Parts of Speech: A Cheat Sheet for Parents

Have All the Answers When It Comes to Homework

mother helping son with writing assignment
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When you’re trying to help your child with a writing assignment, making a journal at home or even just playing a game of Mad Libs, it’s not always easy to remember which words are what part of speech and how to use them. For those of us with grammar challenges, here’s a parts-of-speech cheat sheet to make dissecting English a little easier.


Nouns are the most basic part of speech. They are “naming” words that identify a person, thing, place, idea or feeling.

Here’s what you need to know about the different types of nouns:

  • Proper nouns: A proper noun refers to a specific person, thing, place or idea. A proper nouns is always capitalized.
  • Plural nouns: A plural noun indicates more than one person, place, thing or idea. A plural noun often, but not always, has an “s” or “es” suffix on the end.
  • Singular nouns: A singular noun indicates only one.
  • Collective nouns: A collective noun refers to a group and can be either proper nouns (the Senate) or common nouns (the team).
  • Pronouns: Pronouns are words that replace more specific nouns. They can be singular or plural. Examples of pronouns include: she, he, they, we, it.


You probably remember verbs as “action words.” They are the part of the sentence that tells what is happening, has happened or is going to happen. Verbs can also refer to more abstract actions, as in the case of words like “think” or “feel.” A little more about verbs:

  • Transitive verbs: Transitive verbs have an object that receives the action of the verb. The meaning is incomplete without the object. For example: I found my missing watch. In this sentence, the verb “found” needs the object “watch” to give all the information the sentence needs.
  • Intransitive verbs:  Intransitive verbs can stand by themselves in a sentence and convey meaning. For example: The elephant sneezed.

    The verb tense provides information about the timing of the action (when it happens or happened).

    • present tense: jump
    • past tense: jumped
    • future tense: will jump
    • present participle tense: am jumping, are jumping
    • past participle tense: have jumped, has jumped

    Adjectives and Adverbs

    Adjectives and adverbs are descriptive words. Adjectives are used in conjunction with nouns. The describe the quality of the noun and can be thought as answering questions about the noun such as which, how many, and what kind. Adverbs are also descriptive words, but they are used with verbs, adjectives and, in some cases, other adverbs. They answer questions about the when, where, how, why and circumstances. Many adverbs are identifiable by the “ly” at the end of the word, for example: “She quickly sat in the small chair.”


    Conjunctions are small but powerful words. There are seven coordinating conjunctions used to connect phrases, clauses and to make compound sentences. They are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

    There are two other types of conjunctions: subordinating conjunctions and correlative conjunctions. Subordinating conjunctions like before, because, after and although are used to introduce adverb clauses.

    Correlative conjunctions are used in pairs like “neither...nor” and “not only...but also.

    Prepositions and Interjections

    A preposition is a word that indicates the relationship between a noun and another noun, adverb or verb. A few examples include: in, on, before, through, without, beside.

    Interjections are also known as exclamations (such as “whoa, gosh, um, huh”) and are words that don’t really mean anything on their own or add meaning to a sentence. They are used for emphasis in speech.