How to Understand Parts of Speech

Four Parts:NounsPronounsVerbs and AdjectivesPrepositions and Beyond

This page presents the basic rules of English grammar. It begins with nouns and will cover the other basic parts of speech. All grammar rules and spelling are based on American English rules.

Part 1

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    Understand what a noun is. Nouns (Latin nomen, name) represent people, places, and things. For example, a teacher is a noun, beach is a noun, and a computer is a noun.
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    Realize there are different types of nouns. They are common nouns, proper nouns, collective nouns, compound nouns and abstract nouns.
    • Common nouns are nonspecific. Teacher, beach, and computer are common nouns.
    • Proper nouns are specific. Mr. Jones, Miami Beach, and Apple Computer are proper nouns. Proper nouns are always capitalized.
    • Collective nouns represent collections or groups of things. Team, family, and company are collective nouns. Note: American English differentiates between singular and plural collective nouns. For example: The family is on vacation; the families are on vacation. In British English, collective nouns always use the plural form of the verb. For example: The family are on vacation; the families are on vacation.
    • Abstract nouns represent concepts, feelings, and other intangible objects. Some abstract nouns are honesty, love, and sadness. Abstract nouns also represent activities. Some examples include reading, writing, swimming, painting, and drawing.
    • Compound nouns consist of two or more words. For example, basketball is a compound noun formed from the two words, basket and ball. Compound nouns may appear in three different forms:
      • Two separate words, for example, bike trail
      • A hyphenated word, for example, e-mail
      • One word, for example, football
      • Compound nouns usually begin as two separate words, then become a hyphenated word, and then become one word. For example, email was originally called electronic mail, then was shortened to e-mail and eventually lost the hyphen to become email.

Part 2

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    Know that Pronouns (Latin pro, for; nomen, name) take the place of nouns. There are many types of pronouns. These include: personal, possessive, object, demonstrative, indefinite, intensive/reflexive, interrogative, and relative.
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    Know that we use personal pronouns all the time. The personal pronouns are:
    First Person Singular I First Person Plural we
    Second Person Singular you Second Person Plural you
    Third Person Singular he, she, it Third Person Plural they
    • Here are some examples:
      • I am eating pizza.
      • We are going to the movies.
      • You study English 6 hours per week.
      • We are going to El Salvador for vacation.
      • He is my brother.
      • She is my sister.
      • It is big, dark, and dangerous.
    • First Person means that person is speaking, for example, “I am going to eat the whole pizza."
    • Second Person means that person is being spoken to, for example, “You will not eat the whole pizza."
    • Third person means that others are talking about that person, for example, “He ate the whole pizza."
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    Know that possessive pronouns define ownership or show possession.
    First Person Singular my, mine First Person Plural our, ours
    Second Person Singular your, yours Second Person Plural your, yours
    Third Person Singular his, her, hers, its Third Person Plural their, theirs
    • Here are some examples:
      • My car is blue.
      • That book is mine.
      • Her desk is the last one on the right.
      • That book is hers.
    • An object pronoun is a personal pronoun used as a direct object. Direct object? Stop this grammar speak!
    • The subject of a sentence is the rock n’ roll star. The direct object is the audience. The subject performs the action; the direct object is the recipient of the action. Here are some examples:
      • The vocal quartet performed for me.
      • I gave the book to her.
      First Person Singular me First Person Plural us
      Second Person Singular you Second Person Plural you
      Third Person Singular him, her, it Third Person Plural them
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    Realize that Demonstrative pronouns draw attention. For example:
      • This needs more memory.
      • That is in the historical register.
      • These are mine and those are yours.
    • There are 4 demonstrative pronouns. They are:
      Singular Plural
      this these
      that those
    • This or that? What is the difference? This (and these) are generally used to point to something closer in proximity while that (and those) points to something more distant.
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    Realize that Indefinite pronouns are nonspecific. Here is an example: Someone left the grammar book on my desk.
    • Who left the grammar book on my desk? I don’t know and you don’t know. It was someone, anyone, and definitely not nobody.
    • Indefinite pronouns include but are not limited to: one, someone, no one, nobody, anything, something, several, each, most, all, neither, either, another, other, both, many, few, any, some, something, and everyone.
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    Know that the intensive and reflexive pronouns are the mirror pronouns. They point back to or reflect the subject.
    • First Person Singular myself First Person Plural ourselves
      Second Person Singular yourself Second Person Plural yourselves
      Third Person Singular himself, herself, itself Third Person Plural themselves
    • The reflexive and intensive pronouns are the same. The difference lies in their use.
      • Here are some examples of reflexive pronouns:
        • I looked in the mirror and saw myself.
        • She chided herself for not doing better on the exam.
      • The following examples use same pronouns as intensive pronouns.
        • I, myself, looked in the mirror.
        • She, herself, felt bad because she did not do better on the exam.
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    Know that we use Interrogative pronouns when asking questions. The interrogative pronouns are: who, which, what, whom, and whose. Some examples are:
    • Who wrote this document?
    • Whose laptop is running Linux?
    • Note: Do not confuse who’s for whose? Who’s is the contraction for who is.
      • Who’s leaving early? (is the same as)
      • Who is leaving early?
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    See that a relative pronoun defines a relationship. The relative pronoun relates back to a previous statement. For example:
    • I met a woman who stole my heart.
    • In this example, who relates back to woman. Who stole my heart? The woman I met.
    • The relative pronouns are: who, whom, whose, what, which, that, whoever, whatever, and whomever.

Part 3
Verbs and Adjectives

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    Get to know verbs. A verb (Latin Verbum, word, so called as it is the principal word in the sentence (in Latin at least)) shows action or state of being and indicates the time of that action or state. For example:
    • I thought I locked the gate.
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    Take on adverbs. An adverb describes an action, adjective, or another adverb, it shows, when, to what extent, and how. Here are a few examples:
    • When: Shelly and Kim might run in the marathon.
    • How: Sam quickly ate his lunch.
    • To what extent: Jennie did her homework excellently.
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    Understand that Adjectives (Latin adjectum, a thing thrown to) describe nouns. Examples:
    • You are a great person.
    • The iguana is a terrible pet.
    • Your mother is a kind woman.

Part 4
Prepositions and Beyond

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    Consider prepositions. A Preposition (Latin praepositum, placed before) is a word joined with, and generally placed before, a noun or its equivalent, so that the proposition together with the noun forms a phrase equivalent to an adverb or adjective.
    • Examples:
      • At
      • With
      • By
      • In
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    Get to know conjunctions. A Conjunction (Latin conjungo, I join) is a word that joins sentences, clauses, or words.
    • Examples:
      • And
      • Or
      • But
      • For
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    Don't forget interjections. An Interjection (Latin interjicio, I throw in) is a word thrown into a sentence to express a feeling.
    • Examples:
      • Wow!
      • Ouch!
      • Oh-no!
      • Yay!
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    Define the articles. The Definite Article The and the Indefinite Article A are always joined with nouns, just like adjectives.

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Categories: English