please know the following terms: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, sentences

I have been writing for almost eight years now, I’ve taken an English class at school (and did well enough that the teacher recommended that I apply for a tutoring job) and I have worked at the writing center editing students’ papers for a whole semester. So I have some clue about grammar.

The fact is that you don’t need to know everything in grammar. Who cares what a complex-complete sentence or a past perfect verb is?  (Well, I do, but I don’t know off the top of my head. And honestly, very few people who came to me at the writing center cared to know either.)

However, there are some basic parts of grammar that you need to know in order to edit your paper.

Nouns: Simply, an noun is any visible object. A name is also a noun (properly called a noun of direct address). However, nouns can also be things like virtues and emotions. Nouns are what do the action in the sentance.

Two things to understand with nouns. Although not always, nouns can either function as subjects or objects in a basic sentence. In general, subjects come before the verb and objects come after the verb. (They also function quite commonly as objects of the preposition, but, because I don’t think you need to know what a preposition is, I won’t go there.)

Verbs: Verbs, simply, are action words, like jump, type, listen, talk, said. Other verbs, called passive verbs, are words like was, were, has, had, ect. A passive word means the action was not done by the subject. (“My comb was broken,” vs. “Someone broke my comb.”) Whenever I mention avoid passive words, I particularly mean you should delete “was/were” from your writing.

Verbs and nouns are the basic building blocks of sentences.

Adjective: Adjectives modify or describe nouns. Take a noun–girl–and put an adjective on it–tall girl, short girl, fat girl, skinny girl. Adjectives almost always go before the noun. Sometimes adjectives will come after the noun in a prepositional phrase, such as, dashboard of the car. These should be changed to read “car’s dashboard.”

Adverbs: The difference between adjectives and adverbs is that adjectives describe nouns while adverbs describe verbs. So if we take a verb–typed–and put an adverb on it–typed quickly.  in general, the way to recognize an adverb is if it ends in -LY. Also, adverbs, unlike adjectives, can be found in a variety of locations, from the beginning to the end of a sentence. Examples:

Quickly, she ran to the store.

She quickly ran to the store.

She ran quickly to the store.

She ran to the store quickly.

Although adverbs can go anywhere, as seen above, most people agree that adverbs are better the closer they are to the verb.

Conjunction: These combine two similar thoughts or phrases together to form one unit. Coordinating conjunctions are simple:  For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So.  However, there are also subordinating conjunctions, which are much more common as you shall soon see.

Now, let’s put this all together. In order to be a reasonable proofreader, you need to be able to recognize a complete sentence.

Sentences: In a sentence, you need a noun and a verb. If you have more than one of either of those, you need a conjunction, a semi colon or a period. Confusing? Yeah, probably. Just hang with me.

You can have something called a very simple sentence  which is five words long at most. An example would be:

She ate the cake.

She (noun, subject) ate (verb) the cake (noun, object)

Or you can have a very long sentence.

Sue ate the cake and Bob drank the soda while they walked to the park.

Sue (noun, subject) ate (verb) the cake (noun, object) and (conjunction) Bob (noun, subject) drank (verb) the soda (noun, object) while (conjunction) they (noun, subject) walked (verb) to the park (noun, either subject nor object. It’s actually an object of the proposition, like I mentioned earlier. To can be an preposition.)

Why is this important? Because say I have a sentence:

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, he ran across the field too.

You think it might look right but just to be on the safe side, you decide to check it.

The quick (adjective) brown (adjective) fox (noun, subject) jumped (verb) over the lazy (adjective) dog, (noun) he (noun, subject) ran (verb) across the field (noun) too.

When you analyze it like that, you find that you actually have two subjects, two verbs and no conjunction. You need to place a conjunction in the sentence, or a period, and make it two separate sentences or else you have a comma splice. (Two sentences joined with a comma.)

The other reason why you need to know these parts of speech is because once you realize that one word is an adjective, if you decide that you don’t like that particular adjective, you can replace it with any other adjective found in the dictionary.  It’s very much like the mad lib idea. But, you can’t replace one type of word for another type of word.

So now perhaps you understand not only why your teacher cared so much about nouns and verbs but how to use them while writing.

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About Abigail

I'm an elementary education major at a college in the Midwest. I might graduate as early as December '13 but more likely May '14. I write when I can. I also knit on occasion, draw, do homework and contradict teachers to make people think. :)

20 responses to “please know the following terms: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, sentences”

  1. Sonca Teng says :

    Hi, I found your blog googling adverb usage.

    So I have a question. I begin a sentence in the following way in a cover letter I’ve written: “I have a vehemently innovative spirit..” My sister seems to think it sounds stupid and awkward. So I looked it up and most everywhere I’ve looked, modifying an adjective with an adverb is permissible. But I did find one article that states modifying a verb with an adverb is a cop-out, and is bad writing. Any chance you could give me your opinion on this?

    I also thought I’d help point out the typo in your first paragraph under the heading Nouns:
    “However, nouns can also be thinks like virtues and emotions.”

    • Abigail says :

      Personally, I don’t like how it sounds. Vehemently is usually used to describe actions and although, yes, your innovativeness would be a action in a sense, that’s not usually the action that I think of with vehemently. I also tend to thing that vehemently is generally more angry or tense.

      What I would consider doing is changing vehemently to a adjective and modifying spirit a bit more. Perhaps using passionate or some other similar word.

      If it would help, I work with an English teacher tomorrow and will ask her if the adverb modifying a adjective is a cop-out.

      • Sonca Teng says :

        Hey, thanks for the quick reply!

        I meant to express it as “innovation with such powerful conviction that it was as if charged with anger”. I would’ve said “passionate” instead but I’ve used it four times in the letter already hahaha.

        That’d be great if you could ask though, about adverbs modifying adjectives. Seems like it’d be an incredible loss not to even be able to write things like “extremely heavy”.

        • Abigail says :

          Well, I talked to my friend, and she said that it is perfectly acceptable to modify an adjective with an adverb, and she rather liked the way you wrote it. Unlike me, she did not think that vehemently sounded like angry, and based on what you are saying, it sounds like a good choice.

          Hope that helped.

  2. Emin says :

    Awesome article, transformation of sentences, letters, essays, and other practice stuff nearly made me forget the difference between an adverb and verb, and how to identify them. Thanks.

  3. Thinkingyou'restupid says :

    There ‘is’ some basic parts of grammar? Surely you mean ‘are’. Im grateful you’re not teaching in the UK!

    • Abigail says :

      Thank you for that feedback. As of right now, this post has had 3,559 viewers, but you’re the first one who actually took the time to point that out (and possibly even noticed). It sounds right in my head but technically you are correct. Though I would recommend next time you correct someone’s grammar online, you don’t miss an apostrophe in your comment. :)

    • Sonca Teng says :


      You used this article to get some help, then figured you’d slam the author for a minor slip?

      Classy. This is what people from the UK are like then?

  4. Emma says :

    Generally I do not learn article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to check out and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, quite great post.

  5. rakesh mahadev says :

    Always stood behind when someone asked me questions on this subjects.Now, quite confident and would stand right ahead and always behind Abigail.

  6. Abel says :

    Very helpful thank you somuch

  7. Smsmddd says :

    thanks .before looking at this explanation i didn’t knew anything about these words and its meaning , well that helps me a lot ,

  8. Jenny says :

    I loved this blog. But i’ve a doubt on the word ‘fly’. It’s a verb(as per the Urban Dictionary) but some even take it as a noun.
    What about it?

    • Abigail says :

      Fly can be both a verb and a noun.

      Fly as a verb is what airplanes or birds do. (The airplane flies through the air. Or the bird flies through the air.)

      Fly as a verb refers to the common house fly, a bug that is basically just pesty and tends to help decompose things or pollen some plants.

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