Parts of Speech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parts of Speech: Why They Matter

Imagine that you are a contractor who has been hired to remodel a house. Before you begin, it would be very important to know which walls are load-bearing walls (walls that support the weight of the roof), and which walls are not. If you neglected to figure this out beforehand, you might accidently knock out the wrong wall, and the roof could collapse on your head.

In our study of grammar, we'll be talking a lot about "simplifying sentences." Simplifying sentences is basically the process of knocking out all the non-essential walls. I also like to compare it to the process of reducing a fraction to its lowest terms.

In grammar, simplifying a sentence means to reduce that sentence to its simplest form.

To do this, we often "cancel" or "ignore" certain parts of the sentence. We can also "clump" certain words together, to make it easier to see the underlying structure.

Here is a quick example:

In this sentence, we can mentally "clump" the words "the" and "cat" because "the cat" is just one thing.

Furthermore, I can "cancel" or "ignore" the word swiftly, because swiftly is an adverb, and adverbs can always be removed from a sentence, without damaging the underlying structure.

However, I can't remove "the cat" because "Ran swiftly" is not a sentence, nor can I remove the word "ran" because "The cat swiftly" is not a sentence. If I were to remove these words, the sentence would fall apart.

Knowing these things, I can reduce the sentence to its simplest form:

Hopefully, that was easy. You probably could have simplified that sentence by yourself, without any help from me.

But would you feel equally confident simplifying this one?

Answer: The boys collapsed. (Everything else is non-essential).

Once you understand the process of simplifying sentences, you will never again be intimidated by a complicated-looking sentence. You'll able to:

The process also works in reverse. You'll be able to start with an ordinary sentence—a sentence without any frills—and add things to it, piece by piece, until you have a beautiful work of art.

But you'll never be able to do these things until you know the parts of speech—and understand which parts "hold up the roof".

Key Point:

In the lessons to come, we're going to review the basic parts of speech. In the process, I will frequently mention things that we're going to study later in the course. For example, I might say:

I don't expect you to fully understand what that means, at least not yet. You won't really understand it until you have practiced simplifying sentences yourself. But at least, for now, you'll have some idea of what I'm talking about.

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.

Quiz