The Language Sandwich: An Overview of the Nine Parts of Speech

A sandwich.

Sandwiches are the best kind of food.

Not only do sandwiches contain different kinds of foods, but they are held together by even more food. You can eat them with your hands or with a knife and fork; you can eat them for breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner; you can make them sweet or savory, hot or cold; and you can make them with various parts of the English language (the nine parts of speech, to be exact).

Wait, what now?

Did I lose you at the end there? (Or maybe in the middle, where you got up to make yourself a delicious sandwich?) Yes, we can make a sandwich using grammar! And it will be an amazing sandwich, I assure you. After all, the English language has different components, or ingredients if you will, just as sandwiches do. It’s made up of the nine parts of speech, and they’re put together in such a way that everything just works. (Just like that confusingly delicious peanut butter and lettuce sandwich of grade school days. Don’t look at me like that. Just try it.)

We can think of the different parts of speech like different parts of the English language. This will be helpful for understanding how sentences are put together, and it’s also a great way to remember how everything fits together. I hope you’re hungry because it’s time to chow down!

The Nine Parts of Speech

The Language Sandwich Infographic

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If our recipe is “The English Language,” then our ingredients list consists of the nine parts of speech.

  1. Nouns (the bread)
  2. Verbs (the meat)
  3. Pronouns (the type of bread)
  4. Adverbs (the type of meat)
  5. Adjectives (the butter)
  6. Conjunctions (the cheese)
  7. Articles (the mayo)
  8. Prepositions (the lettuce)
  9. Interjections (the mustard)

Click to enlarge the adjacent infographic for a quick go-to guide detailing the parts of speech (and their edible equivalents). But stick with me, and I will define the parts of speech in more detail. By the end of this article, everything will make sense. Let’s start assembling that sandwich!

Nouns (The Bread)

We use nouns to name things, such as a person (e.g., Dagwood), an animal (e.g., a bear), an object (e.g., a grill), a place (e.g., Montreal), actions (e.g., creation), abstract ideas (e.g., love), or qualities (e.g., greed). The capitalized nouns here are all proper nouns, which means they refer to specific people or places, and the lowercase ones are common nouns.

Nouns are the bread of the sandwich. Without the bread, we’d just have a sloppy mess. The sentence kneads nouns. (See what I did there?) And just as there are many different kinds of bread, there are many different kinds of nouns. Nouns are the best thing since sliced bread. (Yeah, we went there.)

Verbs (The Meat)

A verb is used to describe an action (make, as in you make too many sandwiches), an event (toast, as in the bread is toasted), or a state (eat, as in I need to eat). Verbs have different types, tenses, and moods, and they must agree with their subjects to form a correct sentence.

Verbs are the meat of a sentence. A sentence does not exist without a verb, just as a sandwich does not exist without meat. (I can hear the vegetarians and peanut-butter-and-jelly lovers crying out at this point, but go with us here.) Just as you need both a noun and a verb to form a sentence, most people agree you need at least bread and meat to make a sandwich.

Pronouns (The Type of Bread)

Pronouns are used in place of nouns. The purpose of pronouns is to avoid repetition and make sentences easier to understand. A noun that is replaced by a pronoun is referred to as the antecedent. Some of the most common pronouns to remember are he, she, it, they, and this.

Choosing a pronoun is like choosing which type of bread to use for your sandwich. Will it be white bread (he), whole-wheat bread (she), rye (it), sourdough (they), or pita bread (this)? Though there are many types of bread out there—white, whole wheat, rye, baguettes, naan—at the end of the day, it’s all still bread, and we can call it such. The same goes for pronouns, which we use in the place of nouns.

Further, there is a proper type of bread for every sandwich. You can’t just use banana bread to make a pulled-pork sandwich! In the same way, you can’t use he to describe the Queen of England. (Well, you could, but you’d be wrong, and I don’t think Her Majesty would appreciate it.)

Adverbs (The Type of Meat)

An adverb is a part of speech that describes how someone or something performs an action. It is different from an adjective, which describes someone or something. Adverbs give more information about how an action is carried out.

For example, you can put meat in your sandwich (as you should). But what kind of meat? Will it be honey ham, prosciutto, or bologna? Choosing the type of meat greatly influences how the sandwich will taste. It’s the same with adverbs! “She ate the sandwich vigorously” is a different flavor of sentence than “She ate the sandwich slowly.”

Adjectives (The Butter)

Adjectives are simply words used to describe or modify nouns (people, places, things) and pronouns (e.g., I, she, he, it, they, etc.) by depicting, quantifying, or identifying them. When a series of adjectives is used to describe one noun, the adjectives must follow a particular order (like in the case of ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies I know).

Just as butter is closely related to bread, adjectives are closely related to nouns. And just as butter gives flavor to the bread, adjectives give flavor to nouns. (I was going to try to come up with a clever butter pun, but the margarine for error was too high. Ba dum tss!)

Parts of Speech

Conjunctions (The Cheese)

A conjunction is a part of speech that functions as a connector between two sentences, clauses, phrases, or words. In writing, conjunctions can be effectively used in lieu of starting a new sentence. The proper use of conjunctions allows for a more natural flow and rhythm in writing. Popular conjunctions include for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.

Because conjunctions draw relationships between parts of the sentence, they’re kind of like cheese. Gooey, delicious, melting cheese. Mmmmm. . . Sorry, what was I talking about again? Oh, right! Cheese is like a conjunction because conjunctions connect the parts of a sentence.

Articles (The Mayo)

Articles help determine whether you are referring to something of a specific type (with definite articles) or something of a general type (with indefinite articles). There are only three articles (the, an, or a) in the English language, so they are very easy to find in a sentence once you know them!

Just like sandwiches are somewhat incomplete without mayo, sentences are incomplete without articles. Also, it’s pretty easy to tell when a sandwich doesn’t have mayo because it’ll be very, very dry. And nobody likes a dry sandwich! It’s just sad.

Prepositions (The Lettuce)

Prepositions link nouns, pronouns, and phrases to the other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that is introduced is called the object of the preposition. Simple prepositions include about, above, after, around, before, below, beneath, during, following, inside, into, near, onto, outside, over, through, to, toward, under, and upon. 

Let us consider how lettuce is like prepositions. Lettuce acts as a bridge between the bread and the meat. Plus, no sandwich is complete without that wonderful crunch. In the same way, prepositions are that missing link. They govern nouns (or pronouns) to express a relationship between nouns (or pronouns) and other words in a sentence.

Interjections (The Mustard)

An interjection is not necessarily grammatically connected to the sentence (e.g., “Hmmm . . . that’s right”), but it is designed to convey the emotion of the speaker or narrator. Interjections are often followed by an exclamation mark; for example, “yum!” and “wow!” are both interjections.

Like interjections, mustard can be surprising (oh!) in taste and smell, adding a little something extra to the sandwich. And like mustard, interjections change the flavor of the whole sentence. You’re done building your sandwich, so slap some mustard on it and tie a napkin around your neck.

Conclusion

I hope you’re ready to eat. We’ve been through the nine parts of speech and now have a magnificent English-language sandwich to consume. It might even bring a tear to your eye.

There’s nothing more satisfying than the first bite of a beautifully layered sandwich you’ve worked so hard to put together. So now that you’re finished, it’s time to enjoy. Why not kick back, eat your sandwich, and crack open a book?

Image source: kur0shiro/Pixabay.com, lee_2/Pixabay.com

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