Are you a mother trying to home school your kiddo and teach the difference in parts of speech? Are you someone who’s just trying to get a little bit better at your English comprehension skills? Maybe you’re a teacher and next week is your lesson on adjectives, nouns, verbs, and adverbs and you’re just trying to brush up so that you can accurately convey that information to your students. Well, you’re in luck. Because today I’m going to briefly answer the question of what’s the difference between a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb?

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Parts of Speech

The different “parts of speech” are the different types of words that exist in language and how they’re used. There’s eight different parts of speech in the English language: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections. That’s a lot, how do I remember them all, you might just say!

Music is an excellent way to help children (and adults!) learn to remember complicated things. This little ditty was composed by David B. Tower & Benjamin F. Tweed and edited by a modern author. Teachers have used it to help students learn the parts of speech:

Three little words you often see

Are ARTICLES: a, an, and the.

A NOUN’s the name of anything,

As: school or garden, toy, or swing.

ADJECTIVES tell the kind of noun,

As: great, small, pretty, white, or brown.

VERBS tell of something being done:

To read, write, count, sing, jump, or run.

How things are done the ADVERBS tell,

As: slowly, quickly, badly, well.

CONJUNCTIONS join the words together,

As: men and women, wind or weather.

A PRONOUN replaces any noun:

he, she, it, and you are found

The PREPOSITION stands before

A noun as: in or through a door.

The INTERJECTION shows surprise

As: Oh, how pretty! Ah! how wise!

The whole are called the PARTS of SPEECH,

Which reading, writing, speaking teach.

We’re going to focus on the five most-common of the parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, and adverbs. These five words are the foundation of an understanding of the parts of speech of the English language.

So, let’s start with a noun. What’s a noun? Well, a noun identifies a person, a place, a thing or an idea. It’s pretty much a “thing” word. Something tangible. Words like:

Train

Market

Brain

Hose

…refer to a tangible thing that exists in space, time, or an idea.

Nouns are often preceded by what we call “noun markers,” the words a, an, and the. These words are also called “articles”, which is another of the parts of speech.

Any word that answers “who or what” asked after a noun marker will be a noun.

He rode a horse.

He jumped in a car.

He eats the pie.

Possessive Noun

Now, there’s a couple different types of nouns. A possessive noun shows ownership or a relationship between two nouns. Words like

Plane’s

Hank’s

Hose’s

…are all possessive. Generally nouns are made possessive by adding an apostrophe to the end of the word.

Singular Noun Plural Noun
dog dog’s
cat cat’s
Nick Nick’s

Proper Nouns

Another type of noun is the proper noun which names a particular person, place, thing or idea. Mt. Rushmore, Morgan Lake, and Donald Trump are all proper nouns. Proper nouns are always capitalized and are often one of a kind. Regular nouns that do not require capitalization (book, chair, school, etc) are also called Common Nouns.

Plural Nouns

Plural nouns are when there’s more than one of something. To make a noun plural, most of the time you only need to add the letter s to the end:

Dogs, cats, ponies, wolverines.

You get the point. Nouns ending in s, ch, sh, x, or z always need to have an es added to the end:

Matches, marshes, peaches, axes.

For nouns ending in y, change the y to an i and add an es to make it plural. Cony becomes conies, Tory becomes Tories, and so on.

Word ending in -ance, -ancy, -ence, -ice, -ion, -ity, -ment, -ness, and -ure are usually nouns.

Okay, so onto verbs. Verbs are words that express a state of being. What something, a noun, is doing or being. Words like run, jog, and dance are all verbs because the subject of the sentence is doing something.

As with nouns, there’s different types of verbs. First, an action verb describes an actionable thing:

I run.

I dance.

I sing.

The subject (I in this case) is doing an action and the verb describes what this action is.

Linking Verb

A linking verb, on the other hand, describes a state of being of a thing.

The dog looks tired.

The man seemed happy.

The flower smelled sweet like honey.

In this case, the flower isn’t smelling anything. Rather it is in the state of being of smelling sweet.

Helping Verbs

There’s also helping verbs. Helping verbs are verbs that, well, help the main verb in a sentence.

The man could jog.

The dog wouldn’t sit.

Katy is watching television

Sometimes called auxiliary verbs, help out the main verb in a sentence by giving more detail to how time is portrayed in a sentence.

Thomas is watching television.

Margaret was cooking dinner.

A couple other things about verbs. You can’t have a complete sentence without a verb. In a sentence, a thing must be doing or being something. And that’s where verbs come in. A sentence without a verb is a sentence fragment and is not a complete clause, though some writers do use sentence fragments for creative effect very well.

Also, words ending in -ify and -ize usually are verbs. Words ending in -ing or -ed endings are also often verbs.

You can check to see if a word is a verb by fitting it into one of the following: He or she _______. They _______.

Alright, onto pronouns. Pronouns are words that replace a noun, nouns, or another pronoun for linguistic convenience. Words like I, me, we, us, you are all pronouns that replace having to say someone’s name all the time.

Can you imagine a world in which we always used our own names? Will makes videos, Will happy, Will drink lots of coffee and not enough food so Will have lots of jitters. Want to speak like a caveman? Don’t use pronouns.

Personal Pronouns

There’s a couple types of pronouns. Personal pronouns refer to a specific person, place, thing, or idea. I, me, you, etc. Possessive pronouns take the pace of possessive nouns. Will’s becomes my or mine, Matt’s becomes his, Toni’s becomes hers.

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns refer back to the subject of a sentence. It shows the verb is being done to the subject of the sentence and not someone else.

I hit myself myself.

You shocked yourself.

Whatever is being done is being done back to the subject of the sentence, and reflexive pronouns help to specify this.

Intensive Pronoun

An intensive pronoun is similar. An intensive pronoun is really just a reflexive pronoun that’s purpose is to add emphasis, not clarify. Some examples of intensive pronouns are:

I myself am sick of this heat!

We made the meal ourselves.

Intensive pronouns really emphasize that it was the subject that performed the action, and not anybody else.

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Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are used to point out specific things. This and that, these and those are demonstrative pronouns.

Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative pronouns are pronouns that you find in a dark room after you’ve just been arrested. Just kidding, but they are adverbs that do ask questions! Who and whom or whomever are used instead of specific nouns in a question.

Whoever ate my cookie, I’m not happy with!

That’s how to use an interrogative pronoun.

Indefinite Pronouns

And lastly, indefinite pronouns point to persons, places, and things in a very general way. Words like all or anything or anyone take the place of all those specific nouns that would be used in light of this pronoun.

Whew! That was a lot! But now I’m done with pronouns – finally – so let’s move onto adjectives.

Adjectives are words that modify nouns. They describe them or specify them. Words like red, tired, and flabbergasted are some examples.

The tire was black.

The furry dog.

Adjectives clarify what attributes belong to the noun they reference.

And did you know that nouns, pronouns, and verbs can become adjectives? Nouns and possessive nouns can serve as adjectives when they describe a noun. Possessive pronouns and demonstrative pronouns also serve as adjectives when they modify a noun. Verbs can also be adjectives when they end in -ing.

He was a running fiend.

See? In this sentence “running” serves as an adjective.

Verbs can also serve as an adjective when they end in -ed.

That dude was slammed.

See how the verb “slam” turns into the is the adjective slammed referring to the unfortunate party-goer?

Now here’s where it gets a little complicated. There’s three states of an adjective: the positive, the comparative, and superlative. The positive is the adjective in its original form: The runner was fast. Comparative adds -er to the end of the adjective. The runner was faster. The superlative form makes the subject the most extreme of something by adding -est. The runner was fastest. See, positive, comparative, and superlative. Here’s a table to make it a little easier.

Positive Comparative Superlative
Sleepy Sleepier Sleepist
Happy Happier Happiest
Ugly Uglier Ugliest

A proper adjective is made by adding -an, -ian, -ish, and -ese to a proper noun. Christian, Taiwanese, and Bohemian are all proper adjectives.

Words ending in -able, -ful, -ible, -ical, -ious, -ive, -y are usually adjectives.

Also, adjectives may also follow a linking verb and describe the subject of a sentence. For example: The car is big, red, and flashy.

And last we come to adverbs. An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

The sprinter ran hard.

The artist sung passionately.

The man spoke fast.

See how the adverb modifies the verb of the sentence so we read it just a little differently?

Adverbs will always describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Each adverb will answer these questions about the word they describe: : how, when, where, why, or under what conditions.

Some words are always adverbs. They include: not, very, often, here, almost, always, never, there, and too.

Like with comparative adjectives, there’s three different forms: the positive, the comparative, and the superlative. Like with verbs, for many adverbs add -er to make it the comparative form and -est to make it the superlative.

Positive Comparative Superlative
Hard Harder Hardest
Fast Faster Fastest
Late Later Latest

For some adverbs that end with -ly or have more than one syllable, you have to use the word more before it to make it comparative and most to make the superlative. Trying to add -er would to the adverb differently would result in words like differenter or differentliest, and those just word Frankensteins aren’t they!

Positive Comparative Superlative
Quickly More quickly Most quickly
Blindly More blindly Most blindly
Seriously More seriously Most seriously

And if it wasn’t complicated enough, some words have irregular comparative and superlative forms! Well becomes better and best, far becomes farther and farthest. These adverbs’ forms must be learned on a case-by-case basis. Thanks English language for all your weird inefficiencies!

About The Contributor

My name is Jason Link. I’m the self-published author of The Legender and a Udemy creator of courses about english grammar and fantasy worldbuilding. You can access my website and Udemy channel by clicking these links.

http://www.epicjason.com/

https://www.udemy.com/user/jason-link/

I don’t get paid to contribute my knowledge to these blogs. But when you share my content a portion of the advertising revenue does come back to me so I can continue to create beautiful things for everybody to enjoy.

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