January 21, 2008

#01-064: The Eight Parts of Speech - Part I

the sentences "boys like rockets" and "Sam is lonely" diagrammed
Sentence diagramming (yuck!) illustrates parts of speech.

Note: Studying grammar is soooo boring. And so important!

Get Ready: What is the "job" of a noun--that is, what does it do in a sentence? How about a verb? Or a preposition?

There are two phases to learning English.

In Phase 1, you learn to express yourself, to get your ideas across. The goal at this phase is communication. Many of my English-learning friends are pretty good at this.

Phase 2 is not so commonly seen. This is where the language is polished, nearly perfect. The goal here is respect.

Grammar is important at both phases. In Phase 1, if you learn bad habits (often seen in so-called "Chinglish," as we discussed in Lessons #01-040, #01-041, and #01-042), it becomes harder to learn to speak correctly later on.

But grammar really becomes important in Phase 2. If you speak without paying attention to grammar, people will not respect your words or ideas. As Marshall McLuhan said, "The medium is the message." People cannot separate what you say--the message--from how you say it--the medium.

One of the keys to great grammar, both spoken and written, is to have a firm grasp on the forms and functions of the eight parts of speech. These are: Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives, Verbs, Adverbs, Conjunctions, Prepositions, and Interjections.

In this lesson, as well as Lesson #01-065 and Lesson #01-066, we're going to do a quick overview of these eight parts.

First, a short quiz. Look at the following words and quickly determine their parts of speech:

  1. wind
  2. mine
  3. light
  4. start
  5. wire
  6. bank
  7. really
  8. seven
  9. water
  10. make

Are you ready for the answer? Here it is: There's no way of knowing!

Each of these words can be two or more parts of speech. Some words are always the same part, but many can be different parts of speech, depending on how they're used in a sentence. The question is: What does the word DO in the sentence? That will tell you what part of speech it is.

If you've studied test-taking skills, you probably know this. One strategy in choosing the correct answer (or identifying the wrong one) is to look at the words around the problem word, and see what they do. If you have a sentence like, "The boy ____ on the burning deck," you would look at that preposition "on" and ask what a boy would DO on a burning deck. It must be a verb. But if the sentence were, "The ____ stood on the burning deck," you are now looking for WHAT stood: it must be a noun.

There's much more to this, of course. But you should be getting the general idea that one word may be a different part of speech, depending on what it does in the sentence.

In Lesson #01-065 we'll take a closer look at the answers to the little quiz above; and then in Lesson #01-066 we'll look at the actual job of each of the eight parts.

Until then: goodbye! (interjection) 


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentence_diagram

Practice: Match the halves of the sentences.

  1. Studying grammar is really boring,
  2. Good grammar will help you do two things:
  3. Understanding the eight parts of speech
  4. Sometimes you cannot know what part of speech a word is
  5. You will also be better at taking tests

  1. until you know how it is used in a sentence.
  2. communicate your ideas, and earn people's respect.
  3. if you understand the eight parts of speech.
  4. but it's also really important.
  5. is an important step in understanding grammar.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for January 21, 2008

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