As a foreign language speaker, I find it hard to distinguish these terms. I've searched on the net; on wikipedia, on grammar.about.com, and some other pages, yet still having difficulties.

One just lists

  • Noun
  • Adjective
  • Verb
  • ...

Other lists

  • Content words
    • Noun
    • Verb
    • ...
  • Functions words
    • Articles
    • Pronouns
    • ...

Also what is the term or topic header for these "subject, object, predicator, adverbial"?

PS: I'd appreciate if you could recommend a good English linguistics book. Something that offers just want I need to know, not redundant information.

  • "Parts of speech" refers to how a word or phrase is used in a sentence. "word class" and "word category" are probably synonymous, but they are less useful terms in this regard (as they seem to artificially rule out phrases as a part of speech). "subject", "object", "predicator", and "adverb" are all parts of speech. Apr 7, 2014 at 7:31
  • There are often different ways of arranging and categorizing things. The first example you gave is a simple list of parts of speech. Your second example categorizes them into "content words" vs. "function words" which may be helpful for contrasting them in some way. I'm not sure what the distinction is though - I personally would expect to see "Noun" and "Pronoun" put into the same category since they fill very similar roles. Apr 7, 2014 at 7:35

2 Answers 2


The terms "part of speech", "word class" and "word category" are typically used interchangeably. For a recent, brief and accessible discussion by an eminent linguist, see this paper by David Denison. Each individual word has its own part of speech.

Subject and object are grammatical relations. Grammatical relations are different from parts of speech, because parts of speech do not depend on the role of the word in the sentence, whereas grammatical relations do. For instance, in the sentence Cats like mice, the words cats and mice are both nouns, but Cats is the subject whereas mice is the direct object. In the sentence Mice like cats, it is the other way round: mice is the subject whereas cats is the direct object.

An important difference between parts of speech and grammatical relations is that phrases can bear grammatical relations, but only words can bear parts of speech. In the sentence The cats like the mice, the subject is the whole phrase The cats. The word cats is a noun, and The is an article or a determiner.

If you want to find out more about these notions, I'd recommend the book Introducing English Grammar by Börjars and Burridge (2010). It's what we use at Manchester to teach first-year Linguistics and English Language undergraduates.


A group of letters which has a meaning is a word and when the words are used in a sentence are called parts of speech. That means the 'words' turn into 'Parts of Speech' when they are used in a sentence and they may vary in using in a sentence. Example : They -(word) means a group of people (3rd person plural) There - (word) in a place Go-(word) means to move. 1. They go there. Here 'They' is a Pronoun, 'go' is a verb (indicating action ) and 'there' is an Adverb (indicating a place), and they are all Parts of speech, not merely words. 2.Our go starts today. Here, 'our' is a possessive adjective, 'go' is a noun ( indicating name of action) 'starts' is a verb (action word), 'today' is an adverb. In this screen shot you can find 'There' may be used as a noun or a pronoun  3. He(pr) always (adv.)helps (verb) me (pr) . I need your help. (Here 'help' is a noun, not a verb.)

We identify a person by his / her name and a word by its Parts of Speech.

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