Parts of Speech
Subjects and predicates can be further broken down into parts of speech. Spanish and English grammar identifies eight major elements:
Even if you can't tell the difference between these terms, when you speak you intuitively know which are which and how they should be used. The following sections will define these parts of speech so that as you start learning Spanish grammar, these words will not intimidate you.
Let's start with nouns. A noun may be any of the following:
Thing: computer, desk, pen
Person: mother, John, student
Place: beach, city, Spain, world
Concept: truth, awareness, behavior
If you can match up a word with an article (the, a, or an), it's definitely a noun, but not all nouns can have one: proper names like John and Spain don't take on articles in English.
A Pro with Pronouns
The first thing to remember about pronouns is that they are replacements for nouns or noun phrases. When you keep talking about the same noun, you might get sick of constantly repeating it, so you resort to a pronoun:
John went home. He went home.
Give James a drink. Give him a drink. Give it to him.
Rita's car is red. Her car is red.
I will do it myself.
In these examples, “he,” “him,” “it,” “her,” and “myself” are personal pronouns. That is, they work to replace specific nouns. Here's how personal pronouns are categorized in English:
Subject pronouns replace the subject of the sentence. In English, these are “I,” “you,” “he,” “she,” “it,” “we,” and “they.”
Object pronouns represent the object noun or phrase. In English, these are “me,” “you,” “him,” “her,” “it,” “us,” and “them.”
Possessive pronouns show ownership. In English, these are “my,” “mine,” “your,” “yours,” “his,” “her,” “hers,” “its,” “our,” “ours,” “their,” and “theirs.”
Reflexive pronouns signal that the subject and the object are one and the same. In English, reflexive pronouns are “myself,” “yourself,” “himself,” “herself,” “itself,” “ourselves,” “yourselves,” and “themselves.”
Other types of pronouns might not be as easily recognizable because they don't necessarily replace a particular noun. Can you figure out which words in the following examples are pronouns?
That was a great movie.
I know who it is you like.
The calculator, which I had used on Friday, is now missing.
What was that noise?
I have everything I need.
I like them both.
They love each other.
The pronouns here are “that,” “who,” “which,” “what,” “everything,” “both,” and “each other.” Here is how these pronouns are categorized:
Demonstrative pronouns demonstrate or point something out. In English, demonstrative pronouns are: this, that, these, and those. The word “this” in “I like this” is a good example of a demonstrative pronoun. As you can see, it replaces the thing or object which is liked.
Relative pronouns relate or connect groups of words to nouns or other pronouns. In English, relative pronouns include: who, whoever, whom, which, that, and whose. For example, in the phrase “I like who you like,” the pronoun “who” relates “I” and “you like.”
Many of the interrogative pronouns are identical to relative pronouns, but they are used differently — to interrogate, or ask questions. In English, interrogative pronouns include who, whom, which, whose, and what. In the question “who do you like?” “who” is an interrogative pronoun. Note that in the answer, this pronoun will be replaced by a noun again.
Indefinite pronouns are non-personal pronouns that work as nouns. There are quite a few indefinite pronouns, and many can also be used as adjectives. A few examples in English are: all, none, any, some, everyone, someone, no one, much, little, few, everything, nothing, and something.
Reciprocal pronouns show a mutual relationship between two subjects. In English, there are only two pairs of reciprocal pronouns: “each other” and “one another.”
Remember that a pronoun must represent — and not describe! — a noun or noun phrase. In the phrase, “this sentence,” “this” is not a demonstrative pronoun, because it describes the noun “sentence.” In the phrase, “I like this,” “this” replaces the thing I like, and is therefore a pronoun.
Fun and Easy Adjectives
Pronouns replace nouns, and adjectives describe or modify them. Take a look at the following phrases. Can you tell which ones are adjectives?
I'm always glad to see the pretty flowers.
A healthy child is a happy child.
That house has been empty for many years.
In these examples, “pretty,” “healthy,” “happy,” “that,” and “many” are all adjectives. As you can see, in English an adjective generally comes before the noun it describes.
At their simplest, verbs are words that signal action or being (think of it as inaction). Action verbs describe what someone or something does, whether it's in the past, present, or future:
I walked all the way home.
We talk often.
She will finish her homework later.
Verbs that show a state of being are known as linking verbs: They link or show the relationship between the subject and the object:
Jenny is a student.
That place looks homey.
It feels right.
One sub-group of linking verbs are modal verbs — verbs that express mood (can, may, must ought, shall, should) or verb tense (will and would). Modal verbs behave very irregularly. For example, verbs like “can” only exist in the present tense.
It's no coincidence that the word “adverb” has the root “verb” — one of the adverb's main roles is modifying or describing the verb. Here are a few examples of adverbs:
You walk quickly.
I often see you.
Do it carefully.
In these examples, “quickly,” “often,” and “carefully” are adverbs. Note that many of the adverbs in English are formed by adding the suffix “-ly” to an adjective. In addition to modifying a verb, an adverb may modify an adjective or another adverb:
Do it very carefully.
It's a wonderfully calm night.
In the first sentence, the adverb “very” modifies another adverb, “carefully.” In the second, “wonderfully” is an adverb that modifies the adjective “calm,” which in turn describes the noun “night.”
In Position: Prepositions
Think of prepositions as words that signal position (physical or otherwise) of a noun or pronoun:
I was looking for you.
She is at work.
The box was inside the house.
Here, the prepositions “for,” “at,” and “inside” explain where the noun is or how it's related to another noun (in the case of the first example). Together with the noun and article, a preposition makes up the prepositional phrases, “for you,” “at work,” and “inside the house.” The entire prepositional phrase functions as a complement of the verb. Without the prepositional phrase, the sentences serving as examples would not have been complete.
Conjunctions and Interjections
Conjunctions and interjections play a secondary role in sentences. Conjunctions are words “at a junction” — words that join or relate words or phrases. In English, conjunctions are divided into three groups:
• Coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet.
• Correlative conjunctions: conjunctions that work in pairs, like either/or and if/then.
• Subordinating conjunctions: conjunctions that connect a subordinate clause to the rest of the sentence. There are quite a few of these in English; a few examples are: however, since, because, and whether.