Parts of Speech
Parts of Speech
Parts of Speech, words classified according to their
functions in sentences, for purposes of traditional grammatical analysis (see Grammar). Eight parts of speech are usually identified: nouns,
adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, verbs, and
interjections. Most of the major language groups spoken today, notably the Indo-European languages
and Semitic languages, use almost the identical categories;
Chinese, however, has fewer parts of speech than English.
A noun (Latin nomen, "name") is usually defined as a word
denoting a thing, place, person, quality, or action and functioning in a
sentence as the subject or object of action expressed by a verb or as the object
of a preposition. In modern English, proper nouns, which are always capitalized
and denote individuals and personifications, are distinguished from common
Nouns and verbs may sometimes take the same form, as in
Polynesian languages. Verbal nouns, or gerunds, combine features of both parts
of speech. They occur in the Semitic and Indo-European languages and in English
most commonly with words ending in -ing.
Nouns may be inflected to indicate gender (masculine, feminine,
and neuter), number, and case. In modern English, however, gender has been
eliminated, and only two forms, singular and plural, indicate number (how many
perform or receive an action). Some languages have three numbers: a singular
form (indicating, for example, one book), a plural form (indicating three or
more books), and a dual form (indicating, specifically, two books). English has
three cases of nouns: nominative (subject), genitive (possessive), and objective
(indicating the relationship between the noun and other words).
An adjective is a word that modifies, or qualifies, a noun or
pronoun, in one of three forms of comparative degree: positive (strong,
beautiful), comparative (stronger, more beautiful), or superlative (strongest,
most beautiful). In many languages, the form of an adjective changes to
correspond with the number and gender of the noun or pronoun it modifies.
An adverb is a word that modifies a verb (he walked slowly),
an adjective (a very good book), or another adverb (he walked very
slowly). Adverbs may indicate place or direction (where, whence), time (ever,
immediately), degree (very, almost), manner (thus, and words
ending in -ly, such as
wisely), and belief or doubt (perhaps, no). Like adjectives, they
too may be comparative (wisely, more wisely, most wisely).
Words that combine with a noun or pronoun to form a phrase are
termed prepositions. In languages such as Latin or German, they change the form
of the noun or pronoun to the objective case (as in the equivalent of the
English phrase give to me), or to the possessive case (as in the
phrase the roof of the house).
Conjunctions are the words that connect sentences, clauses,
phrases, or words, and sometimes paragraphs. Coordinate conjunctions (and,
but, or, however, nevertheless, neither … nor) join independent
clauses, or parts of a sentence; subordinate conjunctions introduce subordinate
clauses (where, when, after, while, because, if, unless, since, whether).
A pronoun is an identifying word used instead of a noun and
inflected in the same way nouns are. Personal pronouns, in English, are I,
you, he/she/it, we, you
(plural), and they. Demonstrative pronouns are thus, that, and
Introducing questions, who and which are interrogative pronouns;
when introducing clauses they are called relative pronouns. Indefinite pronouns
are each, either, some, any, many, few, and all.
Words that express some form of action are called verbs. Their
inflection, known as conjugation, is simpler in English than in most other
languages. Conjugation in general involves changes of form according to person
and number (who and how many performed the action), tense (when the action was
performed), voice (indicating whether the subject of the verb performed or
received the action), and mood (indicating the frame of mind of the performer).
In English grammar, verbs have three moods: the indicative, which expresses
actuality; the subjunctive, which expresses contingency; and the imperative,
which expresses command (I walk; I might walk; Walk!)
Certain words, derived from verbs but not functioning as such,
are called verbals. In addition to verbal nouns, or gerunds, participles can
serve as adjectives (the
written word), and infinitives often serve as nouns (to err is
Interjections are exclamations such as oh, alas, ugh, or
(often printed with an exclamation point). Used for emphasis or to express an
emotional reaction, they do not truly function as grammatical elements of a