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Parts of Speech - Page 1

This section of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com is all about learning the nine great classes of the English language referred to as Parts of Speech.

All the words in the English language are divided into nine great classes. These classes are called the Parts of Speech. They are Article, Noun, Adjective, Pronoun, Verb, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction and Interjection. Of these, the Noun is the most important, as all the others are more or less dependent upon it. A Noun signifies the name of any person, place or thing, in fact, anything of which we can have either thought or idea.

There are two kinds of Nouns, Proper and Common. Common Nouns are names which belong in common to a race or class, as people, city. Proper Nouns distinguish individual members of a race or class as John, Philadelphia. In the former case people is a name that belongs in common to the whole race of humankind, and city is also a name that is common to all large centers of population, but John signifies a particular individual of the race, while Philadelphia denotes a particular one from among the cities of the world.

Nouns are varied by Person, Number, Gender, and Case. Person is that relation existing between the speaker, those addressed and the subject under consideration, whether by discourse or correspondence. The Persons are First, Second and Third and they represent respectively the speaker, the person addressed and the person or thing mentioned or under consideration.

Number is the distinction of one from more than one. There are two numbers, singular and plural; the singular denotes one, the plural two or more. The plural is generally formed from the singular by the addition of s or es.

Gender has the same relation to nouns that sex has to individuals, but while there are only two sexes, there are four genders: masculine, feminine, neuter and common. The masculine gender denotes all those of the male kind, the feminine gender all those of the female kind, the neuter gender denotes inanimate things or whatever is without life, and common gender is applied to animate beings, the sex of which for the time being is indeterminable, such as fish, mouse, bird, etc. Sometimes things that are without life as we conceive it and that, properly speaking, belong to the neuter gender, are, by a figure of speech called Personification, changed into either the masculine or feminine gender, as, for instance, we say of the sun, He is rising; of the moon, She is setting.

Case is the relation one noun bears to another or to a verb or to a preposition. There are three cases, the Nominative, the Possessive and the Objective. The nominative is the subject of which we are speaking or the agent that directs the action of the verb; the possessive case denotes possession, while the objective indicates the person or thing which is affected by the action of the verb.

An Article is a word placed before a noun to show whether the latter is used in a particular or general sense. There are but two articles, a or an and the.

An Adjective is a word that qualifies a noun, that is, shows some distinguishing mark or characteristic belonging to the noun.

Definitions

A Pronoun is a word used for or instead of a noun to keep us from repeating the same noun too often. Pronouns, like nouns, have case, number, gender and person. There are three kinds of pronouns, personal, relative and adjective.

A verb is a word that signifies action or the doing of something. A verb is inflected by tense and mood and by number and person, though the latter two belong strictly to the subject of the verb.

An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, an adjective and sometimes another adverb.

A preposition serves to connect words and to show the relation between the objects that the words express.

A conjunction is a word that joins words, phrases, clauses and sentences together.

An interjection is a word that expresses surprise or some sudden emotion of the mind.

Delving Deeper into the Parts of Speech

ARTICLE

An Article is a word placed before a noun to show whether the noun is used in a particular or general sense.

There are two articles, a or an and the. A or an is called the indefinite article because it does not point put any particular person or thing but indicates the noun in its widest sense; thus, a person means any person whatsoever of the species or race.

The is called the definite article because it points out some particular person or thing; thus, the person means some particular individual.

Noun

A noun is the name of any person, place or thing as John, London, book. Nouns are proper and common.

Proper nouns are names applied to particular persons or places.

Common nouns are names applied to a whole kind or species.

Nouns are inflected by number, gender and case.

Number is that inflection of the noun by which we indicate whether it represents one or more than one.

Gender is that inflection by which we signify whether the noun is the name of a male, a female, of an inanimate object or something that has no distinction of sex.

Case is that inflection of the noun that denotes the state of the person, place or thing represented, as the subject of an affirmation or question, the owner or possessor of something mentioned, or the object of an action or of a relation.

Thus in the example, “John tore the pages of Sarah’s book,” the distinction between book, which represents only one object and pages, which represent two or more objects of the same kind is called Number; the distinction of sex between John, a male, and Sarah, a female, and book and pages, things that are inanimate and neither male nor female, is called Gender; and the distinction of state between John, the person who tore the book, and the subject of the affirmation, Mary, the owner of the book, pages the objects torn, and book the object related to pages, as the whole of which they were a part, is called Case.

Adjective

An adjective is a word that qualifies a noun, that is, shows or points out some distinguishing mark or feature of the noun; as, A black dog.

Adjectives have three forms called degrees of comparison, the positive, the comparative and the superlative.

The positive is the simple form of the adjective without expressing increase or diminution of the original quality: nice.

The comparative is that form of the adjective that expresses increase or diminution of the quality: nicer.

The superlative is that form that expresses the greatest increase or diminution of the quality: nicest.

or An adjective is in the positive form when it does not express comparison; as, “A rich man.”

An adjective is in the comparative form when it expresses comparison between two or between one and a number taken collectively, as, “John is richer than James;" “he is richer than all the men in Boston.”

An adjective is in the superlative form when it expresses a comparison between one and a number of individuals taken separately; as, “John is the richest man in Boston.”

Adjectives expressive of properties or circumstances that cannot be increased have only the positive form; as, A circular road; the chief end; an extreme measure.

Adjectives are compared in two ways, either by adding er to the positive to form the comparative and est to the positive to form the superlative, or by prefixing more to the positive for the comparative and most to the positive for the superlative; as, handsome, handsomer, handsomest or handsome, more handsome, most handsome.

Adjectives of two or more syllables are generally compared by prefixing more and most.

Many adjectives are irregular in comparison; as, Bad, worse, worst; Good, better, best.

Pronoun

A pronoun is a word used in place of a noun; as, “John gave his pen to James and he lent it to Jane to write her copy with it.” Without the pronouns we would have to write this sentence: "John gave John’s pen to James and James lent the pen to Jane to write Jane’s copy with the pen.”

There are three kinds of pronouns–Personal, Relative and Adjective Pronouns.

Personal Pronouns are so called because they are used instead of the names of persons, places and things. The Personal Pronouns are I, Thou, He, She, and It, with their plurals, We, Ye or You and They.

(In contemporary language and writing Thou, Thine and Thee are almost never used, except occasionally by the Society of Friends. The Plural form You is used for both the nominative and objective singular in the second person and Yours is used in the possessive in place of Thine.)

I is the pronoun of the first person because it represents the person speaking.

You is the pronoun of the second person because it represents the person spoken to.

He, She, It are the pronouns of the third person because they represent the persons or things of whom we are speaking.

Like nouns, the Personal Pronouns have number, gender and case. The gender of the first and second person is obvious, as they represent the person or persons speaking and those who are addressed. The personal pronouns are thus declined:

 First Person. 
M. or F.

 Sing. Plural. 
N. I We 
P. Mine Ours 
O. Me Us

 Second Person. 
M. or F.

 Sing. Plural. 
N. You You 
P. Your Yours 
O. You You

 Third Person. 
M.

 Sing. Plural. 
N. He They 
P. His Theirs 
O. Him Them

 Third Person. 
F.

 Sing. Plural. 
N. She They 
P. Hers Theirs 
O. Her Them

 Third Person. 
Neuter.

 Sing. Plural. 
N. It They 
P. Its Theirs 
O. It Them

The Relative Pronouns are so called because they relate to some word or phrase going before; as, “The boy who told the truth;” “He has done well, which gives me great pleasure.”

Here who and which are not only used in place of other words, but who refers immediately to boy, and which to the circumstance of his having done well.

The word or clause to which a relative pronoun refers is called the Antecedent.

The Relative Pronouns are who, which, that and what.

Who is applied to persons only; as, “The man who was here.”

That is applied to both persons and things; as, “The friend that helps.” “The bird that sings.” “The knife that cuts.”

What is a compound relative, including both the antecedent and the relative and is equivalent to that which; as, “I did what he desired," i. e. “I did that which he desired.”

Relative pronouns have the singular and plural alike.

Who is either masculine or feminine; which and that are masculine, feminine or neuter; what as a relative pronoun is always neuter.

That and what are not inflected.

Who and which are thus declined:

Sing. and Plural Sing. and Plural

N. Who N. Which 
P. Whose P. Whose 
O. Whom O. Which

Who, which and what when used to ask questions are called Interrogative Pronouns.

Adjective Pronouns partake of the nature of adjectives and pronouns and are subdivided as follows:

Demonstrative Adjective Pronouns that directly point out the person or object. They are this, that with their plurals these, those, and yon, same and selfsame.

Distributive Adjective Pronouns used distributively. They are each, every, either, neither.

Indefinite Adjective Pronouns used more or less indefinitely. They are any, all, few, some, several, one, other, another, none.

Possessive Adjective Pronouns denoting possession. They are my, his, her, its, our, your, their.

N. B.–(The possessive adjective pronouns differ from the possessive case of the personal pronouns in that the latter can stand alone while the former cannot. “Who owns that book?” “It is mine.” You cannot say “it is my;" the word book must be repeated.)

Go to the next page of Parts of Speech (including discussion of Verb, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction, and Interjection).


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Editor's note: This section of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com is excerpted and adapted from How to Speak and Write Correctly by Joseph Devlin, a book in the public domain.