Know Your Parts of Speech

Sometimes it's tough to identify the part of speech of a word and, therefore, what kind of edit can be made to it. Here are some diagnostic tests to run on the words you see:


We all know from Schoolhouse Rock that it's a person, place, or thing. But you can use more specific tests to determine whether something is a noun. If you can use a definite or indefinite article in front of the term, then you know it's a noun:

An organization
The mayor
Your dog

Also, if you can add a plural marker to the end of the term (such as s at the end of cat or ren at the end of child), you know it's a noun:


Verbs can be present or past tense and any degree in between; therefore, they can be inflected (that is, markers can be added to the words to change their meanings):


Adjectives describe nouns; they can be inflected so that they're comparative or superlative. They also can be placed in a predicate after a linking ("be") verb (known as predicate adjective):
Warm, warmer, warmest
Latent, more latent, most latent
He was quiet.


Adverbs describe the quality of action verbs or the quality of nouns; they describe how something is done, where it is done, or when it is done. A common marker for adverbs is -ly:
She paced nervously.
He ate pork yesterday.
Her car broke down there.
I was brutally honest.


These parts of speech, which are considered a type of adverb, describe relationships of two or more things. Think of what an airplane can do to a cloud:
Go in the cloud.
Go under the cloud.
Go around the cloud.

A good test for determining whether a word or phrase is prepositional is the right or directly test. If you can insert right or directly in front of the suspected preposition, and it works, then it's truly a preposition.:
Her car broke down right over there.
She placed the lobster directly in the boiling water.

Remember that prepositions can't be inflected. Therefore, He rowed the boat acrossed the lake isn't correct English.