Parts of speech guide

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What are Parts of Speech?

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Just as a skilled bricklayer must get to grips with the trowel, brick hammer, tape measure, and spirit level, the student-writer must develop a thorough understanding of the tools of their trade too.

In English, words can be categorized according to their common syntactic function in a sentence, i.e. the job they perform.

We call these different categories Parts of Speech. Understanding the various parts of speech and how they work has several compelling benefits for our students.

Without first acquiring a firm grasp of the various parts of speech, students will struggle to fully comprehend how language works. This is essential not only for the development of their reading comprehension but their writing skills too.

Parts of speech are the core building blocks of grammar. To understand how a language works at a sentence and a whole-text level, we must first master parts of speech.

In English, we can identify eight of these individual parts of speech, and these will provide the focus for our Complete Guide to Parts of Speech.

THE EIGHT PARTS OF SPEECH (Click to jump to each section)

NounS

parts of speech, what is a noun?

Often the first word that a child speaks will be a noun, for example, Mum, Dad, cow, dog, etc.

Nouns are naming words, and, as most school kids can recite, they are the names of people, places, and things. But, what isn’t as widely understood by many of our students is that nouns can be further classified into more specific categories. 

These categories are:

  1. Common Nouns
  2. Proper Nouns
  3. Concrete Nouns
  4. Abstract Nouns
  5. Collective Nouns
  6. Countable Nouns
  7. Uncountable Nouns

All nouns can be classified as either common or proper.

Common Nouns

Common nouns are the general names of people, places, and things. They are groups or classes on their own, rather than specific types of people, places, or things such as we find in proper nouns.

Common nouns can be further classified as abstract or concrete – more on this shortly!

Some examples of common nouns include:

People: teacher, author, engineer, artist, singer.

Places: country, city, town, house, garden.

Things: language, trophy, magazine, movie, book.

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns are the specific names for people, places, and things. Unlike common nouns, which are always lowercase, proper nouns are capitalized. This makes them easy to identify in a text.

Where possible, using proper nouns in place of common nouns helps bring precision to a student’s writing.

Some examples of proper nouns include:

People: Mrs Casey, J.K. Rowling, Nikola Tesla, Pablo Picasso, Billie Eilish.

Places: Australia, San Francisco, Llandovery, The White House, Gardens of Versailles.

Things: Bulgarian, The World Cup, Rolling Stone, The Lion King, The Hunger Games.

Nouns Teaching Activity: Common vs Proper Nouns

  • Provide students with books suitable for their current reading level.
  • Instruct students to go through a page or two and identify all the nouns.
  • Ask students to sort these nouns into two lists according to whether they are common nouns or proper nouns.

As mentioned, all common and proper nouns can be further classified as either concrete or abstract.


Concrete Nouns

A concrete noun is any noun that can be experienced through one of the five senses. In other words, if you can see, smell, hear, taste, or touch it, then it’s a concrete noun.

Some examples of concrete nouns include:

  • Platypus
  • Perfume
  • Tune
  • Lemon
  • Tornado

Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns refer to those things that can’t be experienced or identified through the five senses.

They are not physical things we can perceive but, instead, intangible concepts and ideas, qualities and states.

Some examples of abstract nouns include:

  • Freedom
  • Courage
  • Beauty
  • Wellbeing
  • Love

Nouns Teaching Activity: Concrete Vs. Abstract Nouns

  • Provide students with a book suitable for their current reading level.
  • Instruct students to go through a page or two and identify all the nouns (the lists from Practice Activity #1 may be suitable).
  • This time, ask students to sort these nouns into two lists according to whether they are concrete or abstract nouns.

Collective Nouns

A collective noun is the name of a group of people or things. That is, a collective noun always refers to more than one of something.

Some examples of collective nouns include:

People: a board of directors, a team of football players, a cast of actors, a band of musicians, a class of students.

Places: a range of mountains, a suite of rooms, a union of states, a chain of islands.

Things: a bale of hay, a constellation of stars, a bag of sweets, a school of fish, a flock of seagulls.

Countable Nouns

Countable nouns are nouns that refer to things that can be counted. They come in two flavors: singular and plural.

In their singular form, countable nouns are often preceded by the article, e.g. a, an, or, the.

In their plural form, countable nouns are often preceded by a number. They can also be used in conjunction with quantifiers such as a few and many.

Some examples of countable nouns include:

COUNTABLE NOUNS EXAMPLES

SingularPlural
a driver two drivers
the housethe houses
an applea few apples
dogdogs

Uncountable Nouns

Also known as mass nouns, uncountable nouns are, as their name suggests, impossible to count. Abstract ideas such as bravery and compassion are uncountable, as are things like liquid and bread.

These types of nouns are always treated in the singular and usually do not have a plural form. 

They can stand alone or be used in conjunction with words and phrases such as any, some, a little, a lot of, and much.

Some examples of uncountable nouns include:

UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS EXAMPLES

Advice
Money
Baggage
Danger
Warmth
Milk

Nouns Teaching Activity: How many can you list?

  • Organize students into small groups to work collaboratively.
  • Challenge students to list as many countable and uncountable nouns as they can in ten minutes.
  • To make things more challenging, stipulate that there must be an uncountable noun and a countable noun to gain a point.
  • The winning group is the one that scores the most points.
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VerbS

Without a verb, there is no sentence! Verbs are the words we use to represent both internal and external actions or states of being. Without a verb, nothing happens.

Parts of Speech - What is a verb?

There are many different types of verbs. Here, we will look at five important verb forms organised according to the jobs they perform:

  1. Dynamic Verbs
  2. Stative Verbs
  3. Transitive Verbs
  4. Intransitive Verbs
  5. Auxiliary Verbs

Each verb can be classified as being either an action or a stative verb.

Dynamic Verbs

Dynamic or action verbs describe the physical activity performed by the subject of a sentence. This type of verb is usually the first we learn as children. 

For example, run, hit, throw, hide, eat, sleep, watch, write, etc. are all dynamic verbs, as is any action performed by the body.

Let’s see a few examples in sentences:

  • I jogged around the track three times.
  • She will dance as if her life depends on it.
  • She took a candy from the bag, unwrapped it, and popped it into her mouth.

If a verb doesn’t describe a physical activity, then it is a stative verb.

Stative Verbs

Stative verbs refer to states of being, conditions, or mental processes. Generally, we can classify stative verbs into four types:

  • Senses
  • Emotions/Thoughts
  • Being
  • Possession

Some examples of stative verbs include: 

Senses: hurt, see, smell, taste, hear, etc.

Emotions: love, doubt, desire, remember, believe, etc.

Being: be, have, require, involve, contain, etc.

Possession: want, include, own, have, belong, etc.

Here are some stative verbs at work in sentences:

  • That is one thing we can agree on.
  • I remember my first day at school like it was yesterday.
  • The university requires students to score at least 80%.
  • She has only three remaining.

Sometimes verbs can fit into more than one category, e.g., be, have, look, see, e.g.,

  • She looks beautiful. (Stative)
  • I look through the telescope. (Dynamic)

Each action or stative verb can also be further classified as transitive or intransitive.

Transitive Verbs

A transitive verb takes a direct object after it. The object is the noun, noun phrase, or pronoun that has something done to it by the subject of the sentence.

We see this in the most straightforward English sentences, i.e., the Subject-Verb-Object or SVO sentence. 

Here are two examples to illustrate. Note: the subject of each sentence is underlined, and the transitive verbs are in bold.

  • The teacher answered the student’s questions.
  • She studies languages at university.
  • My friend loves cabbage.

Most sentences in English employ transitive verbs.

Intransitive Verbs

An intransitive verb does not take a direct object after it. It is important to note that only nouns, noun phrases, and pronouns can be classed as direct objects. 

Here are some examples of intransitive verbs – notice how none of these sentences has direct objects after their verbs.

  • Jane’s health improved.
  • The car ran smoothly.
  • The school opens at 9 o’clock.

Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs, also known as ‘helping’ verbs, work with other verbs to affect the meaning of a sentence. They do this by combining with a main verb to alter the sentence’s tense, mood, or voice.

Auxiliary verbs will frequently use not in the negative.

There are relatively few auxiliary verbs in English. Here is a list of the main ones:

  • be (am, are, is, was, were, being)
  • can
  • could
  • do (did, does, doing)
  • have (had, has, having)
  • may
  • might
  • must
  • shall
  • should
  • will
  • would

Here are some examples of auxiliary verbs (in bold) in action alongside a main verb (underlined).

  • She is working as hard as she can.
  • You must not eat dinner until after five o’clock.
  • The parents may come to the graduation ceremony.

The Subject-Auxiliary Inversion Test

To test whether or not a verb is an auxiliary verb, you can use the Subject-Auxiliary Inversion Test.

  1. Take the sentence, e.g:

She is working as hard as she can.

  1. Now, invert the subject and the suspected auxiliary verb to see if it creates a question.

Is she working as hard as she can?

  1. Can it take ‘not’ in the negative form?

She is not working as hard as she can.

  1. If the answer to both of these questions is yes, you have an auxiliary verb. If not, you have a full verb.

Verbs Teaching Activity: Identify the Verbs

  • Provide students with books suitable for their current reading level.
  • Instruct students to go through an appropriate text length (e.g., paragraph, page, etc.) and compile a list of verbs.
  • In groups, students should then discuss and categorize each verb according to whether they think they are dynamic or stative, transitive or intransitive, and/or auxiliary verbs.

AdjectiveS

The job of an adjective is to modify a noun or a pronoun. It does this by describing, quantifying, or identifying the noun or pronoun. Adjectives help to make writing more interesting and specific. Usually, the adjective is placed before the word it modifies.

Parts of speech - What is an Adjective?

As with other parts of speech, not all adjectives are the same. There are many different types of adjectives and, in this article, we will look at:

  1. Descriptive Adjectives
  2. Degrees of Adjectives
  3. Quantitative Adjectives
  4. Demonstrative Adjectives
  5. Possessive Adjectives
  6. Interrogative Adjectives
  7. Proper Adjectives
  8. Articles

Descriptive Adjectives

Descriptive adjectives are what most students think of first when asked what an adjective is. Descriptive adjectives tell us something about the quality of the noun or pronoun in question. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as qualitative adjectives.

Some examples of this type of adjective include:

  • beautiful
  • enormous
  • impressive
  • golden
  • hard-working

In sentences, they look like this:

  • The pumpkin was enormous.
  • It was an impressive feat of athleticism I ever saw.
  • Undoubtedly, this was an exquisite vase.
  • She faced some tough competition.

Degrees of Adjectives 

Descriptive adjectives have three degrees to express varying degrees of intensity and to compare one thing to another. These degrees are referred to as positive, comparative, and superlative.

The positive degree is the regular form of the descriptive adjective when no comparison is being made, e.g., strong.

The comparative degree is used to compare two people, places, or things, e.g., stronger.

There are several ways to form the comparative, methods include:

  • Adding more or less before the adjective
  • Adding -er to the end of one syllable adjectives
  • For two-syllable adjectives ending in y, change the y to an i and add -er to the end.

The superlative degree is typically used when comparing three or more things to denote the upper or lowermost limit of a quality, e.g., strongest.

There are several ways to form the superlative, including:

  • Adding most or least before the adjective
  • Adding -est to the end of one syllable adjectives
  • For two-syllable adjectives ending in y, change the y to an i and add -est to the end.

There are also some irregular adjectives of degree that follow no discernible pattern that must be learned off by students, e.g., goodbetterbest.

Let’s take a look at these degrees of adjectives in their different forms.

PositiveComparativeSuperlative
beautiful more beautiful most beautiful
deliciousless deliciousleast delicious
nearnearernearest
happyhappierhappiest
badworseworst

Let’s take a quick look at some sample sentences:

Positive

  • It was a beautiful example of kindness. 

Comparative

  • The red is nice, but the green is prettier.

Superlative

  • This mango is the most delicious fruit I have ever tastiest. 

Quantitative Adjectives

Quantitive adjectives provide information about how many or how much of the noun or pronoun.

Some quantitive adjectives include:

  • She only ate half of her sandwich.
  • This is my first time here.
  • I would like three slices, please.
  • There isn’t a single good reason to go.
  • There aren’t many places like it.
  • It’s too much of a good thing.
  • I gave her a whole box of them.

Demonstrative Adjectives

A demonstrative adjective identifies or emphasizes a noun’s place in time or space. The most common demonstrative adjectives are this, that, these, and those.

Here are some examples of demonstrative adjectives in use:

  • This boat is mine.
  • That car belongs to her.
  • These shoes clash with my dress.
  • Those people are from Canada.

Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives show ownership, and they are sometimes confused with possessive pronouns.

The most common possessive adjectives are my, your, his, her, our, and their.

Students need to be careful not to confuse these with possessive pronouns such as mine, yours, his (same in both contexts), hers, ours, and theirs.

Here are some examples of possessive adjectives in sentences:

  • My favorite food is sushi.
  • I would like to read your book when you have finished it.
  • I believe her car is the red one.
  • This is their way of doing things.
  • Our work here is done.

Interrogative Adjectives

Interrogative adjectives ask questions, and, in common with many types of adjectives, they are always followed by a noun. Basically, these are the question words we use to start questions. Be careful however, interrogative adjectives modify nouns. If the word after the question word is a verb, then you have an interrogative adverb on hand.

Some examples of interrogative adjectives include what, which, and whose.

Let’s take a look at these in action:

  • What drink would you like?
  • Which car should we take?
  • Whose shoes are these?

Please note: Whose can also fit into the possessive adjective category too.

Proper Adjectives

We can think of proper adjectives as the adjective form of proper nouns – remember those? They were the specific names of people, places, and things and need to be capitalized.

Let’s take the proper noun for the place America. If we wanted to make an adjective out of this proper noun to describe something, say, a car we would get ‘American car’.

Let’s take a look at another few examples:

  • Joe enjoyed his cup of Ethiopian coffee.
  • My favorite plays are Shakespearean tragedies.
  • No doubt about it, Fender guitars are some of the best in the world.
  • The Mona Lisa is a fine example of Renaissance art.

Articles

Though it may come as a surprise to some, articles are also adjectives as, like all adjectives, they modify nouns. Articles help us determine a noun’s specification. 

For example, ‘a’ and ‘an’ are used in front of an unspecific noun, while ‘the’ is used when referring to a specific noun.

Let’s see some articles as adjectives in action!

  • You will find an apple inside the cupboard.
  • This is a car.
  • The recipe is a family secret.

Adjectives Teaching Activity: Types of Adjective Tally

  • Choose a suitable book and assign an appropriate number of pages or length of a chapter for students to work with.
  • Students work their way through each page, tallying up the number of each type of adjective they can identify using a table like the one below:
Adjective TypesTally
DescriptiveParts of Speech | 5zdSqBKq076zEkRHfl59NfIoQu4Dlm3D96hnNvpiwJI3SHwiwvIh19BJrDBQElM2gZqSAkv hDd ydgaI4MZ0fSN0YvyGj1O9PJeKTFuA5 | Parts of Speech: The Ultimate Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com
Comparative
Superlative
Quantitative
Demonstrative
Possessive
Interrogative
Proper
Articles
  • Note how degrees of adjective has been split into comparative and superlative. The positive forms will take care of in the descriptive category.
  • You may wish to adapt this table to exclude the easier categories to identify, such as articles and demonstrative, for example.

AdverbS

Parts of Speech - What is an adverb?

Traditionally, adverbs are defined as those words that modify verbs, but they do so much more than that. They can be used not only to describe how verbs are performed but also to modify adjectives, other adverbs, clauses, prepositions, or entire sentences.

With such a broad range of tasks at the feet of the humble adverb, it would be impossible to cover every possibility in this article alone. However, there are five main types of adverbs our students should familiarize themselves with. These are:

  1. Adverbs of Manner
  2. Adverbs of Time
  3. Adverbs of Frequency
  4. Adverbs of Place
  5. Adverbs of Degree

Adverbs of Manner

Adverbs of manner describe how or the way in which something happens or is done. This type of adverb is often the first type taught to students. Many of these end with -ly. Some common examples include happily, quickly, sadly, slowly, and fast.

Here are a few taster sentences employing adverbs of manner:

  • She cooks Chinese food well.
  • The children played happily together.
  • The students worked diligently on their projects.
  • Her mother taught her to cross the road carefully.
  • The date went badly.

Adverbs of Time

Adverbs of time indicate when something happens. Common adverbs of time include before, now, then, after, already, immediately, and soon.

Here are some sentences employing adverbs of time:

  • I go to school early on Wednesdays.
  • She would like to finish her studies eventually.
  • Recently, Sarah moved to Bulgaria.
  • I have already finished my homework.
  • They have been missing training lately.

Adverbs of Frequency

While adverbs of time deal with when something happens, adverbs of frequency are concerned with how often something happens. Common adverbs of frequency include always, frequently, sometimes, seldom, and never.

Here’s what they look like in sentences:

  • Harry usually goes to bed around ten.
  • Rachel rarely eats breakfast in the morning.
  • Often, I’ll go home straight after school.
  • I occasionally have ketchup on my pizza.
  • She seldom goes out with her friends.

Adverbs of Place

Adverbs of place, as the name suggests, describe where something happens or where it is. They can refer to position, distance, or direction. Some common adverbs of place include above, below, beside, inside, and anywhere.

Check out some examples in the sentences below:

  • Underneath the bridge, there lived a troll.
  • There were pizzerias everywhere in the city.
  • We walked around the park in the pouring rain.
  • If the door is open, then go inside.
  • When I am older, I would like to live nearby.

Adverbs of Degree

Adverbs of degree express the degree to which or how much of something is done. They can also be used to describe levels of intensity. Some common adverbs of degree include barely, little, lots, completely, and entirely.

Here are some adverbs of degree at work in sentences:

  • I hardly noticed her when she walked into the room.
  • The little girl had almost finished her homework.
  • The job was completely finished.
  • I was so delighted to hear the good news.
  • Jack was totally delighted to see Diane after all these years.

Adverb Teaching Activity: The Adverb Generator

  • Organize students into small groups to work collaboratively.
  • Give students a worksheet containing a table divided into five columns. Each column bears a heading of one of the different types of adverbs (manner, time, frequency, place, degree).
  • Challenge each group to generate as many different examples of each adverb type and record these in the table.
  • The winning group is the one with the most adverbs. As a bonus, or tiebreaker, task the students to make sentences with some of the adverbs.

PRONOUNS

Parts of speech - what is a pronoun?

Pronouns are used in place of a specific noun used earlier in a sentence. They are helpful when the writer wants to avoid repetitive use of a particular noun such as a name. For example, in the following sentences, the pronoun she is used to stand for the girl’s name Mary after it is used in the first sentence. 

Mary loved traveling. She had been to France, Thailand, and Taiwan already, but her favorite place in the world was Australia. She had never seen an animal quite as curious-looking as the duck-billed platypus.

We also see her used in place of Mary’s in the above passage. There are many different pronouns and, in this article, we’ll take a look at:

  1. Subject Pronouns
  2. Object Pronouns
  3. Possessive Pronouns
  4. Reflexive Pronouns
  5. Intensive Pronouns
  6. Demonstrative Pronouns
  7. Interrogative Pronouns

Subject Pronouns

Subject pronouns are the type of pronoun most of us think of when we hear the term pronoun. They operate as the subject of a verb in a sentence. They are also known as personal pronouns.

The subject pronouns are:

  • I
  • You
  • He
  • She
  • It
  • We
  • They
  • Who

Here are a few examples of subject pronouns doing what they do best:

  • Sarah and I went to the movies last Thursday night.
  • That is my pet dog. It is an Irish Wolfhound.
  • My friends are coming over tonight, they will be here at seven.
  • We won’t all fit into the same car.
  • You have done a fantastic job with your grammar homework!

Object Pronouns

Object pronouns operate as the object of a verb, or a preposition, in a sentence. They act in the same way as object nouns but are used when it is clear what the object is.

The object pronouns are:

  • Me
  • You
  • Him
  • Her
  • It
  • Us
  • Them
  • Whom

Here are a few examples of object pronouns in sentences:

  • I told you, this is a great opportunity for you.
  • Give her some more time, please.
  • I told her I did not want to do it.
  • That is for us.
  • Catherine is the girl whom I mentioned in my letter.

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns indicate ownership of a noun. For example, in the sentence:

These books are mine.

The word mine stands for my books. It’s important to note that while possessive pronouns look similar to possessive adjectives, their function in a sentence is different.

The possessive pronouns are:

  • Mine
  • Yours
  • His
  • Hers
  • Its
  • Ours
  • Theirs
  • Whose

Let’s take a look at how these are used in sentences:

  • Yours is the yellow jacket.
  • I hope this ticket is mine.
  • The train that leaves at midnight is theirs.
  • Ours is the first house on the right.
  • She is the person whose opinion I value most.
  • I believe that is his.

Reflexive pronouns are used in instances where the object and the subject are the same. For example, in the sentence, she did it herself, the words she and herself refer to the same person.

Reflexive Pronouns

The reflexive pronoun forms are:

  • Myself
  • Yourself
  • Yourselves
  • Himself
  • Herself
  • Itself
  • Ourselves
  • Themselves

Here are a few more examples of reflexive pronouns at work:

  • I told myself that numerous times.
  • He got himself a new computer with his wages.
  • We will go there ourselves.
  • You must do it yourself.
  • The only thing to fear is fear itself.

Intensive Pronouns

This type of pronoun can be used to indicate emphasis. For example, when we write, I spoke to the manager herself, the point is made that we talked to the person in charge and not someone lower down the hierarchy. 

Similar to the reflexive pronouns above, we can easily differentiate between reflexive and intensive pronouns by asking if the pronoun is essential to the sentence’s meaning. If it isn’t, then it is used solely for emphasis, and therefore, it’s an intensive rather than a reflexive pronoun.

Demonstrative Pronouns

Often confused with demonstrative adjectives, demonstrative pronouns can stand alone in a sentence.

When this, that, these, and those are used as demonstrative adjectives they come before the noun they modify. When these same words are used as demonstrative pronouns, they replace a noun rather than modify it.

Here are some examples of demonstrative pronouns in sentences:

  • This is delicious.
  • That is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
  • These are not mine.
  • Those belong to the driver.

Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative pronouns are used to form questions. They are the typical question words that come at the start of questions, with a question mark coming at the end. The interrogative pronouns are:

  • Who
  • Whom
  • What
  • Which
  • Whose

Putting them into sentences looks like this:

  • What is the name of your best friend?
  • Which of these is your favourite?
  • Who goes to the market with you?
  • Whom do you think will win?
  • Whose is that?

Pronoun Teaching Activity: Pronoun Review Table

  • Provide students with a review table like the one below to revise the various pronoun forms.
  • They can use this table to help them produce independent sentences.
  • Once students have had a chance to familiarize themselves thoroughly with each of the different types of pronouns, provide the students with the headings and ask them to complete a table from memory.  
Subject
Pronouns
Object PronounsPossessive PronounsReflexive PronounsIntensive PronounsDemonstrative PronounsInterrogative Pronouns
Imemymyselfmyselfthiswhat
youyouyouryourselfyourselfthatwhich
hehimhishimselfhimselfthesewho
sheherherherselfherselfthosewhom
itititsitselfitselfwhose
weusourourselvesourselves
youyouyouryourselvesyourselves
theythemtheirthemselvesthemselves

Prepositions

Parts of speech - What is a preposition?

Prepositions provide extra information showing the relationship between a noun or pronoun and another part of a sentence. These are usually short words that come directly before nouns or pronouns, e.g., in, at, on, etc.

There are, of course, many different types of prepositions, each relating to particular types of information. In this article, we will look at:

  1. Prepositions of Time
  2. Prepositions of Place
  3. Prepositions of Movement
  4. Prepositions of Manner
  5. Prepositions of Measure
  6. Preposition of Agency
  7. Preposition of Possession
  8. Preposition of Source
  9. Phrasal Prepositions

It’s worth noting that several prepositional words make an appearance in several different categories of prepositions.

Prepositions of Time

Prepositions of time indicate when something happens. Common prepositions of time include after, at, before, during, in, on.

Let’s see some of these at work:

  • I have been here since Thursday.
  • My daughter was born on the first of September.
  • He went overseas during the war.
  • Before you go, can you pay the bill, please?
  • We will go out after work.

Sometimes students have difficulty knowing when to use in, on, or at. These little words are often confused. The table below provides helpful guidance to help students use the right preposition in the right context.

PREPOSITIONWHEN TO USEEXAMPLES



in
When referring to:
Centuries YearsSeasonsMonthsTime of day


in the 14th Century
in two years
in Spring
in August
in the evening


on
When referring to:
DaysDatesSpecific holidays


on Wednesday on the 4th December
on Easter Sunday


at
When referring to:
Some time of day exceptionsFestivals



at night at New Year’s

Prepositions of Place

The prepositions of place, in, at, on, will be instantly recognisable as they also double as prepositions of time. Again, students can sometimes struggle a little to select the correct one for the situation they are describing. Some guidelines can be helpful.

  • If something is contained or confined inside, we use in.
  • If something is placed upon a surface, we use on.
  • If something is located at a specific point, we use at.

A few example sentences will assist in illustrating these:

in

  • He is in the house.
  • I saw it in a magazine.
  • In France, we saw many great works of art.

on

  • Put it on the table.
  • We sailed on the river.
  • Hang that picture on the wall, please.

at

  • We arrived at the airport just after 1 pm.
  • I saw her at university.
  • The boy stood at the window.

Prepositions of Movement

Usually used with verbs of motion, prepositions of movement indicate movement from one place to another. The most commonly used preposition of movement is to.

Some other prepositions of movement include:

  • across
  • around
  • down
  • into
  • over
  • past
  • through
  • under
  • up

Here’s how they look in some sample sentences:

  • The ball rolled across the table towards me.
  • We looked up into the sky.
  • The children ran past the shop on their way home.
  • Jackie ran down the road to greet her friend.
  • She walked confidently through the curtains and out onto the stage.

Prepositions of Manner

Preposition of manner shows us how something is done or how it happens. The most common of these are by, in, like, on, with.

Let’s take a look at how they work in sentences:

  • We went to school by bus.
  • During the holidays, they traveled across the Rockies on foot.
  • Janet went to the airport in a taxi.
  • She played soccer like a professional.
  • I greeted her with a smile.

Prepositions of Measure

Prepositions of measure are used to indicate quantities and specific units of measurement. The two most common of these are by and of.

Check out these sample sentences:

  • I’m afraid we only sell that fabric by the meter.
  • I will pay you by the hour.
  • She only ate half of the ice cream. I ate the other half.
  • A kilogram of apples is the same weight as a kilogram of feathers.

Prepositions of Agency

These prepositions indicate the causal relationship between a noun or pronoun and an action. They show the cause of something happening. The most commonly used prepositions of agency are by and with.

Here are some examples of their use in sentences:

  • The Harry Potter series was written by J.K. Rowling.
  • This bowl was made by a skilled craftsman.
  • His heart was filled with love.
  • The glass was filled with water.

Prepositions of Possession

Prepositions of possessions indicate who or what something belongs to. The most common of these are of, to, and with.

Let’s take a look:

  • He is the husband of my cousin.
  • He is a friend of the mayor.
  • This once belonged to my grandmother.
  • All these lands belong to the Ministry.
  • The man with the hat is waiting outside.
  • The boy with the big feet tripped and fell.

Prepositions of Source

Prepositions of source indicate where something comes from or its origins. The two most common prepositions of source are from and by. There is some crossover here with prepositions of agency.

Here are some examples:

  • He comes from New Zealand.
  • These oranges are from our own orchard.
  • I was warmed by the heat of the fire.
  • She was hugged by her husband.
  • The yoghurt is of Bulgarian origin.

Phrasal Prepositions

Phrasal prepositions are also known as compound prepositions. These are phrases of two or more words that function in the same way as prepositions. That is, they join nouns or pronouns to the rest of the sentence.

Some common phrasal prepositions are:

  • According to
  • For a change
  • Because of
  • In addition to
  • In spite of
  • On top of
  • Rather than
  • With the exception of

Students should be careful of overusing phrasal prepositions as some of them can seem clichéd. Frequently, it’s best to say things in as few words as is necessary.

Preposition Teaching Activity: Preposition Sort

  • Print out a selection of the different types of prepositions on pieces of paper.
  • Organize students into smaller working groups and provide each group with a set of prepositions.
  • Using the headings above as categories, challenge students to sort the prepositions into the correct groups. Note that some prepositions will comfortably fit into more than one group.
  • The winning group is the one to sort all prepositions correctly first.
  • As an extension exercise, students can select a preposition from each category and write a sample sentence for it.

ConjunctionS

Parts of Speech - What is a conjunction?

Conjunctions are used to connect words, phrases, and clauses. There are three main types of conjunction that are used to join different parts of sentences. These are:

  1. Coordinating
  2. Subordinating
  3. Correlative

Coordinating Conjunctions

These conjunctions are used to join sentence components that are equal such as two words, two phrases, or two clauses. In English, there are seven of these that can be memorized using the mnemonic FANBOYS:

  • For
  • And
  • Nor
  • But
  • Or
  • Yet
  • So

Here are a few example sentences employing coordinating conjunctions:

  • As a writer, he needed only a pen and paper.
  • I would describe him as strong but lazy.
  • Either we go now or not at all.

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions are used to introduce dependent clauses in sentences. Basically, dependent clauses are parts of sentences that cannot stand as complete sentences on their own. 

Some of the most common subordinate conjunctions are: 

  • although
  • because
  • if
  • since
  • unless
  • wherever.

Let’s take a look at some example sentences:

  • I will complete it by Tuesday if I have time.
  • Although she likes it, she won’t buy it.
  • Jack will give it to you after he finds it.

Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are like shoes; they come in pairs. They work together to make sentences work. Some come correlative conjunctions are:

  • both/and
  • either/or
  • neither/nor
  • not/but
  • Not only/but also

Let’s see how some of these work together:

  • If I were you, I would get either the green one or the yellow one.
  • John wants neither pity nor help.
  • I don’t know whether you prefer horror or romantic movies.

Conjunction Teaching Activity: Conjunction Challenge

  • Organize students into Talking Pairs.
  • Partner A gives Partner B an example of a conjunction.
  • Partner B must state which type of conjunction it is, e.g. coordinating, subordinating, or correlative.
  • Partner B must then compose a sentence that uses the conjunction correctly and tell it to Partner A.
  • Partners then swap roles.

InterjectionS

parts of speech - What is an interjection?

Interjections focus on feelings and are generally grammatically unrelated to the rest of the sentence or sentences around them. They convey thoughts and feelings and are common in our speech. They are often followed by exclamation marks in writing. Interjections include expressions such as:

  • Aah
  • Err
  • Eww
  • Oh
  • Ouch
  • Uh-Oh
  • Yeah
  • Whoops
  • Wow

Here’s what they look like in sentences:

  • Eww! That is so gross!
  • Oh, I don’t know. I’ve never used one before.
  • That’s very…err…generous of you, I suppose.
  • Wow! That is fantastic news!
  • Uh-Oh! I don’t have any more left.

Interjection Teaching Activity: Create a scenario

  • Once students clearly understand what interjections are, brainstorm as a class as many as possible.
  • Write a master list of interjections on the whiteboard.
  • Organize students into Talking Pairs.
  • Partner A suggests an interjection word or phrase to Partner B.
  • Partner B must create a fictional scenario where this interjection would be used appropriately.

With a good grasp of the fundamentals of parts of speech, your students will now be equipped to do a deeper dive into the wild waters of English grammar. 

To learn more about the twists and turns of English grammar, check out our comprehensive article on English grammar here.

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Content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh.  A former principal of an international school and university English lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book the Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing can be found here.  Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.