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Английский FAQ > The Parts of Speech
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 The Parts of Speech
Traditional grammar classifies words based on eight parts of speech: the verb, the noun, the pronoun, the adjective, the adverb, the preposition, the conjunction, and the interjection.

Each part of speech explains not what the word is, but how the word is used. In fact, the same word can be a noun in one sentence and a verb or adjective in the next.
8 What is an Interjection?

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A noun is a word used to name a person, animal, place, thing, and abstract idea. Nouns are usually the first words which small children learn. The highlighted words in the following sentences are all nouns:

Late last year our neighbours bought a goat.
Portia White was an opera singer.
The bus inspector looked at all the passengers' passes.
According to Plutarch, the library at Alexandria was destroyed in 48 B.C.
Philosophy is of little comfort to the starving.


The verb is perhaps the most important part of the sentence. A verb or compound verb asserts something about the subject of the sentence and express actions, events, or states of being. The verb or compound verb is the critical element of the predicate of a sentence.

In each of the following sentences, the verb or compound verb is highlighted:

Dracula bites his victims on the neck.

The verb "bites" describes the action Dracula takes.

In early October, Giselle will plant twenty tulip bulbs.

Here the compound verb "will plant" describes an action that will take place in the future.

My first teacher was Miss Crawford, but I remember the janitor Mr. Weatherbee more vividly.

In this sentence, the verb "was" (the simple past tense of "is") identifies a particular person and the verb "remembered" describes a mental action.

Karl Creelman bicycled around the world in 1899, but his diaries and his bicycle were destroyed.

In this sentence, the compound verb "were destroyed" describes an action which took place in the past.


A pronoun can replace a noun or another pronoun. You use pronouns like "he," "which," "none," and "you" to make your sentences less cumbersome and less repetitive.

Grammarians classify pronouns into several types, including the personal pronoun, the demonstrative pronoun, the interrogative pronoun, the indefinite pronoun, the relative pronoun, the reflexive pronoun, and the intensive pronoun.

Personal Pronouns

A personal pronoun refers to a specific person or thing and changes its form to indicate person, number, gender, and case.
Subjective Personal Pronouns

A subjective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as the subject of the sentence. The subjective personal pronouns are "I," "you," "she," "he," "it," "we," "you," "they."

In the following sentences, each of the highlighted words is a subjective personal pronoun and acts as the subject of the sentence:

I was glad to find the bus pass in the bottom of the green knapsack.
You are surely the strangest child I have ever met.
He stole the selkie's skin and forced her to live with him.
When she was a young woman, she earned her living as a coal miner.
After many years, they returned to their homeland.
We will meet at the library at 3:30 p.m.
It is on the counter.
Are you the delegates from Malagawatch?

Objective Personal Pronouns

An objective personal pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as an object of a verb, compound verb, preposition, or infinitive phrase. The objective personal pronouns are: "me," "you," "her," "him," "it," "us," "you," and "them."

In the following sentences, each of the highlighted words is an objective personal pronoun:

Seamus stole the selkie's skin and forced her to live with him.

The objective personal pronoun "her" is the direct object of the verb "forced" and the objective personal pronoun "him" is the object of the preposition "with."

After reading the pamphlet, Judy threw it into the garbage can.

The pronoun "it" is the direct object of the verb "threw."

The agitated assistant stood up and faced the angry delegates and said, "Our leader will address you in five minutes."

In this sentence, the pronoun "you" is the direct object of the verb "address."

Deborah and Roberta will meet us at the newest cafe' in the market.

Here the objective personal pronoun "us" is the direct object of the compound verb "will meet."

Give the list to me.

Here the objective personal pronoun "me" is the object of the preposition "to."

I'm not sure that my contact will talk to you.

Similarly in this example, the objective personal pronoun "you" is the object of the preposition "to."

Christopher was surprised to see her at the drag races.

Here the objective personal pronoun "her" is the object of the infinitive phrase "to see."

Possessive Personal Pronouns

A possessive pronoun indicates that the pronoun is acting as a marker of possession and defines who owns a particular object or person. The possessive personal pronouns are "mine," "yours," "hers," "his," "its," "ours," and "theirs." Note that possessive personal pronouns are very similar to possessive adjectives like "my," "her," and "their."

In each of the following sentences, the highlighted word is a possessive personal pronoun:

The smallest gift is mine.

Here the possessive pronoun "mine" functions as a subject complement.

This is yours.

Here too the possessive pronoun "yours" functions as a subject complement.

His is on the kitchen counter.

In this example, the possessive pronoun "his" acts as the subject of the sentence.

Theirs will be delivered tomorrow.

In this sentence, the possessive pronoun "theirs" is the subject of the sentence.

Ours is the green one on the corner.

Here too the possessive pronoun "ours" function as the subject of the sentence.
Demonstrative Pronouns

A demonstrative pronoun points to and identifies a noun or a pronoun. "This" and "these" refer to things that are nearby either in space or in time, while "that" and "those" refer to things that are farther away in space or time.

The demonstrative pronouns are "this," "that," "these," and "those." "This" and "that" are used to refer to singular nouns or noun phrases and "these" and "those" are used to refer to plural nouns and noun phrases. Note that the demonstrative pronouns are identical to demonstrative adjectives, though, obviously, you use them differently. It is also important to note that "that" can also be used as a relative pronoun.

In the following sentences, each of the highlighted words is a demonstrative pronoun:

This must not continue.

Here "this" is used as the subject of the compound verb "must not continue."

This is puny; that is the tree I want.

In this example "this" is used as subject and refers to something close to the speaker. The demonstrative pronoun "that" is also a subject but refers to something farther away from the speaker.

Three customers wanted these.

Here "these" is the direct object of the verb "wanted."

Interrogative Pronouns

An interrogative pronoun is used to ask questions. The interrogative pronouns are "who," "whom," "which," "what" and the compounds formed with the suffix "ever" ("whoever," "whomever," "whichever," and "whatever"). Note that either "which" or "what" can also be used as an interrogative adjective, and that "who," "whom," or "which" can also be used as a relative pronoun.

You will find "who," "whom," and occasionally "which" used to refer to people, and "which" and "what" used to refer to things and to animals.

"Who" acts as the subject of a verb, while "whom" acts as the object of a verb, preposition, or a verbal.

The highlighted word in each of the following sentences is an interrogative pronoun:

Which wants to see the dentist first?

"Which" is the subject of the sentence.

Who wrote the novel Rockbound?

Similarly "who" is the subject of the sentence.

Whom do you think we should invite?

In this sentence, "whom" is the object of the verb "invite."

To whom do you wish to speak?

Here the interrogative pronoun "whom " is the object of the preposition "to."

Who will meet the delegates at the train station?

In this sentence, the interrogative pronoun "who" is the subject of the compound verb "will meet."

To whom did you give the paper?

In this example the interrogative pronoun "whom" is the object of the preposition "to."

What did she say?

Here the interrogative pronoun "what" is the direct object of the verb "say."

Relative Pronouns

You can use a relative pronoun is used to link one phrase or clause to another phrase or clause. The relative pronouns are "who," "whom," "that," and "which." The compounds "whoever," "whomever," and "whichever" are also relative pronouns.

You can use the relative pronouns "who" and "whoever" to refer to the subject of a clause or sentence, and "whom" and "whomever" to refer to the objects of a verb, a verbal or a preposition.

In each of the following sentences, the highlighted word is a relative pronoun.

You may invite whomever you like to the party.

The relative pronoun "whomever" is the direct object of the compound verb "may invite."

The candidate who wins the greatest popular vote is not always elected.

In this sentence, the relative pronoun is the subject of the verb "wins" and introduces the subordinate clause "who wins the greatest popular vote." This subordinate clause acts as an adjective modifying "candidate."

In a time of crisis, the manager asks the workers whom she believes to be the most efficient to arrive an hour earlier than usual.

In this sentence "whom" is the direct object of the verb "believes" and introduces the subordinate clause "whom she believes to be the most efficient". This subordinate clause modifies the noun "workers."

Whoever broke the window will have to replace it.

Here "whoever" functions as the subject of the verb "broke."

The crate which was left in the corridor has now been moved into the storage closet.

In this example "which" acts as the subject of the compound verb "was left" and introduces the subordinate clause "which was left in the corridor." The subordinate clause acts as an adjective modifying the noun "crate."

I will read whichever manuscript arrives first.

Here "whichever" modifies the noun "manuscript" and introduces the subordinate clause "whichever manuscript arrives first." The subordinate clause functions as the direct object of the compound verb "will read."

Indefinite Pronouns

An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun referring to an identifiable but not specified person or thing. An indefinite pronoun conveys the idea of all, any, none, or some.

The most common indefinite pronouns are "all," "another," "any," "anybody," "anyone," "anything," "each," "everybody," "everyone," "everything," "few," "many," "nobody," "none," "one," "several," "some," "somebody," and "someone." Note that some indefinite pronouns can also be used as indefinite adjectives.

The highlighted words in the following sentences are indefinite pronouns:

Many were invited to the lunch but only twelve showed up.

Here "many" acts as the subject of the compound verb "were invited."

The office had been searched and everything was thrown onto the floor.

In this example, "everything" acts as a subject of the compound verb "was thrown."

We donated everything we found in the attic to the woman's shelter garage sale.

In this sentence, "everything" is the direct object of theverb "donated."

Although they looked everywhere for extra copies of the magazine, they found none.

Here too the indefinite pronoun functions as a direct object: "none" is the direct object of "found."

Make sure you give everyone a copy of the amended bylaws.

In this example, "everyone" is the indirect object of the verb "give" -- the direct object is the noun phrase "a copy of the amended bylaws."

Give a registration package to each.

Here "each" is the object of the preposition "to."

Reflexive Pronouns

You can use a reflexive pronoun to refer back to the subject of the clause or sentence.

The reflexive pronouns are "myself," "yourself," "herself," "himself," "itself," "ourselves," "yourselves," and "themselves." Note each of these can also act as an intensive pronoun.

Each of the highlighted words in the following sentences is a reflexive pronoun:

Diabetics give themselves insulin shots several times a day.
The Dean often does the photocopying herself so that the secretaries can do more important work.
After the party, I asked myself why I had faxed invitations to everyone in my office building.
Richard usually remembered to send a copy of his e-mail to himself.
Although the landlord promised to paint the apartment, we ended up doing it ourselves.

Intensive Pronouns

An intensive pronoun is a pronoun used to emphasise its antecedent. Intensive pronouns are identical in form to reflexive pronouns.

The highlighted words in the following sentences are intensive pronouns:

I myself believe that aliens should abduct my sister.
The Prime Minister himself said that he would lower taxes.
They themselves promised to come to the party even though they had a final exam at the same time.


An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun by describing, identifying, or quantifying words. An adjective usually precedes the noun or the pronoun which it modifies.

In the following examples, the highlighted words are adjectives:

The truck-shaped balloon floated over the treetops.
Mrs. Morrison papered her kitchen walls with hideous wall paper.
The small boat foundered on the wine dark sea.
The coal mines are dark and dank.
Many stores have already begun to play irritating Christmas music.
A battered music box sat on the mahogany sideboard.
The back room was filled with large, yellow rain boots.

An adjective can be modified by an adverb, or by a phrase or clause functioning as an adverb. In the sentence

My husband knits intricately patterned mittens.

for example, the adverb "intricately" modifies the adjective "patterned."

Some nouns, many pronouns, and many participle phrases can also act as adjectives. In the sentence

Eleanor listened to the muffled sounds of the radio hidden under her pillow.

for example, both highlighted adjectives are past participles.

Grammarians also consider articles ("the," "a," "an") to be adjectives.

Possessive Adjectives

A possessive adjective ("my," "your," "his," "her," "its," "our," "their") is similar or identical to a possessive pronoun; however, it is used as an adjective and modifies a noun or a noun phrase, as in the following sentences:

I can't complete my assignment because I don't have the textbook.

In this sentence, the possessive adjective "my" modifies "assignment" and the noun phrase "my assignment" functions as an object. Note that the possessive pronoun form "mine" is not used to modify a noun or noun phrase.

What is your phone number.

Here the possessive adjective "your" is used to modify the noun phrase "phone number"; the entire noun phrase "your phone number" is a subject complement. Note that the possessive pronoun form "yours" is not used to modify a noun or a noun phrase.

The bakery sold his favourite type of bread.

In this example, the possessive adjective "his" modifies the noun phrase "favourite type of bread" and the entire noun phrase "his favourite type of bread" is the direct object of the verb "sold."

After many years, she returned to her homeland.

Here the possessive adjective "her" modifies the noun "homeland" and the noun phrase "her homeland" is the object of the preposition "to." Note also that the form "hers" is not used to modify nouns or noun phrases.

We have lost our way in this wood.

In this sentence, the possessive adjective "our" modifies "way" and the noun phrase "our way" is the direct object of the compound verb "have lost". Note that the possessive pronoun form "ours" is not used to modify nouns or noun phrases.

In many fairy tales, children are neglected by their parents.

Here the possessive adjective "their" modifies "parents" and the noun phrase "their parents" is the object of the preposition "by." Note that the possessive pronoun form "theirs" is not used to modify nouns or noun phrases.

The cat chased its ball down the stairs and into the backyard.

In this sentence, the possessive adjective "its" modifies "ball" and the noun phrase "its ball" is the object of the verb "chased." Note that "its" is the possessive adjective and "it's" is a contraction for "it is."

Demonstrative Adjectives

The demonstrative adjectives "this," "these," "that," "those," and "what" are identical to the demonstrative pronouns, but are used as adjectives to modify nouns or noun phrases, as in the following sentences:

When the librarian tripped over that cord, she dropped a pile of books.

In this sentence, the demonstrative adjective "that" modifies the noun "cord" and the noun phrase "that cord" is the object of the preposition "over."

This apartment needs to be fumigated.

Here "this" modifies "apartment" and the noun phrase "this apartment" is the subject of the sentence.

Even though my friend preferred those plates, I bought these.

In the subordinate clause, "those" modifies "plates" and the noun phrase "those plates" is the object of the verb "preferred." In the independent clause, "these" is the direct object of the verb "bought."

Note that the relationship between a demonstrative adjective and a demonstrative pronoun is similar to the relationship between a possessive adjective and a possessive pronoun, or to that between a interrogative adjective and an interrogative pronoun.

Interrogative Adjectives

An interrogative adjective ("which" or "what") is like an interrogative pronoun, except that it modifies a noun or noun phrase rather than standing on its own (see also demonstrative adjectives and possessive adjectives):

Which plants should be watered twice a week?

Like other adjectives, "which" can be used to modify a noun or a noun phrase. In this example, "which" modifies "plants" and the noun phrase "which plants" is the subject of the compound verb "should be watered":

What book are you reading?

In this sentence, "what" modifies "book" and the noun phrase "what book" is the direct object of the compound verb "are reading."

Indefinite Adjectives

An indefinite adjective is similar to an indefinite pronoun, except that it modifies a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase, as in the following sentences:

Many people believe that corporations are under-taxed.

The indefinite adjective "many" modifies the noun "people" and the noun phrase "many people" is the subject of the sentence.

I will send you any mail that arrives after you have moved to Sudbury.

The indefinite adjective "any" modifies the noun "mail" and the noun phrase "any mail" is the direct object of the compound verb "will send."

They found a few goldfish floating belly up in the swan pound.

In this example the indefinite adjective modifies the noun "goldfish" and the noun phrase is the direct object of the verb "found":

The title of Kelly's favourite game is "All dogs go to heaven."

Here the indefinite pronoun "all" modifies "dogs" and the full title is a subject complement.


An adverb can modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a phrase, or a clause. An adverb indicates manner, time, place, cause, or degree and answers questions such as "how," "when," "where," "how much".

While some adverbs can be identified by their characteristic "ly" suffix, most of them must be identified by untangling the grammatical relationships within the sentence or clause as a whole. Unlike an adjective, an adverb can be found in various places within the sentence.

In the following examples, each of the highlighted words is an adverb:

The seamstress quickly made the mourning clothes.

In this sentence, the adverb "quickly" modifies the verb "made" and indicates in what manner (or how fast) the clothing was constructed.

The midwives waited patiently through a long labour.

Similarly in this sentence, the adverb "patiently" modifies the verb "waited" and describes the manner in which the midwives waited.

The boldly spoken words would return to haunt the rebel.

In this sentence the adverb "boldly" modifies the adjective "spoken."

We urged him to dial the number more expeditiously.

Here the adverb "more" modifies the adverb "expeditiously."

Unfortunately, the bank closed at three today.

In this example, the adverb "unfortunately" modifies the entire sentence.

Conjunctive Adverbs

You can use a conjunctive adverb to join two clauses together. Some of the most common conjunctive adverbs are "also," "consequently," "finally," "furthermore," "hence," "however," "incidentally," "indeed," "instead," "likewise," "meanwhile," "nevertheless," "next," "nonetheless," "otherwise," "still," "then," "therefore," and "thus." A conjunctive adverb is not strong enough to join two independent clauses without the aid of a semicolon.

The highlighted words in the following sentences are conjunctive adverbs:

The government has cut university budgets; consequently, class sizes have been increased.
He did not have all the ingredients the recipe called for; therefore, he decided to make something else.
The report recommended several changes to the ways the corporation accounted for donations; furthermore, it suggested that a new auditor be appointed immediately.
The crowd waited patiently for three hours; finally, the doors to the stadium were opened.
Batman and Robin fruitlessly searched the building; indeed, the Joker had escaped through a secret door in the basement.


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