Grammar: The Parts of Speech

If we examine the words in any sentence, we observe that they have different tasks or duties to perform in the expression of thought.

Savage beasts roamed through the forest.

In this sentence, beasts and forest are the names of objects; roamed asserts action, telling us what the beasts did; savage describes the beasts; through shows the relation in thought between forest and roamed; the limits the meaning of forest, showing that one particular forest is meant. Thus each of these words has its special office (or function) in the sentence.

In accordance with their use in the sentence, words are divided into eight classes called parts of speech,—namely, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections

  1. A noun is the name of a person, place, or thing. Examples: John, brother, Sydney, table, car, anger, song.
  2. A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun. It designates a person, place, or thing without naming it. Examples: I, he, she, that, who, myself, themselves, it, which.

    Nouns and pronouns are called substantives. The substantive to which a pronoun refers is called its antecedent. Some examples are:

    Frank introduced the boys to his father. [Frank is the antecedent of the pronoun his.]

    The book has lost its cover. [Book is the antecedent of the pronoun its.]

    James and Peter served their country in different ways. [Their has two antecedents, connected by and.]

  3. An adjective is a word which describes or limits a substantive.

    The noun box, for example, includes a great variety of objects. If we say wooden box, we exclude boxes of metal, of paper, etc. If we use a second adjective (small) and a third (square), we limit the size and the shape of the box.

    Most adjectives (like wooden, square, and small) describe as well as limit. Such words are called descriptive adjectives.

    We may, however, limit the noun box to a single specimen by means of the adjective this or that or the, which does not describe, but simply points out, or designates. Such words are called definitive adjectives.

  4. A verb is a word which can assert something (usually an action) concerning a person, place, or thing. For example:

    The Wind blows.
    Tom climbed a tree.
    The fire blazed.

    Some verbs express state or condition rather than action.

    The treaty still exists.
    Near the church stood an elm.

    Sometimes a group of words may be needed, instead of a single verb, to make an assertion. This is called a verb-phrase.

    You will see.
    The tree has fallen.
    Our driver has been discharged.

  5. An adverb is a word which modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

    Example: “The river fell rapidly,” the adverb rapidly modifies the verb fell by showing how the falling took place.

    Most adverbs answer the question “How?” “When?” “Where?” or “To what degree or extent?”

    Adverbs modify verbs in much the same way in which adjectives modify nouns.

    Example:
    Adjective: A bright fire burned.
    Adverb: The fire burned brightly.

    Adjective and adverbs are both modifiers. Adjectives modify substantives; adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.

  6. A preposition is a word placed before a substantive to show its relation to some other word in the sentence.

    The substantive which follows a preposition is called its object.

    A preposition is said to govern its object.

    In “The surface of the water glistened,” of makes it clear that surface belongs with water. In “Philip is on the river,” on shows Philip’s position with respect to the river.

    A preposition often has more than one object.

    Over hill and dale he ran.
    He was filled with shame and despair.

  7. A conjunction connects words or groups of words.

    A conjunction differs from a preposition in having no object, and in indicating a less definite relation between the words which it connects.

    In “Time and tide wait for no man,” “The parcel was small but heavy,” “He wore a kind of doublet or jacket,” the conjunctions and, but, or, connect single words time with tide, small with heavy, doublet with jacket.

  8. An interjection is a cry or other exclamatory sound expressing surprise, anger, pleasure, or some other emotion or feeling.

    Interjections usually have no grammatical connection with the groups of words in which they stand; hence their name, which means “thrown in.”

    Examples: Oh! I forgot. Ah, how I miss you! Bravo! Alas!

Source: An Advanced English Grammar with Exercises by George Lyman Kittredge and Frank Edgar Farley, 1913. Now in the public domain.

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