Because many words have more than one meaning, the dictionary alone can not always tell you what business a word has in your sentence.  From childhood, we have learned to tell parts of speech by the way they appear in the sentence.  Remember this.


Parts of speech come in three sizes:


    PHRASE—a group of words performing one function

    CLAUSE—a group of words containing a subject and verb


Parts of speech have three important jobs, and one minor job:






Putting the sizes and jobs together, we come up with only nine combinations we need to be concerned about:


VERBS—This is where the action is.  It's the reason you're bothering to say anything.  Verbs come in only two sizes:

    WORD—Tom ran.  I hit the ball.

    PHRASE--The work will have been done before you return.  I am going to do it myself.


SUBSTANTIVES (nouns & pronouns)—This is what you're talking about.  A substantive is anything which can be the subject of a sentence. (It may be acting as an object right now, but don't let that bother you.  Except for six pesky pronouns, subjects and objects are interchangeable.  And they're all substantives all the time.)  There are three sizes of substantives:

    WORD—-(noun) The car is red.  John hit a tree.

                    (pronoun) He did it.

                    (-ing verb forms) Running is fun.  Swimming builds muscles

    PHRASE—To draw is fun.  To go downtown takes time.

    CLAUSE—What you wear is your business.  That she looks ugly does not really matter.


MODIFIERS (adjectives & adverbs)—Modifiers help you limit what you say.  They come in three sizes:

    WORD—The tall boy wore a red sweater.  He was cute.  He ran fast.  I hardly blame him.

    PHRASE—I saw a girl with pigtails.  The man behind me called.

    CLAUSE—I bought a car that rattles.  I talked to the man who lives down the street.


CONNECTORS (articles, prepositions, conjunctions) These are the left-overs.  About all they do is fill up space so the other parts fall in the right places and we can tell what they are.  There is just one size:

    WORD--The owl and the pussycat went to sea in a boat.



Return to biography.


Return to the Paul LeValley school page.