Parts of speech

This page has information about the parts of speech or word classes in English.

All the words you say or write, read or hear are one of the nine Some grammarians say that there are only eight parts of speech. And others say that there are ten.

There is more information at the foot of this page.
parts of speech*. It is helpful to know the names of the parts of speech (also known as word classes), and to be able to identify the words you meet and use as one of those parts of speech.

If you don't know about the parts of speech, you will not be able to understand some of the grammar explanations you read or that your teacher gives you. For example, if you don't know what a verb is, you will not understand when your teacher says: "This is not a complete sentence. It doesn't have a verb."

Here is a table of the nine word classes or parts of speech:

Part of speech
Most common function
to name a person, place, or thing
teacher, mountain, idea
to do or be something
eat, sleep, think, seem
to describe a noun
silly, huge, boring
to describe how something is done
quickly, well, carelessly
to take the place of a noun
I, she, it, that, them
to join words, phrases, and clauses
and, so, because, when
to introduce a phrase of when, where or how
on, in front of, by, with
to specify or generalize a noun
the, a, an
to express emotion
hey, wow, ouch

For advanced learners and teachers: The word classification presented on this page is highly simplified and follows the traditional method of categorizing words by their meaning; for example, a noun is the name of a person, place or thing.

Modern linguistics has abandoned such a naïve approach, and uses criteria such as form and function (or distributional property) in deciding on the classification of any given word. Hence a noun would be described as a word that has certain derivational or inflectional characteristics (form) or certain syntactical abilities, such as acting as the grammatical subject or object of a clause (function). Indeed, the very term part of speech is deprecated in favour of word class or form class.

The intention of this page, however, is not to present a reliable set of criteria for categorizing words, but simply to introduce to English language learners one part of the traditional metalanguage they will need to know in order to make sense of their dictionaries, grammar books and language instruction.

* Note: In the modern approach, the three article words are typically subsumed in a word classes called determiners or determinatives. Some modern grammarians group pronouns as a sub-set of nouns and not as a separate word class. In fact, there is currently no unanimity on the correct designation of a significant proportion of English vocabulary.

You can read more about the parts of speech on the metalanguage page.