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Parts of Speech in English

Parts of Speech in English

Parts of Speech in English

If you’re looking for the parts of speech in English grammar, you’ve come to the right place!

There are a total of 9 parts of speech in English: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.

Read on for a brief explanation of each!


Nouns

Lots of teachers say a noun is a person, place, or thing! You should also add ideas to that list. Proper nouns in English start with a capital letter, but other nouns do not.

Nouns in English can be singular or plural. to form a regular plural, we simply add -s or -es to the end of a noun. Irregular plurals do not follow this rule.


Pronouns

Pronouns are used to stand in place for a noun, because in English we don’t like to repeat nouns again and again. The noun that a pronoun refers back to is called its antecedent. Examples of common pronouns in English are he, she, it, him, her, mine, this, that, myself. Pronouns in English change form to show, for example, whether they are singular or plural, subjects or objects, male or female or neither.

Here is a complete article on pronouns in English.


Verbs

Verbs are words we use to talk about actions, states, and occurrences (things that happen). Many people would say that nouns and verbs are the most important and useful parts of speech in any language.

The main verb in a sentence has a subject, generally a noun or pronoun referring to the person or thing that the sentence is about. For example, in the sentence Maria walks, the verb is walks and the subject is Maria.

Verbs can change form to β€˜agree with’ their subject.

Here is a list of the most common verbs in English.

Here is a complete guide to the English verb tenses.


Adjectives

Adjectives are words that describe, or modify, nouns. They generally (but not always) come before nouns. In the following phrases, the adjectives are in bold:

a big party some terrible news the best pizza an interesting idea a really strong leader

For more information, check out our list of the most common adjectives in English.


Adverbs

Like adjectives, adverbs are describing words. But while adjectives describe only nouns, adverbs can describe verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, or entire sentences.

Because adverbs are so versatile, it is hard to say much that applies to all adverbs generally. They can appear at different places in the sentence: at the beginning, before a verb, before an adjective, after a verb, or at the end of a sentence. Many adjectives can be transformed into adverbs by adding the suffix -ly: slow becomes slowly, eventual becomes eventually, stupid becomes stupidly, etc.

One of the most basic types of adverbs are adverbs of frequency. Click through to read more about those.


Articles

The articles in English are a, an (indefinite articles) and the (definite article). Articles can be really tricky, but the basic idea is that we use indefinite articles when we are introducing a new noun to our listeners, and we use definite articles to refer to a specific object that our listeners already know about.


Prepositions

Prepositions are, to put it simply, words that are placed before (pre-position) nouns or pronouns to connect them to other parts of speech in a sentence. There are different types of preposition that give different types of information: prepositions of time, prepositions of place, prepositions of direction.


Conjunctions

Conjunctions are words that connect. They can connect, for example, a list of nouns in a series. But most of the time, when we are talking about conjunctions, we are talking about connecting one clause to another clause in the same sentence. There are two types of conjunctions: coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions connect two clauses of equal importance into what we call a compound sentence. There are not many coordinating conjunctions. You can remember them with the acronym FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

Subordinating Conjunctions

When we connect clauses using subordinating conjunctions, we are giving one clause more importance than the other. The less important clause is called a subordinate clause. Two or more clauses combined with subordinating conjunctions are called a complex sentence. Some common subordinating conjunctions are because, although, before, since, when, while, and if.


Interjections

Interjections are funny words. They are sort of the black sheep of English grammar. They are not connected to the other words in a sentence (they are inter-jected, put in between, the other words). Generally they add emotion to a sentence: ouch, wow, hmm, oops, well, geez.

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Past Perfect Continuous Tense

The present perfect continuous is an important verb form for talking about recent events and their durations. Read about the rules for using the present perfect continuous tense, how we form it, and tons of example sentences!

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Future Continuous Tense

The future continuous is a rare but challenging verb form in English. It is used to describe actions that will be in progress at a specific point in the future. Read about the rules for using the future continuous tense and how we form it, with charts and over 25 example sentences!

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Present Perfect Continuous Tense

The present perfect continuous is an important verb form for talking about recent events and their durations. Read about the rules for using the present perfect continuous tense, how we form it, and tons of example sentences!

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Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect is an important verb form for describing events in the past. Read about the rules for using the past perfect tense, how we form it, and tons of example sentences!

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Past Continuous Tense

The past continuous is an important and challenging verb form in English. It is used to describe actions that were in progress at a specific point in the past. Read about the rules for using the past continuous tense and how we form it, with charts and over 25 example sentences!

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Present Continuous Tense

The present continuous is a common but challenging verb tense in English. It is used to describe actions that are happening at the current moment. Read about the rules for using the present perfect tense and how we form it, with charts and over 25 example sentences!

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Pronouns in English

Pronouns are among the most common and important words in English.  Pronouns can be difficult because we use different ones for different parts of speech. This post teaches all the types of pronouns with charts and examples.

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Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect is a common but confusing verb tense in English. It is used to connect the past to the present.. Read about the rules for using the present perfect tense and how we form it, with charts and tons of example sentences!

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Simple Future Tense

The simple future is a very common verb tense used to talk about plans and expectations in English. Read about the rules for using it, how we form it, and tons of example sentences!

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Contractions in English

One challenging aspect of learning English is that there are different registers: we have spoken English and written English, formal English and informal English. Some words are okay in every register, but others are only okay in speech. Some only sound right in writing. 

Contractions are a big part of distinguishing between these different forms of English. If you ever go to an English-speaking university, you'll find that you can't use can't or don't or isn't in your academic writing. Let's take a look at what contractions are and how they can make your English more or less formal.

What are Contractions?

Contractions are words that combine two or more other words together into a new shortened version, usually using an apostrophe ('). Contractions are very common in spoken English. You have probably heard some of these common contractions: I'm, can't, aren't, don't, didn't

The apostrophe is small, but important. In writing you must use the apostrophe. You do not pronounce it, but it is important in writing. Notice that the apostrophe represents some letters that are missing from the longer form of the word. For instance, the apostrophe in didn't is in place of the O in did not and the apostrophe in I'm  is in the place of the A in I am.

Be careful, because not every word with an apostrophe is a contraction. Possessive nouns in English end with apostrophe -s, (Bob's house, Carla's mom) but these are not contractions.

Why Do We Have Contractions?

Contractions originate in speech. We are lazy when we speak English! When we are speaking quickly, we reduce certain sounds (make them shorter and quieter), and over time we elide them completely (we don't pronounce them at all). So over time, she will becomes she'll, I have becomes I've, going to becomes gonna

When do we use contractions?

This question has a slightly complicated answer.

We frequently use contractions in spoken English, and you should try to use common contractions in your speech to make your English more fluent. We generally do not use any contractions in formal writing (academic papers, for examples).

In between casual speech and formal written English, there is a gray area: we have more formal spoken English, like presentations and business meetings. We have less formal writing, like emails and letters. In this case, you have more of a choice. Some people use contractions and some do not. In this gray area, we should also talk about different types of contractions!

Standard Contractions

Not all contractions are the same. Some are more standard and acceptable than others. Standard contractions include the following:

 

Great poem by Shel Silverstein about informal contractions

  • there's
  • wasn't
  • we'd
  • we'll
  • we're
  • we've
  • weren't
  • won't
  • wouldn't
  • you'd
  • you'll
  • you're
  • he's
  • how'd
  • how's
  • I'd
  • I'm
  • I've
  • isn't
  • let's
  • she'd
  • she'll
  • she's
  • shouldn't
  • aren't
  • can't
  • couldn't
  • didn't
  • doesn't
  • don't
  • hadn't
  • hasn't
  • haven't
  • he'd
  • he'll
  • he's

Some Standard English Contractions

You can use these in anything but formal writing. This means they are common in speech, creative writing, emails, text messages, notes, and letters. Try to pay attention when you are reading online. Are there contractions in what you are reading? If there are no contractions, you are probably reading a more formal style of writing.

 

Nonstandard Contractions

But there are other contractions that are nonstandard. These contractions have evolved more recently and haven't become as acceptable in written English yet. Nonstandard contractions should only be used in very informal situations (text messages with friends, for instance) or to be funny. Here are some examples:

  • gimme
  • gonna
  • gotta
  • hafta
  • I'd've
  • I'm'a
  • must've
  • there're
  • there've
  • those're
  • wanna
  • we'd've
  • what're
  • who'd've
  • why'd

This is not a complete list. People can often get creative and make their own contractions like these, so watch and see if you can identify new contractions!

Nonstandard English Contractions

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Simple Past Tense

The simple past is a very common English verb tense used to talk about actions that happened at a specific time in the past. Read about the rules for using it, how we form it, and tons of example sentences!

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Simple Present Tense

The simple present is the most common and useful verb tense in English. It is used to talk about repeated actions and to describe people or states of being. Read about the rules for using the simple present tense, how we form it, and tons of example sentences!

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The Most Common English Adjectives

Are you wondering where to start studying English vocabulary? Adjectives are a really important part of speech. An adjective is a word used to describe a noun.

It is a good idea to focus on the most common ones in the language. Below are lists of the 50 most common words in both American and British English.

50 Most Common Adjectives
πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ in American English πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
No. Adjective
1 OTHER
2 NEW
3 GOOD
4 AMERICAN
5 GREAT
6 BIG
7 HIGH
8 OLD
9 DIFFERENT
10 NATIONAL
11 SMALL
12 LITTLE
13 BLACK
14 IMPORTANT
15 POLITICAL
16 SOCIAL
17 LONG
18 YOUNG
19 RIGHT
20 BEST
21 REAL
22 WHITE
23 PUBLIC
24 SURE
25 ONLY
26 LARGE
27 ABLE
28 HUMAN
29 LOCAL
30 EARLY
31 BAD
32 BETTER
33 ECONOMIC
34 FREE
35 POSSIBLE
36 WHOLE
37 MAJOR
38 MILITARY
39 FEDERAL
40 INTERNATIONAL
41 TRUE
42 FULL
43 HARD
44 SPECIAL
45 RECENT
46 RED
47 OPEN
48 PERSONAL
49 GENERAL
50 CLEAR
50 Most Common Adjectives
πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ in British English πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§
No.Adjective
1 OTHER
2 NEW
3 GOOD
4 OLD
5 DIFFERENT
6 LOCAL
7 GREAT
8 SMALL
9 SOCIAL
10 IMPORTANT
11 NATIONAL
12 HIGH
13 BRITISH
14 POSSIBLE
15 LARGE
16 RIGHT
17 LONG
18 LITTLE
19 YOUNG
20 POLITICAL
21 ABLE
22 GENERAL
23 ONLY
24 PUBLIC
25 AVAILABLE
26 FULL
27 EARLY
28 BEST
29 BIG
30 MAIN
31 MAJOR
32 ECONOMIC
33 SURE
34 REAL
35 LIKELY
36 BLACK
37 PARTICULAR
38 INTERNATIONAL
39 SPECIAL
40 DIFFICULT
41 CERTAIN
42 CLEAR
43 WHOLE
44 FURTHER
45 WHITE
46 OPEN
47 EUROPEAN
48 FREE
49 CENTRAL
50 SIMILAR

Most of the most common adjectives are the same in the US and the UK (78% of the top 50 and 92% of the top 25 words appear in both lists). Notice that American is the 4th most common adjective in American English and British is the 13th most common adjective in British English. We shouldn't read too much into these simple lists, but it is interesting to note that militaryfederal, and personal all appear in the American list. Do you notice any other patterns?

That's all for now! Start studying!

If you're looking for something similar, check out the most common verbs in English.


Sources: The primary sources for compiling this article were the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and the British National Corpus.


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