The Building Blocks of English Grammar

Nouns – A noun is a person, place, thing, animal, or idea. The word noun is from a Latin word meaning name. Not all nouns are proper, so not all nouns need to be capitalized.

Ex: We went to the zoo to see the elephants.

My favorite elephant there is called Peanut.

The noun in the first sentence is not capitalized because it only mentions the elephants at the zoo in general, so it is a common noun. The noun in the second sentence is capitalized because it is the specific name of one of the elephants at the zoo, so it is a proper noun.

– Pronouns take the place of a noun in a sentence when repeating the noun is unnecessary. They are generally very short words (He, She, We, They, Who, It, etc.) and, although they usually replace nouns, they can also fill in for certain adverbs, adjectives, and other pronouns.

Ex: John and Mary are going on vacation.

They will leave for Paris next week.

In this example, John and Mary are the nouns replaced by a pronoun. It is easier to use a pronoun than to be repetitive and say ‘John and Mary will leave for Paris next week.’


Verbs – Verbs are commonly described as the action word that is the main part of the predicate. In simple terms, it is the word that describes what is being done in the sentence. They can be in past, present, or future tense to describe when the action is taking place.

Ex: I ran to the store yesterday.

I am running to the store now.

I will run to the store tomorrow.

In these examples, the underlined verb is written in different tenses. There are several different types of verbs, not all of them have a different word for each of the three tenses.


Adjectives – Adjectives are often called describing words and can be very fun to use. They can give more information about the noun or noun phrase in a sentence. Adjectives can also be used to add more detail and make sentences more interesting and informative.

Ex: I liked her purse.

I liked her pretty, leather purse.

The first sentence in the example does not give any details about the purse or why I like it. In the second sentence, I added the underlined adjectives which give that extra information.


Adverbs – An adverb is a modifying word. It changes a verb, adjective, noun phrase, clause, sentence, or another adverb. Adverbs answer unasked questions in phrases such as: When? How? Where? In what way? To what extent?

Ex: He is late to work.

He is always late to work.

She cuts the onion.

She cuts the onion carefully.

He ate his lunch.

He quickly ate his lunch.

An underlined adverb has been added in each example to further describe an action. The difference between adjectives and adverbs is understanding what they describe. Adjectives describe a noun or pronoun. Adverbs describe a verb, adjective, or other adverb.


Prepositions – A preposition is a linking word between a noun, pronoun, or phrase and other words in a sentence. Prepositions are regularly short words and are commonly placed directly in front of nouns. Correctly using prepositions in a sentence takes practice.

Ex: I like to spend time in the garden

She walked up the stairs to her apartment.

He danced across the stage.

There are only about 150 prepositions in the English language, many of which can be used interchangeably. Without prepositions, sentences would be difficult to understand. Click here for a list of prepositions.


Conjunctions – A conjunction is used to connect words, phrases, clauses, or sentences. The three types of conjunctions are coordinating, subordinating, and correlative.

Ex: She can have a dog or a cat.

I will eat the ice cream after I finish my dinner.

This book contains both fact and fiction.

Conjunctions help writing flow better and can help connect multiple short sentences. Click here for a list of conjunctions.