04 July 2011

A Guide to Constructed Languages: Rules & Grammar: Parts of Speech

There are a variety of different kinds of words used in a sentence. Below, I briefly discuss the traditional eight parts of speech.


Nouns are most commonly described as 'a person, place, or thing.' They can be counted, such as 'one cat' or 'a mouse', and sometimes use 'the', like in 'the book' or 'the pencils'. They are used for subject and object.

Proper nouns, in English, are capitalised, and they are names of things.
  • The cat went home;
  • my mother told Amelia;
  • Jeff ran to the store; etc.


Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns, such as I, you, she, he, it, or they.
  • I went shopping yesterday;
  • I told you it was her!
  • You can come too;
  • We plan to play basketball;
  • They aren't very nice; etc;


A verb is an action word and is often what is changed to show tense:
  • The person is running;
  • Those blueberries are delicious;
  • I ran to the store;
  • It does that all the time; etc.

There are some verbs called auxiliary verbs, which goes before or after other words. Dictionary.com puts it this way: 'a word used in construction with and preceding certain forms of other verbs, as infinitives or participles, to express distinctions of tense, aspect, mood, etc.'
  • She will run to the store;
  • He did go to the park already;
  • I was going, but I stopped; etc.


Adjectives are words that describe nouns, such as size or colour. In English, they go before the noun they're describing, but, in some other languages, they come after. In French, some go before (size) and some go after (colour), so you would say, 'le petit chat noir,' (le = the; petit = small; chat = cat; noir = black), whereas, in English, we would say 'the small black cat.'

As another note for English, there is actually a specific order adjectives are to be used in:
  1. Opinion/judgement - pretty, ugly, fast, easy, repugnant; etc.
  2. Size - Big, small, tall, short, fat, skinny; etc.
  3. Age - Old, young, new, ancient; etc.
  4. Shape - Round, triangular, rectangular; etc.
  5. Colour - Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet; etc.
  6. Origin/nationality - American, French, Japanese, Asian, African, Egyptian, Kenyan; etc.
  7. Material - Wood, marble, plastic, glass; etc.
  8. Purpose/qualifier (what it does) - fishing [boat, gear, etc.], fold-out [mattress, couch, etc.], writing [utensil, paper, etc.]; etc.
So, you might say a 'beautiful small antique round bronze Mayan stone writing tablet.' It's unlikely adjectives will be used all in one, but, if you do, there is a specific order. Though, it's not always followed; sometimes we say things that sound better, such as 'big ugly fool' or similar; you could argue this isn't technically incorrect, however, as 'big' could be considered a matter of opinion.

Note: You don't need commas between each group, but if there is more than one word from each group, then you use a comma, or you can add 'and': Big, ugly fool; pretty blue and red stone; silly, repugnant old man; etc.


Adverbs are used to describes verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, and, in English, usually end in -ly.
  • Walked slowly;
  • Talked quickly and clearly;
  • Slightly small book;
  • Overly tall person; etc.


Prepositions are usually small words that connect the subject and the object, such as in, on, beneath, without, or after. It is described here as, 'usually indicat[ing] the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence...'
  • Those people are behind the building;
  • The cat is on the chair;
  • The mouse is under the table;
  • The monkey is on the branch;
  • I would die without you;
  • He went after she did; etc


Coordinating conjunctions are used to join words, phrases, or independent clauses (and, but, or, nor, so, yet; etc.), and 'subordinating conjunction[s] [introduce] a dependent clause and [indicate] the nature of the relationship among the independent clause(s) and the dependent clause(s)' (here) (after, although, as, because, if, though; etc.).
  • Nature and technology can co-exist;
  • After the earthquake, everyone was okay;
  • If it wasn't Bill, it was Bob; etc.


Interjections are words that are often exclamations, such as ouch, ha, hah, alas, or hey.
  • Hey! Are you going to the party tonight?
  • He would have, but, -- alas! -- he did not;
  • Hah! I won!


How might you take these into consideration?

Is adjusting verbs the best way to show tense, or is there another, better method? Could you use particles?

Why do you think there are irregular verbs? Do they serve some sort of purpose? Would you want irregular verbs in your conlang?

Do you think changing the ending of a word to show what it is is necessary, such as with adverbs? Why or why not?

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