Basic English: Parts of Speech, Sentence Structure, and Verb Tenses



Basic sentence structure in English is S-V-O, or Subject - Verb - Object. The subject is the person or thing that does the action. The verb defines the action. The object describes the thing that receives the action. In the sentence below, Peter is the subject, eats is the verb, and ice cream is the object.

Peter eats ice cream.

Every complete sentence will have a subject, a verb, and an object, but those aren't the only elements found in an English sentence. Other words are included in a sentence to add context. These are called parts of speech. Here, we take a look at the eight parts of speech.

noun (n.) - a person, place, or thing. (book, desk, party, Bob) Another resource about nouns

verb (v.) - a word that tells an action. (go, do, work, smile)

adjective (adj.) - a word that modifies (describes) a noun. (red, tall, beautiful, nice)

adverb (adv.) - a word that modifies (describes) a verb or an adjective. They generally describe how or when something was done. (fast, slowly, fluently, tomorrow)

preposition (prep.) - identifies placement or location of one object with another. They usually come before nouns. (in, on, between, above)

pronoun (pron.) - a word used in place of a noun. (he, she, they, myself)

conjunction (conj.) - used to connect words and phrases. (and, but, so)

interjection (Interj.) - an emotional exclamation that can also stand alone. (oh, wow, oops)

The subjects and objects of a sentence are usually a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun.

Peter eats ice cream slowly. (S-V-O-adv.) Peter eats cold ice cream slowly. (S-V-adj.-O-adv.) Peter eats cold ice cream slowly in the kitchen. (S-V-adj.-O-adv.-prep.-art.-n.) Peter eats cold ice cream slowly in the kitchen. Okay. (S-V-adj.-O-adv.-prep.-art.-n.-Interj.)

Keep in mind that some words can fall under more than one part of speech. For example, time is a noun and a verb.

Linguists like to argue that there are only two tenses (past and present) or three tenses (past, present, and future) with multiple aspects or modifiers. We won't have that argument here. For the purposes of this post, there are twelve tenses. Verb tenses are used to indicate time and enhance meaning.

Past simple - Peter ate ice cream. Past perfect - Peter had eaten ice cream. Past progressive - Peter was eating ice cream. Past perfect progressive - Peter had been eating ice cream.

Present simple - Peter eats ice cream. Present perfect - Peter has eaten ice cream. Present progressive - Peter is eating ice cream. Present perfect progressive - Peter has been eating ice cream.

Future simple - Peter will eat ice cream. Future perfect - Peter will have eaten ice cream. Future progressive - Peter will be eating ice cream. Future perfect progressive - Peter will have been eating ice cream.

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