Grammar refers to the way words are used, classified, and structured together to form coherent written or spoken communication
Parts of Speech:
We’ll look in great detail at the seven main parts of speech—nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions—as well as other categories of words that don’t easily fit in with the rest, such as particles, determiners, and gerunds.
Nouns are words that identify or name people, places, or things. Nouns can
function as the subject of a clause or sentence, an object of a verb, or an object of a preposition. Words like cat, book, table, girl, and plane are all nouns.
A common noun is a word that indicates a person, place, thing,
or idea. A proper noun is a specific one of those.
Among its other roles, a noun is often the subject of a sentence—the thing that is doing the verb—or it can be the object—the thing that is being acted upon by the subject.
In a sentence, nouns can function as the subject or the object of a verb or
preposition. Nouns can also follow linking verbs to rename or re-identify the subject of a sentence or clause; these are known as predicate nouns.
The subject in a sentence or clause is the person or thing doing, performing, or controlling the action of the verb.
Nouns sometimes behave like adjectives when they appear in a modifying position before another noun: The bicycle tire has an air leak. Bicycle is a noun modifying the noun tire to tell us what kind of tire it is, and air is a noun modifying the noun leak to tell us what kind of leak it is.
Nouns that follow linking verbs are known as predicate nouns (sometimes
known as predicative nouns). These serve to rename or re-identify the subject. If the noun is accompanied by any direct modifiers (such as articles, adjectives, or prepositional phrases), the entire noun phrase acts predicatively.
“Love is a virtue.” (The noun phrase a virtue follows the linking verb is to
rename the subject love.)
“Tommy seems like a real bully.” (The noun phrase a real bully follows the
linking verb seems to rename the subject Tommy.)
“Maybe this is a blessing in disguise.” (The noun phrase a blessing in disguise follows the linking verb is to rename the subject this.)
Categories of Nouns:
There are many different kinds of nouns, and it’s important to know the different way each type can be used in a sentence. Below, we’ll briefly look at the different categories of nouns. You can explore the individual sections to learn more about each.
Common and Proper Nouns:
Nouns that identify general people, places, or things are called common nouns
—they name or identify that which is common among others.
A common noun is a word that indicates a person, place, thing,
Proper nouns, on the other hand, are used to identify an absolutely unique
person, place, or thing, and they are signified by capital letters, no matter where they appear in a sentence.
|Common Nouns||Proper Nouns|
|He sat on the chair||Go find Jeff and tell him dinner is ready|
|I live in a city||I will have a Pepsi, please|
|We met some people||Prince William is adored by many|
Sometime nouns appearing together, or even with other parts of
speech, become idiomatic compound nouns, so that they travel
in the language together. By idiomatic I mean they behave as a
unit and, to a lesser or greater degree, amount to more than the
sum of their parts.
Ice cream coffee shop courthouse football payday wellbeing
Johnny-come-lately mother-in-law The first two
examples above are called open compounds, as there is a
space between the words. The third and fourth are closed
compounds: the space between the words has been removed,
but we still have an understanding of each half as an
independent word that contributes its own meaning. The last
two are hyphenated. As you can see, in some cases a
compound includes more than two words.
The most common proper nouns are names, as of people, places, or events. For example:
“Go find Jeff and tell him dinner is ready.”
“I lived in Cincinnati before I moved to New York.”
“My parents still talk about how great Woodstock was in 1969.”
Proper nouns are also used for commercial brands. In this case, the object that’s being referred to is not unique in itself, but the brand it belongs to is. For example:
“Pass me the Hellmann’s mayonnaise.”
“I’ll have a Pepsi, please.”
“My new MacBook is incredibly fast.”
When a person has additional words added to his or her name (known as an appellation), this becomes part of the proper noun and is also capitalized. (Some linguists distinguish these as proper names, rather than proper nouns.) For example:
“Prince William is adored by many.”
“Italy was invaded by Attila the Hun in 452.”
Job Titles and Familial Roles:
Many times, a person may be referred to according to a professional title or
familial role instead of by name. In this case, the title is being used as a noun of address and is considered a proper noun, even if it would be a common noun in other circumstances. For example:
“How are you doing, Coach?”
“I need your advice, Mr. President.”
“Mom, can you come with me to the playground?”
“Pleased to meet you, Doctor.”
Nouns of Address:
Nouns of address are used in direct speech to identify the person or group
being directly spoken to, or to get that person’s attention. Like interjections, they are grammatically unrelated to the rest of the sentence—they don’t modify or affect any other part of it. For example:
“James, I need you to help me with the dishes.”
“Can I have some money, Mom?”
“This, class, is the video I was telling you about.”
“Sorry, Mr. President, I didn’t see you there.”
The subject in a sentence or clause is the person or thing doing, performing, or controlling the action of the verb. For example:
- The dog chased its tail (The noun dog is performing the action of the verb chase)
- Mary reads a book every week (The proper noun Mary is performing the action of the verb read)
Grammatical objects have three grammatical roles: the direct object of a verb, the indirect object of a verb, or the object of a preposition.
Direct objects are what receive the action of the verb in a sentence or clause.
- The dog chased its tail (The noun tail is receiving the action of the verb chase)
- Mary reads a book every week (The proper book is receiving the action of the verb read)
An indirect object is the person or thing who receives the direct object of the verb. For instance:
“Please pass Jeremy the salt.” (The proper noun Jeremy is receiving the direct object salt, which receives the action of the verb pass.)
“I sent the company an application for the job.” (The noun company is
receiving the direct object application, which receives the action of the verb
Objects of prepositions:
Nouns are also used after prepositions to create prepositional phrases. When a noun is part of a prepositional phrase, it is known as the object of the preposition. For example:
“Your backpack is under the table.” (The noun table is the object of the
preposition under, which creates the prepositional phrase under the table.)
“I am looking for work.” (The noun work is the object of the preposition for,
which creates the prepositional phrase for work.)
Pronouns are words that represent nouns (people, places, or things).
Grammatically, pronouns are used in the same ways as nouns; they can function as subjects or objects. Common pronouns include I, you, she, him, it, everyone,and somebody.
Verbs are words that describe the actions—or states of being—of people,
animals, places, or things. Verbs function as the root of what’s called the
predicate, which is required (along with a subject) to form a complete sentence; therefore, every sentence must include at least one verb.
Verbs include action words like run, walk, write, or sing, as well as words
describing states of being, such as be, seem, feel, or sound.
Adjectives are words that modify (add description to) nouns and (occasionally) pronouns. They can be a part of either the subject or the predicate. Common adjectives are red, blue, fast, slow, big, tall, and wide.
Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, or even entire clauses. Depending on what they modify (and how), adverbs can appear anywhere in the sentence. Adverbs are commonly formed from adjectives by adding “-ly” to the end, as in slowly, quickly, widely, beautifully, or commonly.
Prepositions are words that express a relationship between a noun or pronoun (known as the object of the preposition) and another part of the sentence. Together, these form prepositional phrases, which can function as adjectives or as adverbs in a sentence. Some examples of prepositional phrases are: on the table, in the shed, and across the field. (The prepositions are in bold.)
Conjunctions are words that connect other words, phrases, or clauses,
expressing a specific kind of relationship between the two (or more) elements. The most common conjunctions are the coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet.
Although the parts of speech provide the building blocks for English, another very important element is inflection, the process by which words are changed in form to create new, specific meanings.
There are two main categories of inflection: conjugation and declension.
Conjugation refers to the inflection of verbs, while declension refers to the
inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Whenever we change a verb from the present tense to the past tense, for example, we are using conjugation. Likewise, when we make a noun plural to show that there is more than one of it, we are using declension.
The third and final part of the guide will focus on syntax, the rules and patterns that govern how we structure sentences. The grammatical structures that constitute syntax can be thought of as a hierarchy, with sentences at the top as the largest cohesive unit in the language and words (the parts of speech) at the bottom.
We’ll begin the third part by looking at the basic structural units present in all sentences—subjects and predicates—and progressively move on to larger classes of structures, discussing modifiers, phrases, and clauses. Finally, we will end by looking at the different structures and categories of sentences themselves.