How to Identify Parts of Speech in Paragraphs
Being able to identify parts of speech in paragraphs is an important tool that can help a student to better understand what he reads. Knowing which words are which parts of speech and which parts of speech should modify those words will also help a student to write clearly and correctly. There are eight parts of speech: verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections. The parts of speech are the foundation for all writing and reading, so it will benefit a student greatly to gain a strong grasp of the parts of speech.
Identify the verbs in the paragraph. Every sentence requires at least one verb. A verb is a word that expresses action, occurrence or being. Verbs have different tenses such as past, present and future. Verbs include "run," "see," "is," "bought," "came," and "drove." It is important to know that many words that are verbs can also be other parts of speech such as adverbs and nouns. The word "exit," for instance, can be a verb or a noun depending on its usage within the sentence: In the sentence, "Please exit through the back," "exit" is a verb. In the sentence, "We couldn't find the exit," "exit" is a noun.
Identify the nouns in the paragraph. A noun is a person, place, thing or idea. A noun usually acts as the subject of the sentence, but it can also act as a direct object, indirect object, appositive or complement. Some examples of nouns include "Peter," "China," "table," and "happiness." Nouns can be singular or plural. Note that every sentence will contain at least one noun because every sentence must have a subject.
Identify the pronouns in the paragraph. Pronouns take the place of nouns and function just as nouns do. Examples of pronouns include "her," "I," "we," and "him." Note that "his" or "your" are considered possessive adjectives.
Identify the adjectives in the paragraph. Adjectives modify, qualify or describe nouns and pronouns in the sentence. Adjectives will answer the questions, "Which one?", "What kind?", and "How many?". Some examples of adjectives include "that," "blue" and "seven."
Identify the adverbs in the paragraph. Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. In the sentence, "She ran quickly," "quickly" is the adverb that modifies "ran." Note that not all sentences will contain an adverb. Other words that act as adverbs include "unfortunately," "therefore" and generally any word that ends in "-ly."
Identify the prepositions in the paragraph. A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in the sentence. Examples of prepositions include "of," "in," "at," "from," "to," "since," "up" and "with." Prepositions generally indicate a spatial, temporal or logical relationship between the prepositional phrase and an object in the sentence. Note that not all sentences will contain prepositions.
Identify the conjunctions in the paragraph. Conjunctions are words that connect other words, phrases and clauses. The words "and," "but," "or," "for," "nor," "yet" and "so" are conjunctions. Note that not all sentences will contain conjunctions.
Identify the interjections in the paragraph. Interjections are words that make an exclamation. Words like "Wow!", "Please!", and "What!" are interjections. Note that some words, such as "What!", are interjections only when they are used to make an exclamation.
- Georgia Perimeter College: Identifying Parts of Speech
- "Handbook for Writers, 10th ed."; Prentice Hall; 1988