Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Parts of Speech - ESL Grammar Skills

The following information serves as a quick reference to parts of speech. The information provided is certainly not comprehensive, but it touches on basic grammatical principles that go hand-in-hand with the learning of English vocabulary in your course. This information can be referred to and built upon as needed while teaching vocabulary. Doing so can enhance your students’ capacity to use English vocabulary beyond the word level.

A noun names a person, place, thing, or idea.

The horse galloped across the field.
The speaker talked about happiness.

A common noun is a noun that names a general person, place, thing, or idea.

The dog wagged his tail.
A horse eats hay.

A proper noun is a noun that names a specific person, place, thing, or idea. Proper nouns are capitalized.

The Nile River flows through Egypt.
Mary is flying to St. Lewis.

Compare common nouns with proper nouns:
common nouns - City, Girl, Store, Teacher
proper nouns - San Francisco, Sue, Macy's, Mr. Smith

A singular noun is a noun that names one person, place, thing, or idea.

The camel sniffed the air.
Dad rode in a car.

A plural noun is a noun that names more than one person, place, thing, or idea.

Camels carry heavy loads through the desert.
Can camels travel through sandstorms?

Compare singular nouns with plural nouns:
singular nouns - camel, desert, dress
plural nouns - camels, deserts, dresses*

* Notice that if a singular noun ends in s, z, x, ch, or sh, the suffix –es needs to be added to the end of the word to correctly form the plural.

A possessive noun is a noun that names who (or sometimes what) possesses something.

The king’s crown glittered with jewels.
Jill’s bag fell off her bike.

A pronoun is a word that takes the place of one or more nouns.

Mr. Hall climbed the rocky cliff. Angie and Tyson flew to Florida.
He carried a camera. Abbey watched their children for them.

An adjective is a word that describes a noun or pronoun.

Mother cooked a delicious meal.
She served fresh vegetables.

An action verb is a word that names an action. It may contain more than one word.

Small boats carry people up the river.
The cat is climbing the tree.

Transitive verbs
are followed by an object.

Jon answered the phone.
Aaron hit the ball.

Intransitive verbs are not followed by an object.

The children laughed.
A crowd gathered.

A linking verb is a verb that connects the subject part with a noun or adjective in the predicate part. It tells what the subject is or is like.

Joel is my brother.
The flowers are pretty.

A helping verb helps the main verb to name an action or make a statement.

The Smith’s have arrived in Florida.
Barbara was helping her sister.

The present tense of a verb names an action that happens now.

My students ask many questions.
Linda leaves for California today.

The past tense of a verb names an action that already happened.

The boys entered the theater.
Harry waited on the sidewalk.

The present perfect tense of a verb names an action that happened at an indefinite time in the past. The present perfect tense also names an action that happened in the past and is still happening in the present.

The workers have started the machines.
Father has returned to his job.

The present progressive tense of a verb names an action that is continuing now.

The music is playing loudly.
The couple is dancing happily.

The past progressive tense of a verb names an action that was continuing at an earlier time.

My sister was building a table.
My brother was reading his book.

An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs sometimes end in the suffix –ly.

Jane silently walked into the room.
She whispered softly to Brad.


A preposition is a word that shows the relation of a noun or pronoun to another part of a clause. The following words are commonly used prepositions:

about - at - for - of - through

above - before - from - on - under
across - behind - in - onto - with
after - below - inside - to - without
around - by

The moon travels around the earth.
My cat is under the table.

A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or pronoun.

The president of the company gave a speech.
Jane’s bird was in the cage.

NOTE: Information adapted from the Decoding Strategies for Literacy Development manual published by Reading Horizons and is used by permission.


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