Grammar for the People: parts of speech

Grammar for the People2Prefixes and suffixes were next on the list for Grammar for the People, but while thinking it through, I realized it makes more sense to write about parts of speech first. Prefixes and suffixes build onto words, making new ones, so they will follow parts of speech.

Perhaps you think parts of speech are meaningless modifiers. Perhaps you think they are silly distinctions. Language without parts of speech would be vague at best and entirely indecipherable at worst. Each part of speech has a specific job and lets readers know what the words are doing in their respective sentences. We need these qualifiers to fathom language in the world around us.


Nouns are everywhere! They are either common or proper, and both refer to people, places or things. Grammar for the People: capital letters explored when to capitalize them and when to refrain. Common nouns are those ordinary people, places, or things you talk about all day long. Proper nouns are their particular relatives.


Pronouns are those identifiers that stand in the place of people’s names. You can insert
“he,” “she” or “you” instead of someone else’s name. You can insert “I” for your own name. “I” is not synonymous with “me.”

Other pronouns show possession or plurality. People often get tripped up when trying to make pronouns possessive; and it’s nightmare-ish when some people attempt plural possession.

When something belongs to you, use “my” or “mine.” Never use “I’s.” That’s not real. When something belongs to someone else, use “his” or “her” or “your.” For a group of people, use “their.”

Here are some examples of singular possession and plural possession use:

Singular: My name is Kait. The name “Kait” belongs to me.

Singular: That cookie is mine. The cookie belongs to me.

Singular with another person: This is Jacob’s and my house. The house belongs to Jacob and Kait. Put the other person’s name before your own. It’s polite.

Singular and someone else: Her backpack is purple. The backpack belongs to her, another girl.

Singular and someone else: His job has him working weekends. The job that belongs to him, another guy, pays no mind to a Monday through Friday work week.

Plural: Their table at the restaurant was a mess when they left.  The tables belongs to a rude and inconsiderate group of people.

(This list of examples is not comprehensive. Not even close.)


Verbs are action words! They tell everyone what you are doing. Verbs are affected by past, present, or future tense. And, of course, it’s much more complicated than just adding an -ed! Oh, English, how we love you! Words


Adjectives describe nouns. They add the color to your language. They make your people, places, or things much more interesting.


Adverbs describe verbs. They usually end in -ly. It’s a common American thing to drop the -ly. This usually results in words that look like adjectives but are supposed to be adverbs. An example is: Go, quick! Quick is the adverb that modifies the verb “go.” Because it works with a verb, it needs an -ly on the end.


These are position words. They tell you where something is. There is an ongoing discussion of whether or not to end a sentence with a preposition. I say it depends on the sentence. If a preposition at the end makes your sentence clunky and confusing, put it somewhere else.


Conjunctions join things together. There’s that old ditty that says: “Conjunction junction! What’s your function?” The response is: “Hooking up words, phrases, or clauses.” That’s pretty straight forward. And, but, for, because, although, and though are some conjunctions.


Interjections are those sound effects or emotional reactions you use to spice up your language. Ouch! Stop! No! You get the idea! These can stand alone before a sentence, which will explain your interjection, or you can place interjections within sentences but, hey, they need to be set off by parentheses or commas.

As always, leave a comment with questions or any other comments! Next week Grammar for the People: prefixes and suffixes really will be here!

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