Understanding Parts of Speech

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Lesson on the eight parts of speech using the mnemonic "VAINCAPP."

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  • Here is a quick lesson on the eight parts of speech, prepared by Dr. LaRae Donnellan, professor and public relations sequence coordinator in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University.
  • The parts of speech are simply what we call the words we use to communicate with one another. Just as every part of a bicycle has a name, so does every word in a sentence. Here’s a helpful definition from Brooks, Pinson and Wilson in their grammar book “Working with Words”: “Parts of speech refer to what words are, while the parts of a sentence refer to what words do – that is, how they are used in a sentence.”
  • Here is a simple mnemonic (pronounced "neh-mon-ik"), or memory aid, to help you remember the eight parts of speech: VAINCAPP. “ V” stands for Verbs. The first “A” stands for Adjectives. “ I” stands for Interjections. “ N” stands for Nouns. “ C” stands for Conjunctions. The second “A” stands for Adverb. The first “P” stands for Pronouns. And the second “P” stands for Prepositions. As Carly Simon sang, “You’re so vain. You probably think we’re talking about you.”
  • The most powerful part of speech is the verb. Verbs give the sentence meaning, so choose them wisely. Verbs can take two forms. The first is to “show action.” For example, you might walk down the street. Or you might stride, stroll or amble. You can see something. Or you might observe, recognize or examine it. You might hold an idea. Or you might embrace or support it. Here’s an example of a sentence with strong verbs: As global climate change overpowers our existence, we must caress the Earth.
  • The second role that verbs play is to indicate a state of being. These are words such as am, is, are, was, were, has been or will be. For example, “Gloria is ecstatic because school is out.” Or “She was excited to learn the concert will be in Tallahassee.”
  • The second part of speech is the adjective. Adjectives modify – or describe – a noun or noun substitute (such as a pronoun – more about that later). Adjectives give us more details about those nouns. Adjectives might tell us “how many” of something we have, such as “three” dogs or “several” ideas. Adjectives might tell us “what kind,” such as “excellent” job or “large” house. Or adjectives might tell us “which” or “whose,” as in “that” prize” or “Adam’s” book. Here’s what adjectives might look like in a sentence: “What an adorable pig holding that beautiful daisy!” What kind of pig? Adorable. What kind of daisy? Beautiful.
  • The third part of speech is the interjection. Interjections show emotion or a break in thought. And most interjections are followed by exclamation points, such as Geez! Hey! Or Yikes! Another way to think about Interjections is to imagine Batman words, such as Wow! Or Bam! Here are two sentences that contain Interjections: Well , isn’t that special! He said, you know, that it’s OK.
  • The fourth part of speech is the noun. Nouns are the subjects or “actors” in our sentences. Nouns can name people, such as the words Josh, girl, family, choir or team. Nouns can name places, such as the words backyard, Florida or library. Nouns can name things, such as house, book or river. And nouns can name ideas or qualities, such as freedom or greed or excitement. Here’s a sentence with several nouns: “ Amir bragged to his cousin about his baby daughter’s beauty .”
  • Nouns take two forms. Common nouns are not capitalized and refer to a generic person or thing, such as a river or car. Proper nouns are capitalized and refer to a special person or thing, such as the Mississippi River or Honda Prius . Here’s a sentence that contains both common and proper nouns: Marcus (proper noun) and his son (common noun), James (proper noun), romped in the park (common noun) in Atlanta (proper noun.)
  • The fifth part of speech is the conjunction. Conjunctions connect words – such as “this” or “that,” “Tom” and “Jerry.” They connect phrases, such as “skipping school” but “getting caught.” Or they connect phrases: Either “I’m going with Meg” or “I’m going by myself.” Here’s a sentence with two types of conjunctions: Alex and Cassie are excited because school has begun.
  • There are three types of conjunctions. The first is coordinate conjunctions. These join items of equal rank, such as a noun and a noun, or a phrase and a phrase, or an independent clause and another independent clause. An easy mnemonic for remembering coordinate conjunctions is FANBOYS, which represents F or, A nd N or, B ut, O r, Y et, S o. The second type of conjunction is correlative conjunctions. They, too, join items of equal rank, but correlative conjunctions come in pairs. Here are a few common correlative conjunctions: either … or not only … but also if … then The third type of conjunctions are the subordinate conjunctions, which join items of unequal rank, such as an independent clause and a dependent clause. Here’s a sentence that contains all three types of conjunctions: Although (subordinate conjunction) they were great singers, Jon and (coordinate conjunction) Kate neither (first part of correlative conjunction) joined the choir nor (second part of correlative conjunction) the glee club.
  • The sixth part of speech is the adverb. Adverbs modify (or describe) verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. They tell us how, when, where, to what degree or how much. For example, He rises slowly or sings beautifully or plays well. How cool is the band? It’s a totally” cool band. How pretty is the woman? She’s a very pretty woman. How recklessly did she drive? She drove too recklessly. How well does she cook? She cooks very well. This sentence contains all three types of adverbs: Mark watched very (modifies the adverb “intently”) intently (modifies the verb “watched”) as the lead car rounded the exceedingly (modifies the adjective “steep”) curve.
  • The seventh part of speech is the pronoun. Pronouns take the place of nouns. Pronouns take one of three forms, depending upon their role within a sentence. The first is the subjective form, also called the “nominative” form. These are pronouns that can serve as the subjects of your sentence, such as I, you, he, she, it, they or we. Objective pronouns receive action. They often follow prepositions. Examples are me, you, him, her, it, them and us. Possessive pronouns (also known as adjectives) include my, your, his, her, its, theirs and ours. There are four pronouns in this sentence: She (the subject of our sentence) crawled to my (possessive pronoun) and stared at it (an objective pronoun), which made me (an objective pronoun) giggle.
  • The eighth and final part of speech is the preposition. Prepositions show the relationship between nouns and something else in the sentence. Prepositions show direction, such as over, under, to, from, into or upon. Prepositions indicate time, such as until, during, at or in. Prepositions show connections, such as like, of, with, for or on top of. An easy way to think of prepositions is that they are “anywhere a bird can go.” This sentence contains two prepositions: The parrot soared over the forest and landed on top of the tent.
  • Identify the parts of speech in this sentence: We adore cuddly babies. We = a pronoun adore = action verb cuddly = adjective describing the babies babies = noun
  • Identify the parts of speech in this sentence: Well, Michael is especially talented. Well = interjection (shows a break in thought) Michael = proper noun and the subject of our sentence is = verb showing a state of being especially = adverb modifying how talented Michael is talented = adjective modifying or describing Michael
  • Identify the parts of speech in this sentence: Ben and Jerry partied until dawn. Ben = proper noun and one of the subjects of our sentence and = coordinating conjunction connecting two equal subjects (i.e., Ben and Jerry) Jerry = proper noun and the second subject of our sentence partied = action verb until = preposition indicating time dawn = common noun
  • So what are the parts of speech? Think of VAINCAPP, and you should remember that they are V erbs, A djectives, I nterjections, N ouns, C onjunctions, A dverbs, P ronouns and P repositions.
  • Understanding Parts of Speech

    1. 1. Understanding Parts of Speech Dr. LaRae M. Donnellan, APR, CPRC Language Skills for Journalists School of Journalism & Graphic Communication Florida A&M University
    2. 2. What Are Parts of Speech? <ul><li>What we call the words we use. </li></ul><ul><li>“… [P]arts of speech refer to what words are , [while] the parts of a sentence [refer] to what words do – that is, how they are used in a sentence.” (Brooks, Pinson & Wilson, Working with Words ) </li></ul>
    3. 3. Think VAINCAPP <ul><li>V erbs </li></ul><ul><li>A djectives </li></ul><ul><li>I nterjections </li></ul><ul><li>N ouns </li></ul><ul><li>C onjunctions </li></ul><ul><li>A dverbs </li></ul><ul><li>P ronouns </li></ul><ul><li>P repositions </li></ul>
    4. 4. V erbs <ul><li>Verbs are the most-powerful words in our writing. </li></ul><ul><li>1. Verbs show action. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Walk, stride, stroll, amble </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>See, observe, recognize, examine </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hold, embrace, support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>As global climate change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>overpowers our existence, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>we must caress the Earth. </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. V erbs <ul><li>2. Verbs indicate a “state of being.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Am, is, are, was, were, has been, will be </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gloria is ecstatic because </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>school is out. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>She was excited to learn the </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>concert will be in Tallahassee. </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. A djectives <ul><li>Adjectives modify (or describe) a noun or noun substitute. They give us more details. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How many: three dogs, several ideas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What kind: excellent job, large house </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Which/whose: that prize, Adam’s book </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What an adorable pig holding that </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>beautiful daisy! </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. I nterjections <ul><li>Interjections show emotion or a break in thought: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Geez! Hey! Oops! Bingo! Alleluia! Good lord! Hmm… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Think of “Super hero” or “Batman” words: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Wow! Bam! Yikes! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Well , isn’t that special! </li></ul><ul><li>He said, you know , that it’s OK. </li></ul>
    8. 8. N ouns <ul><li>Nouns name people, places, things, ideas or qualities: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People: Josh, girl, family, choir, team </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Places: backyard, Florida, library </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Things: house, book, river </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ideas/qualities: freedom, greed, excitement </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Amir bragged to his cousin about </li></ul><ul><li>his baby daughter’s beauty . </li></ul>
    9. 9. N ouns <ul><li>Nouns take two forms: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Common nouns are not capitalized and refer to a generic person or thing. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Proper nouns are capitalized and refer to a special person/thing. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Marcus and his son, James, romped in the park in Atlanta . </li></ul>
    10. 10. C onjunctions <ul><li>Conjunctions connect: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Words: this or that , Tom and Jerry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Phrases: skipping school but getting caught </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clauses: Either I’m going with Meg or I’m going by myself. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Alex and Cassie are excited because school has begun. </li></ul>
    11. 11. C onjunctions <ul><li>Coordinate conjunctions join items of equal rank. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Think “FANBOYS”: F or A nd N or B ut O r Y et S o </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Correlative conjunctions come in pairs and join items of equal rank. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>either … or not only … but also if … then </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Subordinate conjunctions join items of unequal rank. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>although, because, as long as, until </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If their friends join the choir, then Jon and Kate will, too, because they love to sing. </li></ul>
    12. 12. A dverbs <ul><li>Adverbs modify (or describe) verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. They tell us how, when, where, to what degree or how much: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Verbs: He rises slowly , sings beautifully , plays well </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adjectives: It’s a totally cool band, very pretty woman </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adverbs: She drove too recklessly , cooks very well </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mark watched very intently as the lead car rounded the exceedingly steep curve. </li></ul>
    13. 13. P ronouns <ul><li>Pronouns take the place of nouns. </li></ul><ul><li>Pronouns take one of three forms: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Subjective: I, you, he, she, it, they, we </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Objective: me, you, him, her, it, them, us </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Possessive: my, your, his, her, its, theirs, ours </li></ul></ul><ul><li>She crawled to my computer and stared at it , which made me giggle. </li></ul>
    14. 14. P repositions <ul><li>Prepositions show the relationship between nouns and something else in the sentence. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They show direction: over, under, to, from, into, upon </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They indicate time: until, during, at, in </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They show connections: like, of, with, for, on top of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prepositions are “anywhere a bird can go.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The parrot soared over the forest and landed on top of the tent. </li></ul>
    15. 15. Identify the Parts of Speech <ul><li>We adore cuddly babies. </li></ul><ul><li>1 2 3 4 </li></ul><ul><li>We = pronoun </li></ul><ul><li>adore = verb </li></ul><ul><li>cuddly = adjective </li></ul><ul><li>babies = noun </li></ul>
    16. 16. Identify the Parts of Speech <ul><li>Well, Michael is especially talented. </li></ul><ul><li>1 2 3 4 5 </li></ul><ul><li>Well = interjection </li></ul><ul><li>Michael = noun </li></ul><ul><li>is = verb </li></ul><ul><li>especially = adverb </li></ul><ul><li>talented = adjective </li></ul>
    17. 17. Identify the Parts of Speech <ul><li>Ben and Jerry partied until dawn. </li></ul><ul><li>1 2 3 4 5 6 </li></ul><ul><li>Ben = noun </li></ul><ul><li>and = conjunction </li></ul><ul><li>Jerry = noun </li></ul><ul><li>partied = verb </li></ul><ul><li>until = preposition </li></ul><ul><li>dawn = noun </li></ul>
    18. 18. What are the Parts of Speech? <ul><li>Think VAINCAPP </li></ul>

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