What Are the 8 Parts of Speech in English Grammar?

Traditional Terms for the Basic Word Classes in English

parts of speech
Many words in the English language can function as more than one part of speech. The word work, for instance, can do the job of a noun, a verb, and an adjective (but not at the same time). (Serkan Ismail/ EyeEm/Getty Images)

One way to begin studying basic sentence structures in English is to identify the traditional parts of speech (also known as word classes). These have been called the "building blocks" of grammar. Here you'll learn the names and basic functions of these eight sentence parts.

Learning the names of the parts of speech probably won't make you witty, wealthy, or wise. In fact, learning just the names of the parts of speech won't even make you a better writer.

But you will gain a basic understanding of the English language, which should help you follow the other lessons here at About.com Grammar and Composition. And those lessons will help you to improve your writing.

As you study the table at the bottom of the page, keep in mind that only interjections ("Hooray!") have a habit of standing alone (or alongside complete sentences). The other parts of speech—nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions—come in many varieties and may appear just about anywhere in a sentence. To know for sure what part of speech a word is, we need to look not only at the word itself but also at its meaning, position, and use in a sentence.

For example, in the first sentence below, work functions as a noun; in the second sentence, a verb; and in the third sentence, an adjective:

  • Bosco showed up for work two hours late.
    [The noun work is the thing Bosco shows up for.]
  • He will have to work until midnight.
    [The verb work is the action he must perform.]
  • His work permit expires next month.
    [The attributive noun (or converted adjective) work modifies the noun permit.]

Don't let this variety of meanings and uses discourage or confuse you. Keep in mind that learning the names of the basic parts of speech is just one way to understand how sentences are put together.

Now review the parts of speech listed below, and for each one see if you can provide examples of your own. (Click on the term for more detailed explanations and additional examples.) 

NOTE: Though some traditional grammars have treated articles (the, a[n]) as a distinct part of speech, contemporary grammars more often include articles in the category of determiners.

Parts of Speech

PART OF SPEECHBASIC FUNCTIONEXAMPLES
nounnames a person, place, or thingpirate, Caribbean, ship, freedom, Captain Jack Sparrow
pronountakes the place of a nounI, you, he, she, it, ours, them, who, which, anybody, ourselves
verbidentifies action or state of beingsing, dance, believe, seem, finish, eat, drink, be, become
adjectivemodifies a nounhot, lazy, funny, unique, bright, beautiful, healthy, wealthy, wise
adverbmodifies a verb, adjective, or other adverbsoftly, lazily, often, only, hopefully, softly, sometimes
prepositionshows a relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other words in a sentenceup, over, against, by, for, into, close to, out of, apart from
conjunctionjoins words, phrases, and clausesand, but, or, yet
interjectionexpresses emotion and can usually stand aloneah, whoops, ouch, Yabba dabba do!