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Parts of Speech

A sentence has a subject and a predicate. The subject is the person or thing about which something is said. The subject is usually a noun or pronoun. The predicate is everything that is said about the subject. The predicate always contains a verb.

Consider the three following sentences.

1. The young boy bounced the rubber ball.

The subject is "The young boy."
The predicate is "bounced the rubber ball."
The verb is "bounced."

2. The curly-haired dog ran after the cat.

The subject is "The curly-haired dog."
The predicate is "ran after the cat."
The verb is "ran."

3. The morning train arrived late today.

The subject is "The morning train."
The predicate is "arrived late today."
The verb is "arrived."

Commands (Imperatives) usually do not have a subject. In these cases, the subject is implied. Consider the following sentences.

4. Close the door!

The predicate is "Close the door."
The implied subject is "You."

5. Listen carefully!

The predicate is "Listen carefully."
The implied subject is "You."

6. Hurry please!

The predicate is "Hurry please!"
The implied subject is "You."

Core Subject-Complete Subject

The core subject is the single noun or pronoun that serves as the subject of the sentence. The core subject of the first three sentences above is boy, dog, and train respectively.

The complete subject is the core subject together with any adjectives or phrases that modify it. The complete subjects of the first three sentences are:

1. The young boy
2. The curly-haired dog
3. The morning train

Direct Object - Indirect Object

An object is that upon which the verb acts. It is the recipient of the action. Alternatively, it is that to which something is directed. Like a subject, an object usually consists of a noun, noun phrase, pronoun, or clause that follows a preposition.

Consider the following sentences:

1. The young boy bounced the ball.

The verb is "bounced"
The object is "ball"

2. Close the door.

The verb is "Close"
The object is "door"

3. He hit the ball with a mighty swing.

The verb is "hit"
The object is "ball"

4. He petted the dog.

The verb is "petted"
The object is "dog"

5. She did what was asked.

The verb is "did"
The object is "what was asked"

6. They watched television after dinner.

The verb is "watched"
The object is "television"

7. He opened the curtains.

The verb is "opened"
The object is "curtains

8. She adjusted her hat and opened the door.

The verb is "adjusted"
The object is "hat"
The second verb is "opened"
Its object is "door"

The objects in the four sentences above are called direct objects. A direct object is directly affected by the verb's action. It usually answers the question, "What?" or "Who?" In the four sentences above, the object answers the question, "What?"

A sentence can have an indirect object in addition to, or in place of, a direct object. Unlike direct objects, indirect objects are introduced by prepositions (or implied prepositions). An indirect object is indirectly affected by the action of the verb. It answers the question, "To whom?" or "For whom?"

Consider the following sentences:

9. The teacher gave him a passing grade.

The verb is "gave"
The direct object is "(passing) grade"
The indirect object is "him" ("to him" is better)

The sentence could be changed to
"The teacher gave a passing grade to him."

10. Pass me the dessert.

The verb is "pass"
The direct object is "dessert"
The indirect object is "me" ("to me" is correct)

The sentence could be changed to
"Pass the dessert to me."

11. He gave her a bouquet of roses.

The verb is "gave"
The direct object is "bouquet (of roses)"
The indirect object is "her" ("to her" is correct)

The sentence could be changed to
"He gave a bouquet of roses to her."

12. She threw him the dish towel.

The verb is "threw"
The direct object is "(dish) towel"
The indirect object is "him" ("to him" is correct)

The sentence could be changed to
"She threw the dish towel to him."

13. She gave him the gift.

The verb is "gave"
The direct object is "gift"
The indirect object is "him" ("to him" is correct)

The sentence could be changed to
"She threw the gift to him."

Definite Article - Indefinite Article

The three words, a, an, and the, are termed articles. They are used to describe nouns. They indicate whether the person or thing that is being discussed is a certain specific one or merely one of many things (e.g., a particular chair or any chair).

For example, the use of the "a" in "a dog" indicates that the dog is not a certain particular dog. Instead, any dog will suffice in this instance. However, the use of "the" in "the dog" indicates that the writing concerns a particular dog. You are implying that there is only one of it. "The" is very specific. Consequently, "the" is termed the definite article. In contrast, the "a" is not specific. Accordingly, it is called an indefinite article. "An" is also an indefinite article. It is used instead of an "a" when the word that follows it begins with a vowel. (e.g., an opportunity, an apple, an illness, an extreme measure).


Nouns are the words that are used to name persons, places, things, qualities,and actions. There are seven nouns in the preceding sentence. They are: nouns, words, persons, places, things, qualities, actions. There are two nouns in the next sentence (i.e., nouns, sentence).

Nouns may be singular or plural. A proper noun begins with a capital letter (e.g., Nashville, Nancy Drew, Nationair), whereas a common noun begins in lowercase (e.g., city, girl, airline).

Nouns are used as subjects of verbs (The owner prepared breakfast), direct objects (Tom painted the fence), objects of prepositions (The parcel was delivered to the address), indirect objects (The judges awarded Bruce first prize), predicate nouns (The employee reinvested his stock trading profits), objective complements (They chose Jill Burton as Homecoming Queen), and appositives (Frank Smith, sales representative).

The nouns in sentences #1 to #6 that appear near the beginning of this page are:

Sentence #1 - boy, ball
Sentence #2 - dog, cat
Sentence #3 - train
Sentence #4 - door
Sentence #5 - none
Sentence #6 - none


Pronouns replace or stand for nouns. They shorten and simplify our speech.

For example, instead of saying, "The young boy bounced the rubber ball,"we can replace the noun boy, along with its modifying adjective (young) and definite article (the) and say "He slipped on a banana peel."

Similarly, instead of saying, "He gave a bouquet of roses to her," we can replace bouquet, along with its modifying phrase (of roses) and indefinite article (a), and say, "He gave it to her."

For Demonstrative Pronouns, Indefinite Pronouns, Interrogative Pronouns, Personal Pronouns, Possessive Pronouns, Reciprocal Pronouns, Reflexive Pronouns, or Relative Pronouns, Click Here.


Verbs express action or state. Action verbs include such words as throw, sail, run, climb, read, give, take, eat, pass, fail, rise, emerge, disappear, open, build, lose, die, and feel. Some verbs, such as feel, seem, and the most frequently used verb, "to be," express a state.

Unlike adjectives and adverbs, verbs change form, depending on the period of time applicable to the discussion. Frequently, verb endings change in agreement with the subject. For example, the present tense of the verb to run is I run, you run, he runs, etc., but the past tense is I ran, you ran, he ran, etc. For more about verbs, Click Here.


A word that describes or modifies a noun (e.g., tall man). It is termed a modifier, because it adds something to (modifies) a noun. An adjective is sometimes used to modify groups of words, such as noun phrases (the astonishing turn of events) or noun clauses (it appeared obvious that the contestant was drunk.)

Consider the following sentences:

1. The curly-haired dog ran after the cat.
(The compound adjective curly-haired tells us something about the noun cat.)

2. The morning train arrived late today.
(Morning tells us a little more about the train.)

3. A noisy mob quickly formed in front of the darkened jail.
(The adjectives are noisy and darkened.)

4. The morning sun quickly melted the crushed ice in his empty glass.
(The adjectives in this sentence are morning, crushed, and empty.)

For more about adjectives, Click Here.


Adverbs are words that are used to modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. An adverb tells us a little about the verb, adjective, or adverb that it modifies. In fact, an adverb can be used to modify anything, except a noun. This includes phrases (almost out of sight), participles (a well-earned vacation) clauses, and pronouns (nearly everyone). An adverb answers a question, such as How?, Where?, When?, Why?, and "In what direction?" (How, when, where, and why are adverbs themselves.) Adverbs are often easy to identify as many end in -ly.

Modifying a verb

Come quickly.
Turn south.
Stand up.
You can sit there now.
Exercise frequently.
He waved his arms excitedly.
We shopped yesterday.
He ate noisily.

Modifying an adjective

The very dark color of the gate made it easy to miss in the twilight.
The beverage had a slightly sweet taste.
They prayed for the soul of their recently deceased leader.
The early morning sun warmed his exposed limbs.
The formally dressed stranger stood up slowly.
There were no clouds in that bright blue sky.
The shabbily dressed stranger could not fail to attract attention.
She is extremely short.

Modifying an adverb

He built it very carefully
You can sit there now.
She looked very sleepy.
I am quite well, thank you.
It was utterly boring.
He assembled the device very carefully.
We are almost finished.
He sang exceptionally poorly.

For more about adverbs, Click Here.


A group of related words that does not contain both a subject and a verb and that functions as a noun, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, or verb. A phrase represents only part of a sentence. Consequently, it cannot convey a complete thought (e.g., spectacular sunrise, the old woman, in the boat, to the horizon, extending for miles, hanging at an angle, in place of, break away, in the interval, flapping in the breeze). In contrast to a phrase, a clause is a group of words that contains both a subject and a verb.


A group of words that contains both a subject and a verb, but represents only part of a compound sentence or complex sentence. The clause may express a thought completely on its own (e.g., I run every morning). In this case, it is termed an independent clause. Alternatively, it may not express an idea completely without the aid of an independent or main clause (e.g., when I am in town) In this last case, it is called a subordinate clause.

Adjective clauses, adverb clauses, and noun clauses are three types of subordinate clauses. An adjective clause modifies a noun or pronoun in the independent clause (e.g., The man, who was also a gambler, usually carried large amounts of cash). An adverb clause modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb in the independent clause (e.g., Shortly after the sun sets, twilight begins). Finally, a noun clause acts as a noun in an independent clause (e.g., whoever finishes first can take the rest of the day off).

For more about clauses Click Here.


A word that is normally combined with a noun, pronoun, adverb, or prepositional phrase. A preposition typically precedes what it modifies (e.g., to town, in summer, from here, outside of the home, over the table, behind the barrier). However, despite popular belief, a preposition can be used at the end of a sentence. Some prepositions are also used as conjunctions, adverbs, and other grammatical elements.

Commonly used prepositions include about, above, across, after, along, among, around, as, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, by, except, for, from, in, in back of, in front of, inside, into, of, off, on, onto, out of, outside, over, past, since, through, to, toward, under, until, up, upon, with, within, without.


A word (e.g., and, but, or) used to connect words, phrases, and, in particular, clauses. Some examples of conjunctions are:


For more about conjunctions Click Here

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