It’s probably not true that we can’t think about things we don’t have words for. Schadenfreude is a German word that has come into English and means “pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.” As cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has pointed out, when people first learn this word, they don’t suddenly acquire the concept of taking pleasure in others’ misfortunes. They say, “Oh, you mean there’s a word for it?”
Nonetheless, having words for things makes it easier to analyze them. Imagine trying to learn refrigerator repair without knowing the names for the parts of the refrigerator. “That thingamajig attaches to this thingy here and controls the gadget that regulates the temperature.” Traditional grammar classifies words into eight categories called the parts of speech. The eight parts of speech are an important tool for analyzing the grammatical structure of sentences. Here are the eight parts of speech:
Noun – names a person, place, thing, idea, living creature, quality, or action. Examples: Leprechaun, Hell, bazooka, thought, dog, stupidity, smoking
Verb – describes an action or a state of being. Examples: drink, fail, imagine, smoke, become, be
Adjective – describes a noun. Examples: fat, thin, stupid, orange, hirsute, ( the articles a, an, the are also adjectives)
Adverb – describes a verb, adjective or other adverb. Examples: stupidly, very, quickly, well, yesterday
Pronoun – takes the place of a noun. Examples: he, she, it, we, they, someone
Conjunction – joins two words, phrases or sentences. Examples: but, so, and, because, or
Preposition – joins a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to some other part of the sentence. Examples: on, in, by, with, under, through, over,
Interjection – expresses emotion or surprise. Examples: Oy! Wow! Damn!
Interesting fact: Total aphasiacs—those who have entirely lost the ability to speak because of brain damage—can nevertheless curse up a storm with four–letter interjections.
Note that a word can be more than one part of speech depending on how it functions in a sentence. The word smoking, for example can be a noun (Smoking is dangerous), a verb (Ralph is smoking a pipe), or an adjective (Murray wore a lavender smoking jacket.) A good dictionary will indicate the parts of speech a word can function as and give examples.
Try identifying the parts of speech of the words in bold in the following sentences:
- Molly blew her front tire when she hit the enormous pothole.
- I am happy to announce that the city will cover all damages caused by potholes.
- The singer sang, “I would rather be the Devil than be that woman’s man.”
- The motel didn’t allow dogs, so we hid Bruno in the luggage.
- Because she had an in with the police, Charlotte didn’t get fined.
- 6. Somebody stole all the zucchini from the garden.
- Victoria has too many flowers.
- Moderate drinking helps prevent heart disease.
- Maud put her hand on her heart and swore that she hadn’t touched the whiskey..
- The President should be fluent in at least one language.
Answers: 1. adj., vb., adj. 2. adj., adj., n. 3. adv., conj., n. 4. n., conj., prep. 5. n., vb., n. 6. pro., vb., n. 7. vb., adv., adj. 8. adj., n., adj. 9. pro., n., vb. 10. n., adj., adj.