Appendix:English parts of speech

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English is not a highly inflected language, and depends more on word order to indicate function. With the exception of pronouns, English words have relatively few forms. The patterns of some common inflections are outlined below.

Adjectives[edit]

Some adjectives have comparative and superlative forms:

Often, adjectives ending in a consonant + y have alternate acceptable forms which substitute an i, e.g., slyer and slier, slyest, and sliest.

Generally, adjectives three syllables or longer do not have these special forms. The comparative and superlative are made using more and most, respectively.

There is no general rule for adjectives of two syllables. For some adjectives either method can be applied!

Nouns[edit]

Main appendix: English nouns

English nouns generally have four forms, singular, plural, possessive singular, and possessive plural.

Plurals[edit]

The plural usually ends in s.

form usual ending
plural s

Most nouns form their plural by adding an s. Nouns ending in the sibilant sounds represented by the IPA characters /dʒ/, /s/, /ʃ/, /tʃ/, and /ʒ/ (for example, midge, miss, mash, match, and mirage, respectively) form their plurals by adding es unless they already end in an e, in which case they add an s. Most words ending in a consonant + y form their plural by turning it into -ies.

Many English words, especially those that are long-standing, have irregular plurals, often formed by changing a vowel. For example, the plural of goose is geese; the plural of mouse is mice; and the plural of man is men. Other irregular plurals are formed in other ways.

Possessive[edit]

The possessive case of nouns is indicated by attaching an apostrophe followed by an s to the end of a singular noun or a plural noun not ending in an s, or by adding an apostrophe to a plural noun ending in s. In US usage, if a singular noun already ends in "s", an apostrophe is added, optionally followed by an s.

Biblical given names ending in s may form their possessive by adding either an apostrophe alone or an apostrophe followed by an s.

As a rule of thumb, if an s is added to the noun when pronouncing the possessive, add an 's when writing the possessive. For example, in “the cat's whiskers”, the possessive is pronounced like cat with an s added, so the possessive is written using an apostrophe followed by an s. In “the cats' claws”, no s is added to cats when pronouncing the possessive, so only an apostrophe is added.

The same rule may be applied to names. Write James's if you pronounce it as Jameses; write James' if you pronounce it as James.

possessive added to the end of the noun
British: a singular noun, or a plural noun not ending in s
US: a noun, singular or plural, that doesn't end in s
Most given names
’s
British: a plural noun ending in s
US: a noun, singular or plural that ends in s
Some given names ending in s

Pronouns[edit]

Main appendix: English pronouns

Unlike most nouns in English, which have only singular and plural forms, many pronouns have several forms.

The personal pronoun has different forms depending on number (singular or plural), case (subject, object, possessive, etc.), person (1st, 2nd, 3rd person) and, in the 3rd person singular, also for gender.

Personal pronouns[edit]

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
singular plural singular plural singular plural
subject I / we we you you he / she / it / one / they they
object me / us us you you him / her / it / one / them them
reflexive
pronoun
myself / ourself ourselves yourself yourselves himself / herself / itself
/ oneself / themself
themselves
possessive
adjective
my / our our your your his / her / its / one's / their their
possessive
pronoun
mine / ours ours yours yours his / hers / its / theirs theirs

The most recently developed standard pronoun is the distinctly neuter one, it, itself, and its, which did not exist in Old English.

Archaic forms of the personal pronoun include thou, thee, thyself, thy, and thine, for the second person singular. Thou was used as the French word tu or the German word du. It disappeared as English society became mercantilist, leaving many feudal ties behind.

Another such archaic pronoun lost about the same time that you replaced thou in the singular is ye, which was used for the plural second person pronoun. (This word, though, is not to be confused with the misprint for the as in “Ye Olde Tea Shoppe”.) Modern colloquial forms that replace the second person plural pronoun include you all, y'all, yous, youse, youse guys and you guys. These plural forms of you are often heard in informal speech.

Archaic and obscure forms of the possessive adjective used before words that begin with a vowel or many words beginning with an h, are mine (as used as the first word in the lyrics to a song of the nineteenth century, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”) and thine. These were used in the same places where the indefinite article an is used instead of a.

Verbs[edit]

Main appendix: English verbs

Most English verb forms, including the infinitive, the imperative, the first person singular, etc., do not have any inflection markers. A few key forms have suffixes, however. The pattern for those inflections for regular verbs is (roughly) shown in the following table.

form usual ending
3rd person singular s
past tense ed
past participle ed
present participle ing
Note: English has a large number of irregular verbs that do not fit the pattern.