What are the parts of speech in English?

Perhaps you’re one of those people who hate to learn grammar rules but would like to learn English more easily, without roadblocks or complications. There’s no reason to believe that grammar is an insurmountable obstacle. On the contrary, we’ll teach you that grammar can be a great ally in this new adventure that you have undertaken: speaking English fluidly and without stress.

In English, there are eight grammatical categories. By saying “category,” we mean each word in a sentence that has a different function. You don’t have to memorise them. You just have to learn to distinguish the role of each word, so that you can then use and organise them better.

Let’s start with a practical exercise that will teach us the different parts of speech in English and some additional rules for each.

 


Word classes in English (aka the parts of speech)

Let’s say you’re watching a movie and see the scene described below:

Richard saw a smart cat walking slowly with a mouse in its mouth.

 

A fairly common scene, right? Well, today mice escape and hide more easily. And cats, well… they eat cat food. But in general, the instinct is still there and the scene is still possible.

 


The main actor: nouns

Each movie has a main character, the person that the story revolves around. In the same way, the noun is the “protagonist” of the sentence and can be a person, animal, or thing that does the main action in the sentence.

In our example sentence, the noun is Richard, who is observing a cat.

In English, some nouns are the same for both male and female:

teacher

student

Others change their gender by adding the suffix -ess or -ine:

host (male) → hostess (female)

hero (male) → heroine (female)

There are also cases where each gender has its own word such as king and queen. In general, to form the plural of nouns, you add -s to the end of the word:

spoonspoons

table tables

But if the word ends in s, sh, x, or ch, you add -es to make the plural:

dishdishes

fox foxes

When the noun ends in a consonant + y, the y is changed to ies:

cherrycherries

 


Pronouns

During filming, the director won’t always refer to Richard by name. Sometimes he’ll refer to him as he and for the cat, he might say it.

As you can see, pronouns are words that replace nouns. The first ones you should know and be able to use are the personal pronouns, even though there are other categories of words that we’ll study in detail later on.

 


Add a bit of makeup: adjectives

Makeup makes the protagonist more or less attractive, depending on what the story requires. Adjectives help us describe or give qualities of nouns.

In the scene from our movie, we saw the word smart describing another character, a cat, who, by the way, is also very hungry.

In English, there are qualifying, demonstrative, quantitative, possessive, and numeral adjectives. These don’t change in gender or number (like they do in some languages) and come before the noun:

Today is a beautiful day.

It’s a tall building.

 


Lights, camera… action! Verbs

The director won’t want the actors to stay still unless they’re making a contemplative, alternative, symbolic, or even boring movie. But we all have different tastes.

What was happening in our scene? Several things, right? Richard SAW a smart cat WALKING. These are all actions.

Verbs are the actions done by the nouns. You’ll have to keep in mind the following basic rules regarding verbs.

To form the third person singular in the present simple, you add -s or -es (if the verb ends in s, sh, x, or ch) to the infinitive.

to watchhe/she watches

to playhe/she plays

To form the past simple, you add -ed to the verb in the infinitive.

to watchwatched

to playplayed

When we get to irregular verbs, things get a bit trickier. There’s nothing to be scared of, though… English is no horror movie. The point is that it won’t be enough to add -ed to make the past simple. Sometimes, it’ll be a whole new word:

to gowent

to dodid

 


A little slower, now a bit faster: adverbs

The director might be a bit stressed. The cat has not obeyed (or understood) his instructions. The director told it to walk slower, then to speed up, and then to almost eat the mouse.

What’s the director doing? Sure, he might be playing a prank, but what we really want to highlight here is that for the director, it’s not okay for the cat to simply walk. How it walks is important.

These are the adverbs, words that can modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

To form regular adverbs, you add -ly to the end of an adjective. If the adjective ends in a consonant + y, the y is changed to an i before adding -ly.

slowslowly

easyeasily

 


Articles

In our sentence, the indefinite article a is used twice: a smart cat, a mouse.

In English, there are definite (the) and indefinite (a, an) articles, which go before the noun. The difference is that definite articles refer to a specific person, animal, or thing, to something or someone in particular. Indefinite articles, on the other hand, are used for something or someone in general, for something that is unspecified.

In our movie, we talk about Richard seeing a cat in general. We don’t know if its name is Felix or Garfield. It was just a random cat, even though by now we’ve grown fond of it. Examples of definite articles:

The man. The woman.

Examples of indefinite articles:

There’s a riot in Iran.

She’s taking an exam tomorrow.

 


Conjunctions and prepositions

Our set will also need scenery, costumes, accessories, lighting, and those other elements that will combine to create a memorable scene. In this case, a cat with a mouse, something that stirs our emotions, maybe…

We’ll also need words like conjunctions, which will help us “join” or “link” words or sentences in a way that makes what we say sound fluid.

The most well-known are and, but, and or, but many more exist.

Mary and I enjoyed the film.

Mary enjoyed the film, but she didn’t like the music.

Which one do you prefer: pizza or spaghetti?

In our scene, we can see that there’s a relationship between two characters: the cat was WITH the mouse. It obviously wasn’t a very friendly relationship, though, since the cat had the mouse in its mouth.

Finally, prepositions join words or sentences, describing the relationship between them.

In English, there are prepositions of manner, place, time, direction, and movement. Let’s look at some:

The cat is outside the house.

Richard is with his girlfriend, Mary.

The car is behind the wall.

My birthday is in June.

In this article, you’ve learned the main parts of speech that you can find in English. We’ll never know what happened to the poor mouse, but you can imagine the end of the story. For now, we invite you to keep deepening your knowledge of each type of word, since you’ve already realised that English grammar isn’t really complicated at all. Keep studying the journal and you’ll become a true expert in English.

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