Word Classes

Word Classes

In language, all words are grouped into different categories or ‘classes’, and they can be confusing, with each class of word serving a specific function.

Here are the main word classes we use in English:

Nouns – a noun is a type of word that is used to identify people, things, ideas, and states. For example:

  • People – ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘girl’, ‘boy’
  • things – ‘toy’, ‘hill’, ‘tree’
  • Ideas – ‘love’, ‘beauty’, ‘tranquillity’
  • States – ‘life’, ‘death’

Proper Nouns – are words which are used for the names of a person, place or organisation.

Pronouns – are words which are used in place of a noun that has already been mentioned to avoid repetition, for example:

  • Bill was tired so ‘he’ went to bed
  • Sarah took the dog with ‘her’
  • Sam put ‘his’ hand in mine
  • ‘That’ is a good idea

Adjectives – are words that describe nouns, giving more information about them. For example:

  • ‘ripe’ pear
  • ‘sour’ taste
  • ‘sticky’ situation

Verbs – are words that used to describe an action, event, state or a change for example:

  • Action: ‘run’, ‘hit’, ‘travel’
  • Event: ‘snow’, ‘eat’, ‘explode’
  • State: ‘be’‘live’‘work’
  • Change: ‘become‘grow’‘develop’

Adverbs – are words that give information about verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. For example:

  • she smiled ‘sweetly
  • he’s ‘very’ handsome
  • they run ‘really’ fast

Prepositions – are usually used in front of nouns or pronouns and show the relationship between nouns, pronouns and other words in a sentence. For example:

Position of something:

  • his shoe was ‘under’ the table
  • the cat sat ‘between’ the chairs
  • the birds flew ‘over’ the house

The time when Something Happens

  • he came ‘on’ Saturday
  • the movie begins ‘at’ 8pm
  • shortly ‘after’ they married, they divorced

The way in which Something is Done

  • we travelled ‘by’ car
  • they sat together ‘without’ speaking
  • I like ice cream ‘with’ cherries

Sometimes prepositions can be made up of more than one word. For example:

  • they dislike England ‘because of’ the weather
  • the dog and the cat ‘next to’ each other
  • the castle was ‘on top’ of the hill

Conjunctions – are words that are used to connect clauses, sentences or to coordinate words in the same clause. There are two main kinds of conjunction:

Coordinating Conjunctions – which join terms which are of equal importance in a sentence:

  • you can have peas ‘or beans
  • he plays football ‘and’ rugby
  • the weather was cold ‘but’ clear

Subordinating Conjunctions – which connect subordinate, or words of lesser rank to the main clause of a sentence:

  • I stayed up ‘until’ seven o’clock
  • I went to bed ‘because’ I was tired

You may well have been taught that beginning a sentence with a conjunction is bad English. However, it is not grammatically incorrect to do so. It is best not to overdo it though.

Determiners – are words that introduce nouns, such as ‘a/an’, ‘the’, ‘every’, ‘this’, ‘those’ and ‘many’. For example:

  • ‘A’ dog
  • ‘The’ dog
  • ‘Every’ dog
  • ‘This’ dog
  • ‘Those’ dogs
  • ‘Many’ dogs

Possessive determiners such as ‘my’, ‘our’, ‘your’, ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘its’ and ‘their’, come before nouns to show ownership of the noun in question. For example:

  • ‘My’ leg is broken
  • Where did we leave ‘our’ car?
  • Bring ‘your’ dogs along
  • Dave has lost ‘his’ wallet
  • Jenny loves ‘her’ house
  • The milk is past ‘its’ expiration date
  • They love ‘their’ dog

Exclamations – are words or phrases that express strong emotion. They often stand on their own and are usually followed by an exclamation mark. For example:

  • ‘How incredible!’
  • ‘Ouch! That stings!’

They can also be used to greet or congratulate:

  • ‘Hello!’
  • ‘Well done!’

As always, thank you for reading!

Until next time,


© 2018 GLT

Categories: Confused Words

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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