This is an extract taken from The PEG guide to grammar and punctuation (2018) by Myf Steynberg.

Grammar is the greatest joy in life, don’t you find?

– Lemony Snicket

‘Grammar’ is the term used to cover the rules or conventions of English usage that help us to communicate effectively in both spoken and written language. Grammatical rules guide the way we use words, construct sentences and apply punctuation to clarify a writer’s or speaker’s meaning. Over time, popular usage influences and could change grammatical conventions.

How words are classified

Words can be classified into nine parts of speech:

  • Nouns                  Nouns name everything around us, including feelings and ideas.
  • Pronouns            Pronouns replace nouns to avoid unnecessary repetition.
  • Adjectives           Adjectives tell us more about nouns and pronouns.
  • Verbs                   Verbs tell us what a subject is doing, feeling or being.
  • Adverbs               Adverbs tell us more about verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.
  • Prepositions       Prepositions show us the relationship of nouns or pronouns to other words in a sentence.
  • Conjunctions      Conjunctions are used to join words, phrases, clauses and sentences.
  • Determiners        Determiners are articles, demonstratives and quantifiers.
  • Interjections       Interjections are words or phrases that show emotion.

In this guide, the parts of speech are described and illustrated in the order listed above. It is important to note that while each part of speech has a label of some kind (eg abstract noun, present participle, conjunction, infinitive), it can also perform one or more functions in a sentence (subject, object, complement, connector or even another part of speech). So, for instance, a noun can play the role of an adjective (eg chocolate box, time limit) and a verb form can play the role of a noun (eg To sing beautifully is my dream; Smoking is forbidden).

This PEG guide is available as a softcover book or in electronic format. To buy it, contact our publications coordinator, Alison Downie.

Photo Credits: Grammar by PDPics on Pixabay.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PEG.

About Myf Steynberg

Myf Steynberg was born and educated in Harare, Zimbabwe. She graduated at the University of Cape Town, followed by an honours degree in English at Rhodes University. She taught English for many years and was a moderator for the matric language paper for five years. Since her retirement from teaching, she has undertaken editing and tutoring assignments.

About PEG

The Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG) is a non-profit company (NPC) in South Africa. Since moving to online activities in March 2020, PEG has been able to offer members across South Africa, and internationally, access to an extensive online webinar programme. Continuing professional development remains a key offering and the first PEG Accreditation Test was administered in August 2020 to benchmark excellence in the field of editing.