Parts of Speech

In a sentence, every word can be put into a category, like nouns, verbs, adjectives etc. Here I discuss the ones that you need to recognise.


Nouns are objects, things, places or people. They can also be ideas or concepts.

Concrete nouns

These are physical objects, or things that actually exist in the world. Here are some examples:

dog, sun, house, caterpillar, America, train, spoon, Peter, garden, computer, Saturn

Abstract nouns

These are ideas or thoughts, that can only exist in the human mind. Here are some examples:

beauty, strength, height, hatred, tolerance, idea, intelligence, belief, area, distance

Proper nouns are names of particular things (like Joseph or The Houses of Parliament). They always start with capital (upper case) letters, even if they are not at the start of a sentence. Common nouns are all nouns which aren't proper nouns (like boy, house or animal).

Exercise 1

In each of the following sentences, the nouns have been replaced with # symbols. Please replace those symbols with suitable nouns so that the sentences make sense. When you have corrected them, click on the "Mark Your Answers" button to see my suggestions.

Want a speed test on spotting nouns? Click here


Adjectives describe nouns. They tell you what nouns are like:

You notice that sometimes adjectives are made up from more than one word. The adjective "hard working" has two words in it but it describes the boy (and tells us that he works hard).

Exercise 2

Please give me two or more adjectives that you think describe each of the following. You can click on the "Mark Your Answers" button to see my suggestions.

  • A boy stealing sweets.

  • Two mountaineers struggling up Everest.

  • A cat sleeping in front of a fireplace.

  • A mother rushing around trying to finish chores.

  • A haunted house.

  • An astronaut on the moon's surface.

  • A sentry guarding a prison.

  • Two dogs fighting in the street.

  • A sailor on his first sea voyage.

  • A judge handing down a sentence.

Want a speed test on spotting adjectives? Click here


Verbs are doing words (also called "actions"). They tell you who is doing what. Verbs have tenses, that tell you when an action is done:

Fiyin likes reading.(Present tense. It's happening now)
Joseph did his homework.(Past tense. It happened some time ago but isn't happening now)
Harris will be a writer one day.(Future tense. It will happen but not yet)

You can spot a verb in the future tense as it contains the word "will" or "shall".

Please note: Words like be, is, are and have and has are also verbs.

Exercise 3

Please retype each of the following sentences changing the tense of the verb to the one specified.

Want a speed test on spotting verbs? Click here

Exercise 4

Some words can be classified as more than one part of speech depending on their contexts. For instance, the word book is usually a noun ("The library is full of books.") but it could also be a verb ("We booked a jazz band to play at the concert.") In each of the following sentences, type two sentences, each including the word specified. It should be a different part of speech for each sentence, as specified.


Adverbs describe verbs. They tell you how something is done.

  • The lion roared angrily.
  • The teacher shouted loudly as the pupils sat nervously.
  • The sun is shining brightly.

You can see that most adverbs end in the letters "ly". For most adjectives, just put "ly" on the end (politely, stupidly, helpfully).

If the adjective ends in a "y", change that to "i" before putting "ly" on the end. (hungrily, merrily)

Burglar Bill went out nightly,
Tip-toeing oh so sprightly,
Squeezing through windows tightly,
Until, one night, a light shone brightly.
"It's only me," said Bill politely.
(But Bill no longer goes out nightly)

Words that end in "ly" already, don't have adverbs. You can't turn "ugly" into "uglily" or "lovely" into "lovelily" (Yuk!) You have to say something like "in an ugly way" or "in a lovely manner".

Adjectives that end in "le" are turned into adverbs by replacing the "e" with "y", so subtle becomes subtly and gentle becomes gently etc.

The adjective "good" becomes "well":

Want a speed test on telling adjectives and adverbs apart? Click here


These are joining words, such as and, but, because.

They can join individual words:

They can join noun phrases with several words in them:

They can join entire clauses:


These tell you where something is, or where it's moving to or from. Prepositions include words like the following:

to, from, against, with, between, along, for, towards, around