The 8 Parts of Speech

NOUN – a word that names a person, place, thing or idea

                (a person = Jane, girl;  a place = Boston, city; a thing = dog, block, or an idea = joy, emotion, etc.)  When determining whether a word is a noun, ask yourself  – can you see this, touch it, or is it a thought  in your head?)

VERB – a word that shows action OR a state of being word OR a helping verb

                Action is easy – can you do that now, in the past, or in the future like run/ran, jump/jumped, write/wrote/written?

                Helping verb

There are 23 helping verbs – they HELP another verb.  Memorizing these 23 words will ensure you know verbs. They include the forms of the verb “to be” plus 15 others that can be learned in sets (3 sets of 3, 3 sets of 2)

Am                                                        have, had, has

Is                                                            do , does, did

Are                                                        should, could, would

Was                                                      can, may

Were                                                    might, must

Be                                                          shall, will



Determining whether these are used as a state of being or as a helping verb is quite easy.  Just follow this:  If any of these verbs are alone in the sentence, they are called state of being. 

If any of these verbs are WITH another verb in the sentence, they are called helping verbs.

They are all verbs!

So we can have a sentence with one, two, three, or more of combinations that make up a verb

                Sue ran. (one action verb)

                Sue has run (a helping verb with an action verb)

                Sue has been running marathons for many years. (two helping verbs with an action verb)

To determine whether a word is a verb, ask yourself

– is it on the list? 

– is it an action?

If not, it probably isn’t a verb!

ADJECTIVE – a word that describes a noun or pronoun

                                An adjective will answer the questions : Which one? What kind?  How many?

The blue dress – blue describes a thing, the dress, and tells which one

The brick building – brick describes a thing, the building, and tells what kind

The two girls – two describes a person, the girls, and tells how many

ADVERB – a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb

                If you don’t know these, then determining an adverb is a problem.

                But, it is made easier if you ask what the word’s function is.  An adverb will answer the questions How? When? Where? To what extent?

The girl ran home (home tells where she ran so it describes an action verb ran)

The girl ran yesterday ( yesterday tells when she ran)

The girl ran fast (fast tells how she ran)

The girl ran too fast (too tells to what extent and fast tells how)

PRONOUN – a word that replaces a noun. (pro means “for” so “pro” noun means it stands “for” a noun.  Any place a noun can be used, a pronoun can be used.)

We would sound silly saying, Jill drove Jill’s car to Jill’s work and parked the car in Jill’s parking space.  Instead, we use pronouns to replace Jill or Jill’s and say, Jill drove her car to her work and parked in her parking space.

There are different kinds of pronouns.  They can be memorized.

Personal –Nominative ( I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they)  Objective ( me, him, her, us, them)

Reflexive – ones that end in self or selves – himself, themselves, oneself, etc.

Demonstrative – there are only four – they demonstrate – or point to- something:

 this, that, these, those

Interrogative – 5 words used to ask a question – 4 “wh” words  –  who, what, when where plus how

Relative  – who, whom, whose, which, that – used to start clauses

PREPOSITION – a word that shows relationship between two things. These can be memorized – there is a long list available in most language books.

A pencil and a desk. Using prepositions we can determine the relationship between them.

The pencil is above the desk, under the desk, over the desk, near the desk, in the desk

                Many times prepositions are followed by a noun; that noun is called the object of the preposition and the entire group of words is called a prepositional phrase.  Don’t be scared by the term, phrase.  It merely means a group of words.

So a prepositional phrase merely means a group of words starting with the preposition and ending with the noun or pronoun after it. 

under the desk

by the window

after the game

CONJUNCTION – a word that joins (like a junction of two streets must come together). These can be single words such as:

and, or, nor, but

Or as pairs:



not only…but also

INTERJECTION – a word that shows emotion or any word that you probably would use in a moment of anger that would get you kicked out of class for using!




You get the drift.  This part of speech never has to be looked up in the dictionary and is often followed by an exclamation point !

Parts of the Sentence

Subject, Predicate, Direct Object, Indirect Object, Predicate Nominative, Predicate Adjective.

Subject                           Predicate       Direct Object            Indirect Obj             PA                  PN

(noun or pronoun)         (verb)        (noun or pro)              (noun or pro)         (adj)             (n or pro)

Tip:  notice how versatile the noun (or pronoun) is, just like the great player on a team who can play many positions.  The noun can be a subject, direct object, indirect object, or a predicate nominative.  In addition, remember, the noun after a preposition (on the bus).  So, a noun can be used in 5 locations!

Sentences could have a combination of these.  And, knowing some simple ways to determine what is what will be key to knowing these. 

To make a sentence, you MUST have two of these – a subject and a predicate (most of the time just called a verb which we will do for clarification).  If both are not in a sentence, you do NOT have a sentence but rather a fragment (a piece of something that is not complete).

Let’s break the parts of the sentence down into more simplified understanding. You will see why knowing your parts of speech helps.

Subject – must be a noun or pronoun; this is what the sentence is about

Predicate – a verb – either action, helping, or state of being

A sentence can be made with just a subject and a verb.

Jane ran. (noun and action verb)

I am. (pronoun and state of being verb)

You can use two of each

Jane and Bob ran.

Jane ran and jumped.

Or even, three (Jane ran, jumped, and skipped), four (Jane ran, jumped, skipped, and hopped.) 

So this is our simple sentence – a subject and a verb.

But it would be very boring to read a book of all simple sentences so there are other parts of the sentence.

Direct Object – a noun or pronoun that is directly affected by the verb

Jane hit the ball.  Jane is our subject since the sentence is talking about her.

                                       hit is our verb since that is the action

                                       ball is a noun that shows what is being hit – the object directly affected by the verb.

A direct object can be determined by saying the subject, the verb who or what?

Jane hit who or what?  answer ball and ball IS a noun– so ball is the direct object

Here is tip. 

A direct object will come after an action verb.  And, hit is an action verb

Jane hit the ball.

I hate you.

The boy clobbered his friend (friend is a noun, answers who the boy clobbered and comes after the action verb clobbered so it is the direct object.

Indirect Object – now, here is a tip – there can only be an indirect object if there is a direct object in the sentence, but there doesn’t have to be any indirect object.  And the second tip – it will be placed between the verb and the direct object – not after it!

Indirect object – a noun or pronoun that indirectly is affected by the verb.  It will tell to whom or what

Jane hit me the ball.  We already determined that the ball is being hit so “ball” is the direct object.  But, the sentence is telling us the ball was hit to me.  So, indirectly “me” is getting the ball.  “Me” is a pronoun that comes between the verb and the direct object and tells us to whom the ball was hit.

I gave my mom flowers. (I is the subject; gave an action verb.  After an action verb, a sentence could have a direct object – I gave what?  answer: flowers.  Flowers is a noun so is the direct object.  Since there is a direct object, we now look for an indirect object.  Is there a word between the verb and the direct object?  yes  Is it a noun or pronoun?  yes a noun.  Does it answer to whom the flowers were given?  yes, to mom.  so “mom”: is the indirect object.

So, let’s recap.  There must be a subject and a verb.

If the verb is an action verb, there might be a direct object

If there is a direct object, there might be an indirect object.

If there is an indirect object, it can only be between the verb and the direct object.

As you can see, one thing depends on the other.  Again, think of sports.  IF there is a touchdown in football, then there could be an extra point kicked. 

Now, let’s move on to two other parts of the sentence

Predicate Adjective or Predicate Nominative

Tips:  these will only be in sentences with state of being verbs

                they follow the verb

The predicate adjective is an adjective and so describes a noun, in this case the subject that is a noun. 

Example: The girl is pretty (girl is the subject, is = state of being verb.  pretty is an adjective that comes after the verb and describes girl, the subject,  so it is a predicate adj.

The predicate nominative is a noun or pronoun (nominative is just a fancy name for noun or pronoun  – memorizing nominative pronouns helps).  The predicate nominative renames the subject.

Example: That girl is my sister.  (girl is the subject; is= state of being verb. sister is a noun and renames the girl so it is a predicate nominative.

Tip:  turn the sentence around and if it still makes sense, this shows there is a predicate nominative.  That girl is my sister.  My sister is that girl.

So, after a state of being verb you could have EITHER a predicate adjective OR a predicate nominative.  Not both. 

Everything depends on what kind of verb is in the sentence.  Now, you see why learning your verbs is key to the parts of the sentence.