2.4 Adjectives, Adverbs, Prepositions, Conjunctions and Interjections


This section of Ch. 2 will cover the following topics:

  • understanding adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections

Nouns, pronouns and verbs are the core of an English sentence. But sentences are more than just who did what. Sentences include descriptions, information about where and when, and often multiple ideas. Those are the jobs of the remaining five parts of speech: adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.


Adjectives make writing more interesting.  For example, “cat” is a nice noun, but “silky spotted cat” is a much more interesting description. “silky” and “spotted” are adjectives. An adjective answers questions such as which one, what kind, what color, or what shape.

Adjectives nouns and pronouns.

Here is an example of adjectives modifying nouns:

The head librarian helped me find a history book on famous writers. (“librarian,” “book” and “writers” are nouns. “head” tell us which librarian; “history” tell us what kind of book; “famous” tells us what kind of writers. So “head,” “history,” and “famous” are all adjectives.)

Here is an example of an adjective modifying a pronoun:

She is tall. (“tall” is an adjective that describes the size of the pronoun “She.”)

The words “a,” “an” and “the” are a type of adjective called an article. They modify nouns and pronouns just like regular adjectives, telling us which one or how many. For example:


To find adjectives, find the nouns and pronouns first. Then look to see what words modify those nouns and pronouns.

The dog barked at a woman on the street. (“The” tells us which dog and which street; “a” tells us how many women.)

In English, adjectives usually come before the noun or pronoun (Asian elephant, small table, long journey). But not always. For example:

The organic farm has oranges that are ripe and juicy. (“The” and “organic” are adjectives that modify the noun “farm” and come before it. But “ripe” and “juicy” are adjectives too; they modify “oranges” even though they come after.)

When nouns or pronouns modify another noun or pronoun, they change jobs, becoming adjectives. For example:

dog’s bed, their house, her computer, Maureen’s book

This is an important piece of information because it reminds us that a word’s part of speech is what job it is doing and that some words can work at different jobs.  When identifying the part of speech of a word, always look at the sentence and what job the word is doing there.


Watch this cartoon video to reinforce what you’ve learned about adjectives:

Exercise 1

In your notebook, copy the following sentences. Leave space between them so you have room to work.

  1. Lily works seven shifts every week at the clinic.
  2. The book is fairly new, but it is damaged.
  3. Flowers make a very special gift.
  4. He is my favorite musician.
  5. That little black dog is noisy.

Then, do the following:

  • Find the nouns. If the noun is proper, put “np” above it. If the noun is common, put “nc” above it.
  • Then, look for pronouns. Put “pro” above them.
  • Find any and put “adj” above them.
  • Then draw an arrow from the adjective to the noun or pronoun it is modifying.


Using our example of the “silky spotted cat,” we can say it “ran.” The verb “ran” is simple and clear. But “The silky spotted cat ran swiftly and silently” is much more interesting than “The cat ran.” “swiftly” and “silently” are adverbs.

Adverbs and adjectives do similar jobs: they other words. The difference is which types of words they modify. Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns.

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

Adverbs answer questions such as how, to what extent, why, when, and where. For example:

  • Adverb modifying a verb: Bertrand sings horribly. (“horribly” modifies the verb “sings”; it tells how.)
  • Adverb modifying an adjective: Sarah was very nervous about the date. (“very” modifies the adjective “nervous”; it tells to what extent.)
  • Adverb modifying another adverb: Students study really hard before finals. (“hard” is an adverb that modifies the verb “study”; it tells how. “really” is also an adverb; it modifies the adverb “hard”; it tells to what extent.)


To find adverbs, first find the verbs and adjectives in the sentence first.

Unlike adjectives, which usually appear in front of the noun or pronoun they modify, adverbs move around. In the following sentences, the adverb “now” modifies the verb “have” by saying when, but it can appear in many locations:

Now I have enough money for a vacation.

I now have enough money for a vacation.

I have enough money now for a vacation.

Adverbs can also appear in the middle of a , but that doesn’t mean they are part of the verb. They are still adverbs. For example:

I do not have enough money for a vacation. (“not” is an adverb that modifies the verb “do have.”)

Unlike adjectives, which often add interesting information, too many adverbs can actually weaken writing. For example:

It was a very, very cold night. (The first “very” already means “excessively.”)


To reinforce what you’ve learned about adverbs, watch this cartoon video:

Exercise 2

Go back to these sentences from Ex. 1.

  1. Lily works seven shifts every week at the clinic.
  2. The book is fairly new, but it is damaged.
  3. Flowers make a very special gift.
  4. He is my favorite musician.
  5. That little black dog is noisy.

You found the nouns, pronouns, and adjectives. Now look for verbs and adverbs:

  • First, find the verb or verbs in the sentence. Label them with a “v.”
  • See if any words those verbs. Label them “adv” for “adverb.”
  • Do any words modify the adjectives you found? Label them “adv.”
  • Finally, see if any words modify the adverbs you just found. Label them “adv” too.
  • Draw an arrow from the adverbs to the words they modify.

If you are unsure about your answers, go back and re-read the earlier sections of this chapter. Don’t move on until you feel comfortable identifying nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.


Nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs tell us who is doing what.

Her small dog is barking loudly. (the noun “dog” is doing the verb “is barking”; “Her” and “small” are adjectives that modify “dog”; “loudly” is an adverb that modifies “is barking”)

But sentences are more complex than simply who and what.  We also want to know where and when.

Her small dog ran into the street.

Her dog barks at 7 a.m.

If you look at the word “preposition,” you’ll see the word “position.”

A preposition shows the position of something in space and time.

A preposition introduces a prepositional .  A prepositional phrase always begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or pronoun. Also, a prepositional phrase never includes the sentence verb or subject.


When working with grammar, we mark prepositional phrases by enclosing them in parentheses.

In the sentences above, “into the street” is a prepositional phrase that shows where the dog ran.  “at 7 a.m.” is a prepositional phrase that tells us when. Both phrases begin with prepositions (“into,” “at”) and end with nouns (“street,” “7 a.m.”), but neither includes the subject (“dog”) or the verb (“ran,” “barks”) of the sentence.

Here is another example:

The study rooms (on the first floor) (of the library) are full (in the morning).

Each group of words enclosed in parentheses is a prepositional phrase: they all start with a preposition (“on,” “of,” “in”), end with a noun or pronoun (“floor,” “library,” “morning”), and don’t include the verb (“are”) or subject (“rooms”). These prepositional phrases tell us where the study rooms are and when they are full.

Here are some common prepositions that show positions in space:

to across over against with
at through inside under within
in beyond between beneath without
on among above around below
by near behind past from

Imagine a plane flying across a sky. We can change the plane’s position in space by changing the prepositions: above the clouds, below the clouds, within the clouds, between the clouds, past the clouds, behind the clouds.

Here are some common prepositions that show positions in time:

at for past within from
by after until since between
in before during throughout around

Imagine that plane is about to land. We can change its position in time by changing prepositions: at 3 p.m., after 3 p.m., before 3 p.m., around 3 p.m.

Note: The words “of,” “as,” and “like” are also prepositions, but they don’t fit neatly into either the space or time category. However, they are very common. For example:

book of essays, type of bicycle, give as an example, testify as an expert, think like a computer, disappear like magic

So just remember them: “of,” “as,” and “like” are prepositions too.

Exercise 3

In your notebook, copy the following sentences. Skip a line between sentences so you have room to add information.

  1. Meera was deeply interested in marine biology.
  2. I just watched the season finale of my favorite show.
  3. Jordan won the race, and I am happy for him.
  4. The lawyer appeared before the court on Monday.
  5. Chloe wore a comfortable blue tunic for the party.

Find all the prepositional phrases and enclose them in parentheses.

Then, above each word in the prepositional phrase, identify the word’s part of speech by writing “n” for noun, “pro” for pronoun, and “prep” for preposition. If there are any adjectives or adverbs, label them “adj” for adjective, and “adv” for adverb. (Remember: There are no verbs in prepositional phrases.)

Locating prepositional phrases will help you find subjects and verbs (especially in a long or complex sentence) because subjects and verbs never appear in a prepositional phrase. For example:

In the rainy season, one of our windows leaked at all four corners.

If we the prepositional phrases from the rest of the sentence, it is easy to see the verb and subject:

(In the rainy season), one (of our windows) leaked (at all four corners).

All we have left after removing the prepositional phrases are the words “one” and “leaked.” So “one” is the pronoun subject of the sentence and “leaked” is the verb.

This can help writers avoid things like subject-verb agreement problems, sentence fragments, and other common sentence errors. (See Ch. 3 for more on sentences.)


To review prepositions, watch this cartoon video:


The word “junction” means a place where things cross or connect.

Conjunctions connect two or more people, things, places, or ideas.

The most common conjunctions are “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” “so.” (These are called “fanboys,” after the first letter of each word.) For example:

A small bird flew into the tree, but nearly collided with a crow.  The small bird swerved at the last minute and landed safely. Neither the crow nor the small bird was hurt, yet both seemed upset. (The underlined words are all conjunctions.)

Other conjunctions (such as “because,” “since,” “after,” “as,” “when,” “while,” “although”) connect two or more parts of a sentence, including connecting to the main part of the sentence.

For example:

The library and its landscaping impress people when they first visit our campus. (“and” joins “library” with “landscaping,” but “when” joins the main part of the sentence with the dependent clause at the end.)


Watch this cartoon video to review conjunctions:

Exercise 4

In your notebook, copy the following sentences. Then, write “conj” above any conjunctions. (It is easier to do this–and good practice–if you also identify all the nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions.)

  1. I don’t mean to brag, but I am the best cook in my family.
  2. Italy experienced the worst heat wave in its history last year when I visited my family.
  3. Ms. Beckett is strange, yet she is also smart.
  4. Hilton’s soccer team lost last season so they will have to practice more next year.
  5. Jose writes letters by hand, and his grandparents love receiving them.
  6. I felt lucky because I got into the college of my choice.


Interjections convey a greeting or show emotion.

Interjections are common in spoken English but rare in written English because they are considered very casual. Interjections are like an emoticon or an exclamation point (both of which should also be avoided in college writing).

Here is are some common interjections, but there are hundreds more:

boo-yah, darn, duh, huh, oh, oops, ouch, sweet, wow, yikes


Watch this cartoon video to review interjections:


  • There are eight parts of speech. Each has a specific job in a sentence.
  • Nouns, pronouns, and verbs form the core of an English sentence.
  • Adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions provide detail.
  • Interjections should be avoided in formal writing.


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