Part of Speech

Although most people already have a good idea of what a noun is or what a verb is, a review of these basic components of the language is very important. There may in fact be information here that will be new to you. Keep in mind that there are many words which serve more than one role or function (for example, another can be an adjective or a pronoun, depending on its role or context). And though you will not likely use the technical terms in the table below in everyday speech or writing, it is important to become familiar with them while you are learning to improve your understanding of the foundations of English grammar. It is much easier and more efficient, for instance, to refer to prepositions rather than repeating  for, to, in, at each time an explanation is necessary. It is also quite convenient to know that a modifier is a word that somehow affects another word or part of the sentence. To modify means to change; by adding a modifier, we change the meaning and/or function of the word or phrase being modified.


Part of Speech What It Is Examples
Noun(gerund) Person – name, occupation, title/position, gender, relation(ship) Michael, doctor, president, manager, girl, cousin
Place – address, street, city, country, location, landmark 10 Downey Street, New York, India, basement, The Great Wall (of China)
Thing – living: animals, plants
non-living: minerals,stars/planets, machines, natural phenomena, man-made phenomena, etc.
dog, rose, rock, wood,Mars, computer, lightening, storm, war, money, etc.
Idea/concept – abstractions that cannot be experienced by the 5 senses (touch, taste, sight, sound, smell) love, regret, obsession, charity, etc.
(Action/Activity) – we use gerunds for activities or actions for which simple nouns do not exist swimming, breathing, playing, etc.
Verb The moving/advancing/describing element in the sentence: base/infinitive, non-active, active, copula (linking), modal, auxiliary (helping), state, transitive (needs object), ambi/intransitive (object is optional/not needed) be/to be, do/ to do, play/ to play, be, do, play, eat, seem, feel, sound, become, may, can, might, should, has, is, do, will, love, believe, own, want, give, open, sit, read/ arrive, go
Adjective These are used to modify a noun. There are many types of adjectives, including: size, shape, color, height, weight, quality, judgement, speed, material, mood, relativity (comparison), quantity, and so on. big, city-sized, round, diamond-shaped, yellow, multicolored, tall, heavy, good, exceptional, ugly, fabulous, slow, metal, happy, more, many, etc.
Adverb These are used to modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.They are also used for expressions of frequency and time expressions eat fast, very good, very well, sometimes, every day, tomorrow
Pronoun (see Functional Grammar in menu) These are words used to stand in place of (represent) already understood nouns. They appear in various forms, depending on their position and function in the sentence: Subject, Object, Adjective, Possessive, Demonstrative Sub – I, you, he, she, it, we, they
Obj – me, you, him, her, it, us, them
Adj – my, your, his, her, its, our, their
Poss – mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs
Demo – this, that, these, those
Indefinite – one, another, each, etc.
Preposition (see Functional Grammar in menu) These are function words used to direct the flow of a sentence. They are used to show direction, cause, time/timing, reason, purpose, location, relationship, example, comparison, etc. to, by, in, on, at, until, for, between, of, from, through, over, since, during, despite, as, like, via, thanks to, etc.
Articles These are signifiers of singularity and/or specificity. Definite – the
Indefinite – a, an
Conjunctions (see Functional Grammar in menu) These are words used to join independent clauses (for dependent clauses, see clause markers). and, but, or, so, yet; both…and; either…or; neither…nor; not only…but also
Clause markers (for more on these, see Clauses in menu) These are conjunctions that join dependent clauses to independent clauses or other dependent clauses. In some cases they can be optional (i.e. not seen/heard, but understood). There are many markers for the different clause types. Noun clause – that, what, how, why, etc.
Adjective clause – that, which, who, where, whom, etc.
Adverb clause – although, if, when, while, after, because, etc.



A special note on –ing words

Though they are listed above with the nouns, be advised that words ending in –ing can be nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. The part of speech depends on the usage and can often be understood easily from the context. However, sometimes the use is not very clear, especially in cases where the –ing word is used as an adjective or adverb participle. Understanding the sentence as a whole will help you understand the usage in detail.

  • Swimming is a great form of exercise that burns many calories. – gerund (like a noun)
  • Paul and Jane are swimming in the lake. – verb (part of progressive)
  • The swimming bear was just as fast as the seal it was hunting. – adjective (participle)
  • Swimming down the fast river, the boy was unaware of the large drop that lay ahead. – adverb (participle)

Nouns