouns is very rare today. Those that are still used occasionally tend to refer to occupational categories, as in the following sentences.

David Garrick was a very prominent eighteenth-century actor.

Sarah Siddons was at the height of her career as an actress in the 1780s.

The manager was trying to write a want ad, but he couldn't decide whether he was advertising for a ``waiter创 or a ``waitress创

Noun Plurals

Most nouns change their form to indicate number by adding ``-s创 or ``-es创, as illustrated in the following pairs of sentences:

When Matthew was small he rarely told the truth if he thought he was going to be punished.

Many people do not believe that truths are self-evident.

As they walked through the silent house. they were startled by an unexpected echo.

I like to shout into the quarry and listen to the echoes that returned.

He tripped over a box left carelessly in the hallway.

Since we are moving, we will need many boxes.

There are other nouns which form the plural by changing the last letter before adding ``s创. Some words ending in ``f创 form the plural by deleting ``f创 and adding ``ves,创 and words ending in ``y创 form the plural by deleting the ``y创 and adding ``ies,创 as in the following pairs of sentences:

The harbour at Marble Mountain has one wharf.

There are several wharves in Halifax Harbour.

Warsaw is their favourite city because it reminds them of their courtship.

The vacation my grandparents won includes trips to twelve European cities.

The children circled around the headmaster and shouted, ``Are you a mouse or a man?''

The audience was shocked when all five men admitted that they were afraid of mice.

Other nouns form the plural irregularly. If English is your first language, you probably know most of these already: when in doubt, consult a good dictionary.

Possessive Nouns

In the possessive case, a noun or pronoun changes its form to show that it owns or is closely related to something else. Usually, nouns become possessive by adding a combination of an apostrophe and the letter ``s.创 You can form the possessive case of a singular noun that does not end in ``s创 by adding an apostrophe and ``s,创 as in the following sentences:

The red suitcase is Cassandra's.

The only luggage that was lost was the prime minister's.

The exhausted recruits were woken before dawn by the drill sergeant's screams.

The miner's face was covered in coal dust.

You can form the possessive case of a singular noun that ends in ``s创 by adding an apostrophe alone or by adding an apostrophe and ``s,创 as in the following examples:

The bus's seats are very uncomfortable.

The bus' seats are very uncomfortable.

The film crew accidentally crushed the platypus's eggs.

The film crew accidentally crushed the platypus' eggs.

Felicia Hemans's poetry was once more popular than Lord Byron's.

Felicia Hemans' poetry was once more popular than Lord Byron's.

You can form the possessive case of a plural noun that does not end in ``s创 by adding an apostrophe and a ``s,创 as in the following examples:

The children's mittens were scattered on the floor of the porch.

The sheep's pen was mucked out every day.

Since we have a complex appeal process, a jury's verdict is not always final.

The men's hockey team will be play as soon as the women's team is finished.

The hunter followed the moose's trail all morning but lost it in the afternoon.

You can form the possessive case of a plural noun that does end in ``s创 by adding an apostrophe:

The concert was interrupted by the dogs' barking, the ducks' quacking, and the babies' squalling.

The janitors' room is downstairs and to the left.

My uncle spent many hours trying to locate the squirrels' nest.

The archivist quickly finished repairing the diaries' bindings.

Religion is usually the subject of the roommates' many late night debates.

Using Possessive Nouns

When you read the following sentences, you will notice that a noun in the possessive case frequently functions as an adjective modifying another noun:

The miner's face was covered in coal dust.

Here the possessive noun ``miner磗创 is used to modify the noun ``face创 and together with the article ``the,创 they make up the noun phrase that is the sentence's subject.

The concert was interrupted by the dogs' barking, the ducks' quacking, and the babies' squalling.

In this sentence, each possessive noun modifies a gerund. The possessive noun ``dogs创 modifies ``barking创, ``ducks创 modifies ``quacking,创 and ``babies创 modifies ``squalling.创

The film crew accidentally crushed the platypus's eggs.

In this example the possessive noun ``platypus磗创 modifies the noun ``eggs创 and the noun phrase ``the platypus磗 eggs创 is the direct object of the verb ``crushed.创

My uncle spent many hours trying to locate the squirrels' nest.

In this sentence the possessive noun ``squirrels创 is used to modify the noun ``nest创 and the noun phrase ``the squirrels nest创 is the object of the infinitive phrase ``to locate.创

Types Of Nouns

There are many different types of nouns. As you know, you capitalise some nouns, such as ``Canada创 or ``Louise,创 and do not capitalise others, such as ``badger创 or ``tree创 (unless they appear at the beginning of a sentence). In fact, grammarians have developed a whole series of noun types, including the proper noun, the common noun, the concrete noun, the abstract noun, the countable noun (also called the count noun), the non-countable noun (also called the mass noun), and the collective noun. You should note that a noun will belong to more than one type: it will be proper or common, abstract or concrete, and countable or non-countable or collective.

If you are interested in the details of these different types, you can read about them in the following sections.

Proper Nouns

You always write a proper noun with a capital letter, since the noun represents the name of a specific person, place, or thing. The names of days of the week, months, historical documents, institutions, organisations, religions, their holy texts and their adherents are proper nouns. A proper noun is the opposite of a common noun.

Common Nouns

A common noun is a noun referring to a person, place, or thing in a general sense -- usually, you should write it with a capital letter only when it begins a sentence. A common noun is the opposite of a proper noun.

Sometimes you will make proper nouns out of common nouns, as in the following examples:

The tenants in the Garnet Apartments are appealing the large and sudden increase in their rent.

The meals in the Bouncing Bean Restaurant are less expensive than meals in ordinary restaurants.

Many witches refer to the Renaissance as the Burning Times.

The Diary of Anne Frank is often a child's first introduction to the history of the Holocaust.

Concrete Nouns

A concrete noun is a noun which names anything (or anyone) that you can perceive through your physical senses: touch, sight, taste, hearing, or smell. A concrete noun is the opposite of a abstract noun.

Abstract Nouns

An abstract noun is a noun which names anything which you can not perceive through your five physical senses, and is the opposite of a concrete noun.

Countable Nouns

A countable noun (or count noun) is a noun with both a singular and a plural form, and it names anything (or anyone) that you can count. You can make a countable noun can be made plural and attach it to a plural verb in a sentence. Countable nouns are the opposite of non-countable nouns and collective nouns.

Non-Countable Nouns

A non-countable noun (or mass noun) is a noun which does not have a plural form, and which refers to something that you could (or would) not usually count. A non-countable noun always takes a singular verb in a sentence. Non-countable nouns are similar to collective nouns, and are the opposite of countable nouns. The highlighted words in the following sentence is a non-countable noun:

Joseph Priestly discovered oxygen.

The word ``oxygen创 cannot normally be made plural.

Collective Nouns

A collective noun is a noun naming a group of things, animals, or persons. You could count the individual members of the group, but you usually think of the group as a whole is generally as one unit. You need to be able to recognise collective nouns in order to maintain subject-verb agreement. A collective noun is similar to a non-countable noun, and is roughly the opposite of a countable noun.


THE PRONOUN

A pronoun can replace a noun or another pronoun. You use pronouns like ``he,创 ``which,创 ``none,创 and ``you创 to make your sentences less cumbersome and less repetitive. Grammarians classify pronouns into several types, including the personal pronoun, the demonstrative pronoun, the interrogative pronoun, the indefinite pronoun, the relative pronoun, the reflexive pronoun, and the intensive pronoun.

Personal Pronouns

A personal pronoun refers to a specific person or thing and changes its form to indicate person, number, gender, and case.

Subjective Personal Pronouns

A subjective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as the subject of the sentence. The subjective personal pronouns are ``I,创 ``you,创 ``she,创 ``he,创 ``it,创 ``we,创 ``you,创 ``they.创

Objective Personal Pronouns

An objective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as an object of a verb, compound verb, preposition, or infinitive phrase. The objective personal pronouns are: ``me,创 ``you,创 ``her,创 ``him,创 ``it,创 ``us,创 ``you,创 and ``them.创

Possessive Personal Pronouns

A possessive pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as a marker of possession and defines who owns a particular object or person. The possessive personal pronouns are ``mine,创 ``yours,创 ``hers,创 ``his,创 ``its,创 ``ours,创 and ``theirs.创 Note that possessive personal pronouns are very similar to possessive adjectives like ``my,创 ``her,创 and ``their.创

Demonstrative Pronouns

A demonstrative pronoun points to and identifies a noun or a pronoun. ``This创 and ``these创 refer to things that are nearby either in space or in time, while ``that创 and ``those创 refer to things that are farther away in space or time. The demonstrative pronouns are ``this,创 ``that,创 ``these,创 and ``those.创 ``This创 and ``that创 are used to refer to singular nouns or noun phrases and ``these创 and ``those创 are used to refer to plural nouns and noun phrases. Note that the demonstrative pronouns are identical to demonstrative adjectives, though, obviously, you use them differently. It is also important to note that ``that创 can also be used as a relative pronoun.

Interrogative Pronouns

An interrogative pronoun is used to ask questions. The interrogative pronouns are ``who,创 ``whom,创 ``which,创 ``what创 and the compounds formed with the suffix ``ever创 (``whoever,创 ``whomever,创 ``whichever,创 and ``whatever创). Note that either ``which创 or ``what创 can also be used as an interrogative adjective, and that ``who,创 ``whom,创 or ``which创 can also be used as a relative pronoun. You will find ``who,创 ``whom,创 and occasionally ``which创 used to refer to people, and ``which创 and ``what创 used to refer to things and to animals. ``Who创 acts as the subject of a verb, while ``whom创 acts as the object of a verb, preposition, or a verbal.

Relative Pronouns

You can use a relative pronoun is used to link one phrase or clause to another phrase or clause. The relative pronouns are ``who,创 ``whom,创 ``that,创 and ``which.创 The compounds ``whoever,创 ``whomever,创 and ``whichever创 are also relative pronouns. You can use the relative pronouns ``who创 and ``whoever创 to refer to the subject of a clause or sentence, and ``whom创 and ``whomever创 to refer to the objects of a verb, a verbal or a preposition.

Indefinite Pronouns

An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun referring to an identifiable but not specified person or thing. An indefinite pronoun conveys the idea of all, any, none, or some. The most common indefinite pronouns are ``all,创 ``another,创 ``any,创 ``anybody,创 ``anyone,创 ``anything,创 ``each,创 ``everybody,创 ``everyone,创 ``everything,创 ``few,创 ``many,创 ``nobody,创 ``none,创 ``one,创 ``several,创 ``some,创 ``somebody,创 and ``someone.创 Note that some indefinite pronouns can also be used as indefinite adjectives.

Reflexive Pronouns

You can use a reflexive pronoun to refer back to the subject of the clause or sentence. The reflexive pronouns are ``myself,创 ``yourself,创 ``herself,创 ``himself,创 ``itself,创 ``ourselves,创 ``yourselves,创 and ``themselves.创 Note each of these can also act as an intensive pronoun.

Intensive Pronouns

An intensive pronoun is a pronoun used to emphasise its antecedent. Intensive pronouns are identical in form to reflexive pronouns. The highlighted word in the following sentence is an intensive pronoun:

I myself believe that aliens should abduct my sister.


THE ADJECTIVE

An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun by describing, identifying, or quantifying words. An adjective usually precedes the noun or the pronoun which it modifies. For example, the adverb ``intricately创 modifies the adjective ``patterned.创 Some nouns, many pronouns, and many participle phrases can also act as adjectives. Grammarians also consider articles (``the,创 ``a,创 ``an创) to be adjectives.

Possessive Adjectives

A possessive adjective (``my,创 ``your,创 ``his,创 ``her,创 ``its,创 ``our,创 ``their创) is similar or identical to a possessive pronoun; however, it is used as an adjective and modifies a noun or a noun phrase, as in the following sentences: I can't complete my assignment because I don't have the textbook. In this sentence, the possessive adjective ``my创 modifies ``assignment创 and the noun phrase ``my assignment创 functions as an object. Note that the possessive pronoun form ``mine创 is not used to modify a noun or noun phrase. What is your phone number. Here the possessive adjective ``your创 is used to modify the noun phrase ``phone number创; the entire noun phrase ``your phone number创 is a subject complement. Note that the possessive pronoun form ``yours创 is not used to modify a noun or a noun phrase.

The bakery sold his favourite type of bread. In this example, the possessive adjective ``his创 modifies the noun phrase ``favourite type of bread创 and the entire noun phrase ``his favourite type of bread创 is the direct object of the verb ``sold.创

After many years, she returned to her homeland. Here the possessive adjective ``her创 modifies the noun ``homeland创 and the noun phrase ``her homeland创 is the object of the preposition ``to.创 Note also that the form ``hers创 is not used to modify nouns or noun phrases.

We have lost our way in this wood.

In this sentence, the possessive adjective ``our创 modifies ``way创 and the noun phrase ``our way创 is the direct object of the compound verb ``have lost创. Note that the possessive pronoun form ``ours创 is not used to modify nouns or noun phrases.

In many fairy tales, children are neglected by their parents.

Here the possessive adjective ``their创 modifies ``parents创 and the noun phrase ``their parents创 is the object of the preposition ``by.创 Note that the possessive pronoun form ``theirs创 is not used to modify nouns or noun phrases.

The cat chased its ball down the stairs and into the backyard.

In this sentence, the possessive adjective ``its创 modifies ``ball创 and the noun phrase ``its ball创 is the object of the verb ``chased.创 Note that ``its创 is the possessive adjective and ``it磗创 is a contraction for ``it is.创

Demonstrative Adjectives

The demonstrative adjectives ``this,创 ``these,创 ``that,创 ``those,创 and ``what创 are identical to the demonstrative pronouns, but are used as adjectives to modify nouns or noun phrases, as in the following sentences:

When the librarian tripped over that cord, she dropped a pile of books.

In this sentence, the demonstrative adjective ``that创 modifies the noun ``cord创 and the noun phrase ``that cord创 is the object of the preposition ``over.创

This apartment needs to be fumigated.

Here ``this创 modifies ``apartment创 and the noun phrase ``this apartment创 is the subject of the sentence.

Even though my friend preferred those plates, I bought these.

In the subordinate clause, ``those创 modifies ``plates创 and the noun phrase ``those plates创 is the object of the verb ``preferred.创 In the independent clause, ``these创 is the direct object of the verb ``bought.创 Note that the relationship between a demonstrative adjective and a demonstrative pronoun is similar to the relationship between a possessive adjective and a possessive pronoun, or to that between a interrogative adjective and an interrogative pronoun.

Interrogative Adjectives

An interrogative adjective (``which创 or ``what创) is like an interrogative pronoun, except that it modifies a noun or noun phrase rather than standing on its own (see also demonstrative adjectives and possessive adjectives):

Which plants should be watered twice a week?

Like other adjectives, ``which创 can be used to modify a noun or a noun phrase. In this example, ``which创 modifies ``plants创 and the noun phrase ``which paints创 is the subject of the compound verb ``should be watered创:

What book are you reading?

In this sentence, ``what创 modifies ``book创 and the noun phrase ``what book创 is the direct object of the compound verb ``are reading.创

Indefinite Adjectives

An indefinite adjective is similar to an indefinite pronoun, except that it modifies a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase, as in the following sentences:

Many people believe that corporations are under-taxed.

The indefinite adjective ``many创 modifies the noun ``people创 and the noun phrase ``many people创 is the subject of the sentence.

I will send you any mail that arrives after you have moved to Sudbury.

The indefinite adjective ``any创 modifies the noun ``mail创 and the noun phrase ``any mail创 is the direct object of the compound verb ``will send.创

They found a few goldfish floating belly up in the swan pound.

In this example the indefinite adjective modifies the noun ``goldfish创 and the noun phrase is the direct object of the verb ``found创:

The title of Beverlee's favourite game is ``All dogs go to heaven.创

Here the indefinite pronoun ``all创 modifies ``dogs创 and the full title is a subject complement.


THE ADVERB

An adverb can modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a phrase, or a clause. An adverb indicates manner, time, place, cause, or degree and answers questions such as ``how,创 ``when,创 ``where,创 ``how much创. While some adverbs can be identified by their characteristic ``ly创 suffix, most of them must be identified by untangling the grammatical relationships within the sentence or clause as a whole. Unlike an adjective, an adverb can be found in various places within the sentence. In the following example, the highlighted word is an adverb: The seamstress quickly made the mourning clothes. In this sentence, the adverb ``quickly创 modifies the verb ``made创 and indicates in what manner (or how fast) the clothing was constructed.

Conjunctive Adverbs

You can use a conjunctive adverb to join two clauses together. Some of the most common conjunctive adverbs are ``also,创 ``consequently,创 ``finally,创 ``furthermore,创 ``hence,创 ``however,创 ``incidentally,创 ``indeed,创 ``instead,创 ``likewise,创 ``meanwhile,创 ``nevertheless,创 ``next,创 ``nonetheless,创 ``otherwise,创 ``still,创 ``then,创 ``therefore,创 and ``thus.创 A conjunctive adverb is not strong enough to join two independent clauses with the aid of a semicolon.


THE PREPOSITION

A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that the preposition introduces is called the object of the preposition. A preposition usually indicates the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence as in the following examples:

The book is on the table.

The book is beneath the table.

The book is leaning against the table.

The book is beside the table.

She held the book over the table.

She read the book during class.

In each of the preceding sentences, a preposition locates the noun ``book创 in space or in time.

A prepositional phrase is made up of the preposition, its object and any associated adjectives or adverbs. A prepositional phrase can function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. The most common prepositions are ``about,创 ``above,创 ``across,创 ``after,创 ``against,创 ``along,创 ``among,创 ``around,创 ``at,创 ``before,创 ``behind,创 ``below,创 ``beneath,创 ``beside,创 ``between,创 ``beyond,创 ``but,创 ``by,创 ``despite,创 ``down,创 ``during,创 ``except,创 ``for,创 ``from,创 ``in,创 ``inside,创 ``into,创 ``like,创 ``near,创 ``of,创 ``off,创 ``on,创 ``onto,创 ``out,创 ``outside,创 ``over,创 ``past,创 ``since,创 ``through,创 ``throughout,创 ``till,创 ``to,创 ``toward,创 ``under,创 ``underneath,创 ``until,创 ``up,创 ``upon,创 ``with,创 ``within,创 and ``without.创


THE CONJUNCTION

You can use a conjunction to link words, phrases, and clauses, as in the following example:

I ate the pizza and the pasta. Call the movers when you are ready.

Co-ordinating Conjunctions

You use a co-ordinating conjunction (``and,创 ``but,创 ``or,创 ``nor,创 ``for,创 ``so,创 or ``yet创) to join individual words, phrases, and independent clauses. Note that you can also use the conjunctions ``but创 and ``for创 as prepositions.

A subordinating conjunction introduces a dependent clause and indicates the nature of the relationship among the independent clause(s) and the dependent clause(s). The most common subordinating conjunctions are ``after,创 ``although,创 ``as,创 ``because,创 ``before,创 ``how,创 ``if,创 ``once,创 ``since,创 ``than,创 ``that,创 ``though,创 ``till,创 ``until,创 ``when,创 ``where,创 ``whether,创 and ``while.创

Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions always appear in pairs -- you use them to link equivalent sentence elements. The most common correlative conjunctions are ``both...and,创 ``either...or,创 ``neither...nor,创, ``not only...but also,创 ``so...as,创 and ``whether...or.创 (Technically correlative conjunctions consist simply of a co-ordinating conjunction linked to an adjective or adverb.)


THE INTERJECTION

An interjection is a word added to a sentence to convey emotion. It is not grammatically related to any other part of the sentence. You usually follow an interjection with an exclamation mark. Interjections are uncommon in formal academic prose, except in direct quotations. The highlighted words in the following sentences are interjections:

Ouch, that hurt!

Oh no, I forgot that the exam was today. Hey! Put that down!

I heard one guy say to another guy, ``He has a new car, eh?''

I don't know about you but, good lord, I think taxes are too high!