The following is a basic list of grammatical terms. Most important are parts of speech, also known as word classes, or grammatical categories. The important words of sentence are called content words, because they carry the main meanings, and receive sentence stress Nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives are content words. Minor words are called function words, which are less important in the sentence, and usually don’t get stressed. All other categories — such as prepositions, articles, quantifiers, particles, auxiliary verbs, be-verbs, etc. — are function words.
- 1 Content words
- 2 Function words
- 3 Sentence structure and position
- 4 See also
1 Content words
1.1 ADJECTIVE (adj.)
Modifies a noun. See also the adjectives page.
|attributive||We all live in a yellow submarine.|
|predicate||Our submarine is yellow.|
1.2 ADVERB (adv.)
Modifies verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. We can distinguish various types, such as:
|frequency:||I often wear fruit on my head.|
|intensity:||I love chocolate so much! I just can’t get enough!|
|manner||The matter was dealt with graciously.|
|conjunctive:||However, I don’t recommend that you try it.|
|sentence [sentential] adverb:||I really don’t understand him.|
1.3 NOUN (n.)
Nouns can be classified according to mass (non-count) and count nouns, and according to proper/common nouns.
|mass / substance / material||I love drinking coffee.|
|count:||I can’t imagine that eating a large pizza could make me gain so much weight.|
|common:||I don’t trust politicians.|
|proper:||I don’t trust Bob Dole or President Clinton.|
Nouns can vary along various dimensions, like abstract (love, mercy) versus concrete (bottle, pencil). Some nouns are super-ordinate nouns that denote a general category, i.e., a hypernym, and nouns for members of the category are hyponyms.
- equipment→ computer, scanner, microscope
- furniture→ table, desk, chair, shelf
1.4 VERB (v.)
Verbs can be classified in many ways — according to properties (transitive / intransitive, activity (dynamic) / stative), verb form, and grammatical features (tense, aspect, voice, and mood). Most verbs are content words, while some (below) are function words.
Can take an object.
|I ate all the kiwis. I gave all the berries to the penguin.|
Can’t take an object.
|All the kiwis disappeared.|
|activity (dynamic)||I hiked the mountain and ran for an hour.|
|stative:||The strawberries weigh over 2kg.|
Stative verbs referring to mental states
|I love berries.|
|inflected form:||She sneezes whenever she’s around cats.|
|gerund||Sneezing is such an irritating thing.|
|participle||The poor girl, sneezing from an allergy attack, had to rest.|
|simple past||I sneezed|
|perfect||I have sneezed|
|past perfect||I had sneezed|
|voice||active||You are tricking me.|
|passive||I was tricked.|
|progressive||I am seezing.|
|emphatic||I do sneeze.|
|perfect / perfective||I have sneezed.|
|habitual||I sneeze (every day). I used to sneeze.|
|continuous||I kept sneezing.|
|immediate future||I’m about to sneeze. I’m going to sneeze.|
|mood (modality)||indicative||I am sneezing.|
|conditional||I would / might / may sneeze.|
|imperative||Don’t sneeze! Go see a doctor!|
|suggestive||Let’s all sneeze together!|
2 Function words
Some types of minor verbs are function words.
|linking copular) verb||Links subject with predicate.||be, seem, tends to|
|auxiliary (AUX)||Helping verb for forming tenses.||be, have, will|
|modal||Indicates modality or speaker’s evaluations of the statement.||must, may, might, should|
A group of function words that can stand for other elements. Just as pronouns can substitute for nouns, we also have words that can substitute for verbs, verb phrases, locations (adverbials or place nouns), or whole sentences.
|sentential / verbal PF||such, so||I don’t think so.|
|locative PF||there, here||I like it here, but I didn’t like it over there.|
2.3 Pronoun (prn.)
Substitutes for a noun, including unspecified and unknown referents.
|personal||I, you, he, she, it, we, they, him, her, me, them|
|indefinite||someone, somebody, anyone, anybody, no one, nobody, everyone,
everybody, all, each
|interrogative||which, what, who?|
|emphatic||I myself wouldn’t do it. They can do it themselves.|
|demonstrative||this, that, these, those|
|possessive||mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs|
|reflexive||myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves|
|reciprocal||each other, one another|
|relative||For introducing relative clauses:
who, whom, whose, which, that
|dummy / filler / expletive prn.||Fills a subject slot when needed, but doesn’t really stand for
It is raining.
There is a unicorn in my garden.
2.4 Conjunction (conj.)
Joins two clauses to make a compound sentence, or joins two items to make a compound phrase.
|coordinating conj.||Combines two nouns, pronouns, adjectives, or adverbs into a compound phrase, or joins two main clauses into a compound sentence.||and, or, but, so|
|correlative conj.||Work in tandem to join two phrases.||either...or;
|subordinating conj.||Joins a subordinate (non-main) clause with a main clause. A main (or independent) clause is a clause that could stand alone as a separate grammatical sentence, while a subordinate (or dependent) clause cannot stand alone.||while, although, because|
A category that includes articles, possessive adjectives, and sometimes, quantifiers. Articles distinguish between mass versus count nouns, or between uses of a noun that are (1) more abstract, generic, or mass, versus (2) more concrete, delimited, or specified. See the page on determiners.
|indefinite articles||a, an|
|demonstrative adj.||this, that, these, those|
|interrogative adj.||which X?, whose X?|
|possessive adj.||my, your, his, her, its, our, their|
Words that modify nouns in terms of quantity.
- much, many, each, every, all, some, none, any
2.7 Preposition (prep.)
Shows relationships, literal or abstract, between two nouns.
- Do you believe in ghosts? Yes, I think there’s one in my closet right now!
2.8 Particle (par.)
A group of several miscellaneous kinds of minor function words.
|complementizer||Marks a that-complement clause. Complements without expressed subjects are often marked with that, and subjects of complement clauses are often marked with the particle for.||I know that you took the money.
It would be crazy for them to go to Greenland for vacation.
|discourse particle||Express sentence pauses, or bridges between thoughts.||Hmm...I just don’t know what to do.
Well, I think I’ll just go home.
I, uh...think I’d ...uh...better be going...
|infinitive particle||The particle to is added to a main verb to make an infinitive.||I want to go to the bathroom!|
|negative particle||A negative such as no, not.||I am not a crook!|
|phrasal verb particle [PVP]||Combines with a main verb to make a phrasal verb.||Look out!
Carry on with your work.
2.9 Interjection (interj.)
An exclamation, for expressing emotions, calling someone, expletives, etc.
- Hey! Get out of my refrigerator!
- Oh! Can you come here?
- Ouch! That really hurt!
- Rats! Darn it!
3 Sentence structure and position
We also classify words by their function or role in a sentence, and how they relate to other words and the whole sentence. A sentence with a linking verb can be divided into the subject (SUBJ) [or nominative] and verb phrase (VP), which contains a verb or smaller verb phrase, and a noun or adj. predicate (PRED). A noun or pronoun belongs to or makes up a noun phrase (NP), just as a verb belongs to or makes up a VP.
- Penguins are birds.
[NP] [VP [NP]]
In sentences with transitive verbs, the verb phrase consists of a verb plus an object (OBJ) — a direct object (DO), and possibly an indirect object (IO).
- Penguins eat fish.
[SUBJ] [VP [DO] ].
I feedmy penguinsfish.
[SUBJ] [VP [IO] [DO] ].
The functions of nouns in a sentence, such as subject, object, DO, IO, and possessive are known as CASE.