Word Classes in the English Language

Word classes tell us the function of each word in a sentence.  This article will give you a short introduction about how each they are used in the English language.

Noun

Nouns are the names of places, people and items.  In the English language, common nouns are not capitalised, but proper nouns are capitalised.

Example 1

‘The house is white.’

In this sentence, the word ‘house’ is a common noun.  This means it does not need to be capitalised.

‘The White House is white.’

Now, the sentence is about a specific place.  This means that the ‘White House’ is a proper noun and it needs to be capitalised.

 

Example 2

‘The tower is beautiful.’

The noun ‘tower’ is a common noun.  This means it does not need to be capitalised.

‘The Eiffel Tower is beautiful.’

Now, the sentence is about a landmark.  Landmarks are proper nouns and they are always given a capital letter.  For more about nouns take a look at Using Nouns in English.

 

Pronoun

Pronouns can be used instead of nouns.

Example 3

‘Joe ran twenty miles.’

Instead of the name ‘Joe’, a pronoun could be used.

‘He ran twenty miles.’

 

Example 4

‘Nancy bought a pair of trousers.

Again, a pronoun could be used here too.

‘She bought a pair of trousers.’

For more about pronouns take a look at Using Pronouns in English: Subject Pronouns.

 

Article

Articles are placed before nouns.

Example 5

‘I gave a horse some water.’

In the sentence above, the speaker or writer is not referring to a particular horse.  This means the indefinite article ‘a’ can be used here.

‘I gave the horse some water.’

Now, the speaker or writer is referring to a particular horse.  This means the definite article ‘the’ can be used here.

Note: the ‘an’ article is paired with words that begin with a vowel.

 

Activity 1

Unscramble the sentences below.  Use the information above about nouns, pronouns and articles to help you.

  • The zookeeper elephant peanuts gave the.
  • bowl She a of ice cream ate.
  • bought an Josephine apple.

 

Adjective

Adjectives are describing words.  They tell us more information about a person or an item.
Example 6

‘This is the forest.’

We could include more information about the place.

‘This is the dangerous forest.’

Now, the reader or listener knows that they need to be careful if they visit this forest.

 

Example 7

‘Tony bought a car.’

Again, an adjective could be used to describe the car.’

‘Tony bought a sporty car.’

Note: the adjective is placed between the article and the noun.

For more about adjectives take a look at How to Use Adjectives Effectively.

 

Activity 2

Read the sentences below and try and find the adjectives.

  • Every day, the cute siblings played together.
  • Jamie was in a horrible mood.
  • David ate the big burger.

 

Verb

There are different types of verbs in the English language.  Some verbs tell us what the item or person is doing.

Example 8

‘The cat jumped onto the fence.’

The word ‘jumped’ tells us what the cat was doing.

 

Some verbs are also known as helping verbs; this is because their job is to make the sentence make sense.  These verbs are also known as auxiliary verbs.

Example 9

‘I need on time today.’

The sentence above does not make sense and so we need a helping verb.

‘I need to be on time today.’

 

Modal verbs, also known as modal auxiliary verbs, are used in lots of ways.  Modal verbs are often used to form questions.

Example 10

‘You do not look healthy.  Should you go to work today?’

‘I will be very busy tomorrow so could you post the letter for me?’

 

Adverb

Adverbs are how words.  This is because they often tell us how something happens.  It could be how an action is done or how frequently something happens.

Example 11

‘Frank swam in the sea.’

We could include extra detail about how Frank travelled through the water.

‘Frank swam in the sea easily.’

Example 12

‘The group of teenagers completed the assault course.’

In order to give the reader or listener more information, an adverb could be included.

‘The group of teenagers completed the assault course successfully.’

For more about adverbs take a look at Using Adverbs in English.

 

Prepositions

In English, there are many prepositions.  They tell us how items or people are related to one another.

Example 13

‘The driver sat … the chair.’

This sentence needs a preposition to tell the listener or reader where the driver sat.

‘The driver sat on the chair.’

 

Example 14

‘The aeroplane flew … the skyscrapers.’

This sentence needs a preposition to tell the listener or reader where the aeroplane flew.

‘The aeroplane flew above the skyscrapers.’

 

Connectives

Connectives, also known as conjunctions, connect sentences and clauses together.

Example 15

‘The man ate the apple.  The apple was green.’

Using a connective, the two sentences could be connected.

‘The man ate the apple and the apple was green.’

 

Example 16

‘Alice was late for work.  She woke up late.’

These sentences could be connected with a connective.

‘Alice was late for work because she woke up late.’

For more about connectives take a look at Connecting Sentences Using Connectives.

 

Activity 3

Read the sentences below then connect each sentence with a connective.

  • I need to buy a new pair of glasses. My glasses are broken.
  • Kate liked to play ice hockey. She liked to play handball too.
  • Edward went to the shop. He needed to buy some bread.

 

RECAP

This article has looked at word classes and how they are used in the English language.  Knowing the role of each word will help you to use them correctly.  When reading, sometimes try and think about the function of each word.  It could help you to note down the words you have read and place them in a word class table too.

 

Here are the answers to the activities in the article. Feel free to leave your answers in the comment section.

 

Activity 1

  • The zookeeper gave the elephant peanuts.
  • She ate a bowl of ice cream.
  • Josephine bought an apple.

Activity 2

  • Every day, the cute siblings played together.
  • Jamie was in a horrible mood.
  • David ate the big burger.

 

Activity 3

  • I need to buy a new pair of glasses because my glasses are broken.
  • Kate liked to play ice hockey and she liked to play handball too.
  • Edward went to the shop because he needed to buy some bread.

 

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