Each word in a sentence performs a function or job; these jobs are called the parts of speech. When trying to build sentences that are clear, well-organized, and grammatically correct, it's really helpful to know how to recognize those parts of speech. In fact, the parts of speech are essential to grammar, which is the set of rules that governs a language.
There are many different parts of speech in English, but in order to prepare to write really effective sentences, your primary focus for now should be on the four most important and basic parts of speech:
Verbs are words that define an action or indicate a state of being.
Verbs are great clues to tell you what’s going on in a sentence, so when you’re identifying the parts of speech, always start by finding the verb in that sentence.
In order to find the verb, look for the action.
EXAMPLESteven sings all the time.
EXAMPLESteven is hungry.
In the second sentence, the action is a "be" verb. It can be easy to miss those "be" verbs because sometimes they’re paired with other verbs.
A noun is a word that names a person, place, thing, or idea. You can easily find a noun by asking who or what in a sentence is doing the action described in the verb.
EXAMPLETeachers talk frequently.
In the above sentence, the action is "talking." Who is doing the talking in this sentence? Teachers.
When you’re identifying nouns and verbs, start by finding the action. You’ll then be able to match it with the noun that’s doing that action. You’ll even notice that verbs often come right after nouns in a sentence.
However, not all sentences have only one noun. More complex sentences may have multiple nouns.
EXAMPLETeachers talk about grammar in the classroom at lunch.
In the above sentence, there are four nouns. The teachers are one, the classroom is another, grammar is a third, and lunch is the fourth. Yet "teachers" is still the noun that’s matched with the verb because it’s the only one of those nouns that can talk.
Pronouns are words that take the place of a noun in a sentence. To see how these work in action, we can take that same sentence from earlier and make it a little more complex.
EXAMPLETeachers always talk about grammar because they think grammar is fun.
In the first half of the sentence, the noun is "teachers." In the second half, we could repeat the noun by saying, "because teachers think grammar is fun," but we can also replace "teachers' with "they," which is a pronoun.
There are two kinds of pronouns:
You use a pronoun to replace a specific noun within a sentence; that noun is called the antecedent. Pronouns therefore work just like nouns, and you can find them in the same way. They even tend to come before a verb, just like a noun does.
Just as you did when you found the noun, ask yourself what the action is in the following sentence, and who’s doing it.
EXAMPLEMy dog barks when she wants something.
You know that "barks" is the verb that the dog is doing. What pronoun replaces "my dog?" "She."
Adjectives are words that modify nouns. This means that adjectives add more detail about a specific noun.
What if the previous sentence gave you more information about the situation?
EXAMPLEMy brown dog barks when she wants something.
Now you know that the dog is brown, giving you a more detailed picture of her. "Brown" is an adjective modifying the noun.
Adjectives are easy to find because all you have to do is look for the noun and point out words that offer extra information about that noun. Usually, adjectives come right before nouns.
Now that you know about the four essential parts of speech, you can practice breaking down a sentence and finding each part of speech inside of it.
EXAMPLEThe dogs played with the big rope as they ran.
Consider the steps you might take to identify those parts of speech.
As you can see, there will probably be more than one noun in many sentences. You might end up finding sentences with more than one verb or more than one adjective as well. But now that you know how to break a sentence down, finding the parts of speech should be a breeze.