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Recognizing The Four Major Parts Of Speech

Feb 22, 2008
In grammar there are eight parts of speech which break down into four major parts and four minor parts. A part of speech is a category assigned to a word or a phrase. The four main parts of speech are noun, adjective, adverb and verb. In English, a word can be more than one part of speech depending on how it is used.

A noun is a word that is used to name a person (Nicolas), place (Guatemala), thing (television), quality (beauty), action (flight,) or idea (mercy). There are several different kinds of nouns including proper nouns, common nouns and abstract nouns. Proper nouns are used to name specific people, places or things and are capitalized. Dawn Williams, Dawson City and Golden Gate Bridge are all examples of proper nouns. Common nouns refer to all nouns that are not proper and they are not capitalized. Abstract nouns name ideas, qualities and other intangibles. Some of these include words such as fear, happiness and honesty.

Adjectives are words that describe, modify or qualify a noun or a pronoun. An adjective tells us how many, what kind, or which one. In the following sentences, the italicized words are examples of adjectives.

"Jordan gave his mother the silver bracelet for her birthday." (What kind?)
"There were thirty coats for sale in her shop." (How many?)
"Out of the sisters, Sarah was the older one." (Which one?)

Adjectives can also change form by adding -er or -est to the end of if they are preceded by "more" or "most". The easiest way to find an adjective is to find the word that describes the noun. Articles are considered to be adjectives as well. There are two different kinds of articles and they are: definite (the) and indefinite (a, an).

Verbs are words that describe an action (walk, jump, think) or a state of being (become, is, seem). A complete verb is made up of the main verb as well as any helping verbs that may or may not be used with it. The most commonly used helping verbs are called the nine models which are could, should, would, might, may, shall, will, must and can. These models express how the writer feels about the verb. They give the verb a sense of urgency or obligation. Every verb has five forms which include; base form (walk), past tense (walked), past participle (I have walked), present tense (he/she/it walks) and present participle (I am walking).

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives or another adverb. To find out which words in a sentence are adverbs, ask yourself when, where, how, why, under what circumstances and to what extent, as the answers to all of these questions are in fact adverbs. The italicized words in the following sentences are all adverbs.

"She walked near her house." (Where?)
"She walked yesterday morning." (When?)
"She walked carefully." (How?)
"She walked because she needed to get to work." (Why?)
"She walked while feeling sad." (Under what circumstances?)
"She walked quite carefully through the snow." (To what extent?)

Another way to recognize an adverb is to look for words that end with the suffix -LY. Most of these adverbs are created by ending -LY to the end of an adjective. Some examples of this are slowly (slow), aggressively (aggressive) and hopelessly (hopeless).

The four major parts of speech are found in any good writing. Learning to use them correctly is the best way to ensure that youŽll understand them when you come across each part as you read or write.
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