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What Are the 8 Parts of Speech? - Definition & Examples

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  • 1:00 Noun
  • 1:55 Verb
  • 3:06 Adjective
  • 3:30 Adverb
  • 4:06 Preposition
  • 4:55 Conjunction
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

If you can't tell the difference between a noun and a hole in the ground, that's because there isn't one! Come learn more about these and the seven other parts of speech and their functions in this lesson.

Part of Speech Defined

If you're like many of us, you might still have nightmares of diagramming sentences in English class. With all the circling and lines drawn from one end to the other, your sentence diagram may have ended up looking like a tangled mess. However, if you recall, you probably started with a very orderly system of classification. Typically, the first step in diagramming a sentence is identifying what part of speech, or group of words categorized by their function in a sentence, a word belongs to.

Not counting articles - which only consist of the words 'the,' 'a' and 'an' - there are eight parts of speech. Though there might be a lot of differences between modern English and ancient Greek, the same parts of speech and their functions are used in both (and many others) and have remained virtually the same across time and cultures. Keep watching to discover more about these eight parts of speech and the vital services they perform in our sentences!

Noun

This part of speech is probably the one we're most familiar with since nouns identify pretty much anything we can see, hear, touch, taste, smell or think. This group of words is commonly noted as consisting of people, places, things and ideas, leading nouns to make up a huge portion of practically any dictionary.

Nouns can fall into two broad classifications: concrete and abstract. Concrete nouns are those that you can experience directly with your senses - 'car,' 'human,' 'garden' and 'water.' The abstract ones are those like 'patriotism' or 'love' that represent emotions or other intangible experiences.

Whether concrete or abstract, though, nouns are the words that can actually get things done or have things done to them. In fact, the other parts of speech are really used to describe the actions of various nouns and the other relationships between them.

Verb

Nouns might be important, but without verbs, they wouldn't be doing anything. Often referred to as action words, verbs are indeed the part of speech responsible for telling us what nouns are doing or experiencing. But verbs aren't always the action-packed words you might expect.

For example, the simple act of existing really doesn't take any effort, but it's not really a passive process either. With that in mind, verbs such as 'to be' and others like it denoting a state of being, sensing, feeling or thinking are known as linking verbs. Instead of allowing nouns to act or to be acted upon like other verbs, these simply link two parts of a sentence together: 'He is tall,' or 'I feel sick.'

Pronoun

People might be nouns, but 'you' and 'I' are pronouns. As their name suggests, these words are used in the place of nouns, especially when we already know what noun we're talking about. For instance, instead of repeating people's names or saying 'book' over and over, we can replace these nouns with pronouns like 'she,' 'they' or 'it.'

Adjective

We learned our colors and numbers long before we ever knew they were adjectives, but this part of speech helps us make language more colorful from an early age. Adjectives are words used to modify nouns or pronouns in some way, usually by providing extra details about them. For example, 'The dog fetched the balls' can be made a little more descriptive by adding adjectives: 'The shaggy brown dog fetched five green balls.'

Adverb

With adjectives, we can answer questions like 'How many?' or 'What kind?' With adverbs, though, we get answers to things like 'When?' or 'In what way?' Instead of modifying nouns and pronouns, adverbs are used to provide more details and describe verbs, adjectives and even other adverbs.

These words frequently ending in '-ly' (such as 'happily') and are often modified versions of their adjectival cousins (such as 'happy'), but there are many others that have distinct forms all their own. Take for instance 'almost' and 'never' in 'The dog almost never fetches the brightly colored balls.'

Preposition

You might remember from elementary school that you can often identify words as prepositions by whether or not they can describe a rabbit in relation to a log: the rabbit can be 'on' the log, 'behind' it, or 'beneath' it. In fact, describing relationships between different nouns or pronouns is a preposition's primary function.

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