Developing at least a basic knowledge of the parts of speech and an understanding of how they work together to form good sentences is important for learning how to become a better writer. It’s a good idea to learn to recognize these parts and how they function in the creation of correct sentences.

So what are the parts of speech? Let’s take a look.

Nouns

Nouns are people, places, things, and ideas. Examples of nouns are:

truck, sidewalk, girl, flower, ocean, Brian, man, Colorado, joy, bed, Belgium, encouragement, pet, Saturn, Leann, mountain

As you can see, many things can be nouns. In the following sentences, the nouns are in bold:

Devin watches television every night.

The neighbors always walk their dog on the side of the street.

Dad, have you heard the good news about Scott?

Pronouns

Pronouns serve as a substitute for a noun in a sentence. They always refer back to a specific noun.

Let’s start with a sentence that will demonstrate how a noun and pronoun work together.

Tom said that he would like to come to the party.

Here, “Tom” is our noun. Later in the sentence, we have the pronoun “he.” Who is “he?” Well, this pronoun refers back to our noun, “Tom.”

Other examples of pronouns are:

I, me, my, myself, you, your, yours, he, she, it, we, our, they, them, one

In the following sentences, the pronouns are in bold:

When Anita arrived at the airport, she went to the ticket counter to get her boarding pass.

Our neighbors try to visit their grandparents when they go to New York.

Possessive Pronouns

Pronouns that show ownership of something are known as possessive pronouns. These are:

my, mine, your, yours, his, hers, our, ours, their, theirs

In the sentences above, “her” and “their” are pronouns that show possession.

Here is another example:

In my opinion, your best option is to take his advice.

Adjectives

Adjectives describe nouns. Almost any word used to say what a person, place, thing, or idea is like, looks like, seems like, etc., is an adjective. Here are some examples of adjectives:

tall, short, big, small, bright, dim, tired, healthy, smart, silly, shy, talkative, fun, boring, nice, mean, red, blue, black

The tall man sitting in the soft chair looks happy.

The friendly woman works at the small bank on 5th Street. 

Colors can also serve as adjectives. Don’t forget about them. They describe objects as well.

Her house is the green one with the yellow flowers near the door. 

My favorite shirt has purple stripes and green buttons.

Adverbs

Adverbs work with verbs. They are to verbs what adjectives are to nouns. They tell us how a verb was done.

Josephine climbed slowly up the stairs.

What did Josephine do? She “climbed(verb). How did he do it? “Slowly” (adverb).

Here are some common adverbs:

loudly, quietly, quickly, slowly, carefully, dangerously, rarely, often, suddenly, soon, later, nearly, now, well, poorly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, selfishly, honestly

Notice that many adverbs end in “–ly.” This is not always the case, but if a word ends in “–ly,” it is most likely an adverb.

The boy quickly finished his homework, then happily went outside to play. 

What did the boy do? He “finished” his homework. How did he finish it? “quickly.” Also, what else did he do? She “went.” How did he go? “happily.” Therefore, “quickly” and “happily” are adverbs.

Not all adverbs end in “–ly.” Some notable ones are:

very, too, never, soon, sooner, not, better, worse

Jeremy never eats sweets.

Prepositions

Prepositions link two nouns or pronouns in a way that shows a relationship between the two. The relationship is usually one of place or directionality.

There’s an old rhyme used to teach what a preposition is, and it’s actually the one that worked for me when I was a young student:

“Up, down, above, below, anywhere a mouse can go.”

Here are some common prepositions:

to, from, for, by, at, on, in, into, above, below, beside, between, near, onto, before, after, beyond, about

A preposition is always followed by an indirect object (IO).

When Maria gets home from work, she always goes for a walk around the block.

This direct object can be a pronoun.

Please take the package from them.

Try to spot the prepositions in the following sentence:

Brian stated with much vigor his impression of the two candidates for governor.

Did you choose with, of, and for? Good! You’re getting it.

Phrasal Prepositions

Keep in mind that some prepositions may be phrases, that is, more than one word. They still function just like regular prepositions. Some common examples are:

according to, along with, because of, by way of, in regard to, in spite of, in reference to, with the exception of

With the exception of Amy, I believe everyone has submitted her requests.

According to the policy, all debts must be paid in full before December 31.

Conjunctions

Conjunctions are linking words, that is, they link two or more words or clauses in a sentence. Examples of conjunctions are:

and, but, or, nor, so, yet, however, nonetheless, nevertheless, therefore, then

Seattle is a beautiful city, but it rains there a lot.

The apartment is so homey and it’s in a great location.

Conjunctive Adverbs

Words like “however,” “therefore,” and “nevertheless” are a special kind of conjunction known as conjunctive adverbs. These are often used as transitions in writings such as essays and longer letters.

The new management position pays well; however, you can expect to work almost every weekend.

Tina always selects healthy food to eat; nevertheless, she likes to indulge in dessert once in awhile.  

Remember, it’s a good idea to use words like “however,” “therefore,” “additionally,” and “nevertheless” at the start of a new paragraph or when changing to a new topic in a sentence.

Interjections

Interjections are words that express emotions, for example, surprise, opposition, happiness, disappointment, and despair.

They are usually placed at the beginning of a sentence and can be followed by an exclamation point (!). Examples of interjections are:

Wow!, Oh!, Really?, My!, Dear!, Ouch!, Darn!

Almost any word can become an interjection if it’s one that can show emotion.

Wow! Isabel always does such a great job.

Darn! I wish I would have known you were in town.

You don’t have to use an exclamation point. A comma works as well. A question mark is also sometimes needed.

Yikes, I should have been more careful when choosing that color.

Really? That is so nice to hear.