TOEFL IBT – Word Categories

English is made up of seven word categories, or parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, and prepositions. Some grammarians also include an eighth part of speech called interjections (words like yay and wow).

Grammar is an important part to master in order to improve your TOEFL score.

Remember, Preparation is the key to succeed at TOEFL.

Nouns

A noun is a word that identifies a person, place, thing, or abstract object. They can be either proper nouns or common nouns.

Examples

Proper nouns are the names of specific individuals or entities. For example:

  • George Washington
  • The United States of America
  • England
  • Mount Everest
  • The Stone Age

Common nouns, however, are the names of generic categories of items or abstract ideas, such as:

  • president
  • mountain
  • independence
  • table
  • era

Tip:

  • If the word the can be put in front of a word and it makes sense, then that word is a noun!
    • the president
    • the table

Verbs

A verb is a word used to express an action or a state of being. They can be separated into action verbs and linking verbs.

Examples

Action verbs express an action that the subject of the sentence carries out.

  • I laughed.
  • We made cakes for the party.
  • She did her homework.

Linking verbs do NOT express an action; rather, these words are used to describe the subject. They link the subject with the description of the subject.

  • Maria acted funny.
  • The cakes smelled delicious.
  • Her homework was easy.

Tip:

  • If you can put will in front of a word, and it makes sense, then that word is a verb!
    • laugh -> will laugh
    • see -> will see

Adjectives

An adjective is a word that modifies a noun. They can be divided into two categories: determiners and descriptive adjectives.

  • This is such a long book! (a is a determiner describing book)
  • This is such a long book! (long is a descriptive adjective describing book)

To find out more about adjectives, go visit our Adjectives study sheet!

Adverbs

An adverb is a word that can modify any other word EXCEPT a noun.

  • I quickly ran to class because I knew I was late. (quickly describes the verb ran)

To learn more about adverbs, go check out our Adverbs study sheet!

Pronouns

A pronoun is a word that is used in place of one or more nouns.

Examples

Personal pronouns replace specific nouns.

  • Jane wondered where Tarzan was.
    • She wondered where he was.
  • That cell phone is Marie’s cell phone.
    • That cell phone is hers.

Personal Pronouns

First Person

 Function  Singular  Plural
 subject  I  we
 object  me  us
 possessive  mine  ours

Second Person

 Function  Singular  Plural
 subject  you  you
 object  you  you
 possessive  yours  yours

Third Person

 Function  Singular  Plural
 subject  he, she, it  they
 object  him, her, it  them
 possessive  his, hers, its  theirs

Reflexive pronouns refer back to a specific noun, usually the subject. They end in –self or –selves.

  • The king saw himself in the mirror.
  • I saw myself in the mirror.

Reflexive Pronouns

 Person  Singular  Plural
 first person  myself  ourselves
 second person  yourself  yourselves
 third person  himself

herself

itself

 themselves

themselves

themselves

Indefinite pronouns are used to refer to unspecified objects.

  • Can someone answer this question?
  • Anything is better than this!

Some common indefinite pronouns are:

all

each

most

other

either

none

another

many

much

several

few

such

both

more

one

something

neither

Demonstrative pronouns consist of four pronouns: this, that, these, and those.

  • I would like that very much.
  • This is a delicious meal!

Tip:

  • Do not confuse possessive pronouns with possessive adjectives!
    • That pencil is Marie’s pencil.
      • That pencil is hers. -> possessive pronoun (replaces “Marie’s pencil”)
    • That is Marie’s pencil.
      • That is her pencil. -> possessive adjective (replaces “Marie”)

Relative pronouns are used to refer to a noun that was previously mentioned, while joining two sentences.

The most common relative pronouns in English are which, that, whose, whoever, whomever, who, and whom. Sometimes what, when, and where can be used as relative pronouns as well. The relative pronoun can function as a possessive pronoun, object, or subject. Whom is rarely used, so it is best to use it in formal writing.

  • The student who got expelled was accepted by another school.
  • The dress that I bought five years ago doesn’t fit me anymore.
  • Pasta, which we eat a few times a week, is delicious.

Conjunctions

Conjunctions are words used to join groups of words. They can be divided into coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions.

Examples

Coordinating conjunctions are used to join groups of words of equal status.

  • I love cooking and baking.
  • They are acting upset but understanding.
  • She is only allowed ice cream or candy for dessert.

To learn about subordinating conjunctions, go visit our Contrast Words & Subordinating Conjunctions study sheet!

Tip:

  • A way to remember the seven one-word conjunctions is FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

Prepositions

Prepositions are all the “little words”–by, to, with, about, over, etc.

  • The bread is in the bread basket. (in is a preposition describing bread basket)

To learn more about prepositions, check out our Prepositions study sheet!

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