About Parts of Speech webpage

Click here to go to the Parts of Speech webpage.

You do not learn grammar to speak English 'properly'. Every dialect, even slang, is a correct form of English (although you may wish to learn a different dialect of English, such as 'standard' British English), because the English language is what people speak and write. Grammar is merely a way of understanding the structure of our language. The parts of speech are a way to label individual words in a sentence, such as "The black cat purrs loudly." Certain words, such as 'cat' represent a thing, in this case an animal. These are called nouns. Other words show action, such as 'purrs'. There are describing words, such as 'black' (adjective which describes a noun), or 'loudly' (adverb describing a verb). These are easy, but once people start, they want to label everything, and it can get tricky!

This webpage gives you an introduction to these parts of speech. It is not a game, like many of my webpages, just a demonstration. It could be used as a tool in a lesson, or I suspect that children could get an idea about the different parts of speech by trying it for themselves. Perhaps a teacher or parent could let them play on it for a while, then ask them to say what a noun was, or give examples.

It may seem strange that the webpage is based on poems including nonsense poems. Of course, it would be easier, and perhaps easier to understand, if I used simply constructed sentences as demonstrations. It would also be dull, and children would suspect (as I did when young) that these sentences had been specially written to fit in with the rules. Using existing poems is a more challenging exercise. To my surprise, I found that these poems often used simple and clear grammar. If a poem is nonsense, then you need something to hold it together and not just be a jumble. Even better, they are fun to read. These nonsense poems can be the start of an appreciation of poetry, of rhythm and rhyme. Literature is not just sad serious stuff! The nonsense also intrigues children. What do it mean? Why is it nonsense?

When using the webpage, you select a poem, then a part of speech, such as 'noun'. This is high-lighted in colour. You can move from one poem to another using the same part of speech. You can also ask for all parts of speech, which produces a veritable rainbow of a poem, with a colour key. I do not recommend this at first! When you choose a part of speech, you are given a definition (if there are any occurrences in the poem). I repeat these below, so you can see the complete list at once:

You need to know a little about sentence structure for some parts of speech.

I must emphasise the definition of adverb. Children often assume that it only describes (or qualifies) a verb. This is wrong. It certainly does describe verbs, as in 'purrs loudly'. But it can also describe adjectives, and this can get tricky. If you say 'loud, black cat', then both 'loud' and 'black' describes 'cat' and are adjectives. But if you say 'very loud cat' then 'very' describes 'loud', not 'cat'. You can't have a 'very cat'! So 'very' is an adverb, not an adjective, even though it is where you might expect an adjective, before a noun.

Pronouns can stand in for nouns, as in "The cat purred. It was happy." But the noun is not always mentioned. In the sentence "There was a cat.", 'there' is a pronoun, but it doesn't refer to any known noun. You also have possessive pronouns, like 'my', which could be considered as adjectives, since they describe a noun. The definite article, 'the', and indefinite article, 'a' and 'some', are really adjectives as well.

There are also problems with conjunctions. A conjunction is supposed to join two things. It could be two clauses, as in "I am tired but I am happy." or simply two words, as in "I am tired and happy." One of the rules in grammar is that you must not start a sentence with a conjunction. However, many writers do (try reading the Authorised version of the Bible!), and sometimes the order of the clauses are reversed, as in "But for the grace of God, there go I." Also, you can't say that every word that begins a clause is a conjunction. Sometimes it's an adverb. Sometimes it's even a pronoun. Sometimes, I suspect that it could be a mixture! It can be hard to work out the difference between adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and pronouns. For a complex language like English, this structure may be hard to define in a simple way. If you disagree with my interpretation, please contact me (see index page). I may have made a mistake, of course.

By the way, I suspect that Americans have different definitions of grammar to the British, even when our language looks the same. This is a British English page. Wen in doubt, I used Fowler (a notable British reference) as an authority. Remember that there is no such thing as 'correct grammar. There are only definitions (which might vary) to describe the ways that people talk and write.

Click here to go to the Parts of Speech webpage.