3.1 Parts of Speech


This section of Ch. 3 will cover the following topics:

  • writing and speaking correctly
  • understanding “

There are two ways to be a correct writer:

  • read a lot
  • study

If you were lucky enough to have a family that encouraged you to read books as a child, and your teachers were good so your skills developed, and you did a lot of reading over the years, chances are your writing is already correct. Why? Because your brain absorbed the structures and systems we call “standard English usage” as you read, and you are able to repeat those patterns unconsciously.

If that didn’t happen, then you probably struggle with writing to some extent. You didn’t see or hear enough correct language use to embed the rules in your unconscious mind. But it is never too late! The more you read good writing, the more you will automatically write correctly.

In the meantime, study grammar so you can consciously make correct choices when you write.  Every step gets you closer to the kind of writing you want to be able to do.

The “8 Parts of Speech” System

“Parts of speech” is the system we use to explain how words are used in a sentence–which word goes where, why, and in what form. Even if you struggle with writing, your brain already has a pretty good grasp of how this system works. For example, you know there is something wrong with this sentence:

I love dog my.

If I asked you to explain the problem, I doubt you would say, “The pronoun ‘my’ is being used as an adjective here, to show who owns the dog, and it should come before the noun it modifies.” Still, you’ve heard enough correct examples that your brain automatically sees the problem.

But can you spot the more subtle errors in the following sentences?

  • The two best things about the party was the music and the food. (Error: /verb agreement. The verb “was” does not agree with the subject “things.” It should be “were.”)
  • Natalie found a sparkly girl’s bracelet on the sidewalk. (Error: . It’s not a sparkly girl, it’s a sparkly bracelet.)
  • When John’s dog came back, he was so happy. (Error: unclear pronoun reference. Who was happy? The dog or John?)

Understanding how words work can help writers communicate more clearly and correctly. Start here:

Its “part of speech” is what job a word is doing in a sentence.

There are eight parts of speech in English. Here is a list, with brief job descriptions:

  1. noun: names a person, place, thing, or idea
  2. pronoun: used in place of a noun to avoid repetition
  3. adjective: a noun or pronoun
  4. verb: shows action, links subjects with words that describe them, or helps other verbs do those things
  5. adverb: modifies verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs
  6. preposition: shows the position of something or someone in space and time
  7. conjunction: connects words, phrases, or
  8. interjection: shows surprise or emotion

In this chapter, we will study each of the eight parts of speech in depth.

Graphic Materials

This PowerPoint presentation is a visual review of the parts of speech. Click on the image below to open it and work through the slides.

Screenshot of the first slide of the Powerpoint presentation

Exercise 1

In your notebook, try to list the eight parts of speech without looking. Then, check the list above to see if you remembered all of them, and make any additions or corrections necessary.

Then, in your notebook, see if you can explain the job of each part of speech. When you have finished, re-read this section one more time and correct any errors or fill in any gaps in your explanations.


  • Understanding parts of speech is the first step in understanding how writing works.
  • There are eight parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

1, 2, 3 Write! by Gay Monteverde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.