Topic: Word class

These resources relate to word classes (traditionally known as 'parts of speech'). Words are grouped into different classes, such as noun and verb, on the basis of their behaviour: where they occur in relation to other words and what they do within sentences.

Adjectives and meaning

A starter activity, where students are asked to replace the given adjectives and discuss the changes in meaning

What are other ways of expressing the meanings conveyed by adjectives? In this starter activity, students are asked to replace the adjectives in the given examples with some other means of expressing the general meaning of the sentence.

The Activity page appears in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right of this page. It can be displayed on a projector or smart board. The slide in the Activity page presents four example sentences with adjectives. Ask the students to do the following:

Adjectives and meaning: Activity

  1. Kyle was sad.
  2. Derrick was so much smaller than Stanley.
  3. He wasn’t entirely sure.
  4. When she saw what was inside the envelope, Lucy was delighted.
  5. It was a big meeting, and Ben felt incredibly nervous.
  6. It was the most expensive meal I'd ever eaten.
  7. The water tasted terrible!

Adverbs in use

Analyse the use of adverbs in three short extracts


Three short extracts are given, with each one using adverbs differently. Take each extract in turn and follow these steps:

Nonsense words and grammar

In this starter activity, students are asked to do two things:

1) Work out the word class of different nonsense words, based on the context in which they appear.

2) Write their own grammatical sentences using their own nonsense words.

Begin by asking students to figure out the word class of each word in the following sentence:

The ravenous students quickly devoured a massive pizza.

Nouning verbs

A quick activity looking at how some words can be both nouns and verbs

This is a simple starter activity that will help your students see how some words can function as both nouns and verbs. The activity is designed to be carried out in pairs around the class. One student be the noun and the other will be the verb. Each will need the same word list (which you can download and print below) or you can just use the word list on the screen.

Politeness and directness

This task is about using verbs and modal verbs in different ways. We all know that people can be direct or indirect in the ways they phrase things. We often use imperative forms to give instructions, but sometimes these might be seen as too direct and blunt. We sometimes soften them with modal verbs, among other tools.

Politeness and directness: Activity

Try to make the following expressions less direct. Compose alternative sentences for each one.

  1. Shut the window.
  2. Tell me your name.
  3. Stop talking.

What changes did you make to render the expressions less direct? 

Now, make the following expressions more direct. Compose an alternative sentence for each example.

Prepositions in instructional writing

Prepositions are particularly important when trying to communicate instructions about time and place.

The Activity page appears in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. The Activity page contains one slide: an example of instructional writing from our corpus. You can see that quite precise instructions are given as part of a recipe. It is reprinted below with the prepositions highlighted.


Prepositions in instructional writing: Activity


Cut the meat into even-sized cubes, leaving any fat, but removing all gristle.

Process for 10 seconds, scrape the sides. Make sure the meat is thoroughly evenly cut, then turn the meat into a separate bowl.

Add the onion and egg yolk to the bowl and process until the food is pureed, add salt and pepper to the meat.

Regional vocabulary

Looking at the grammar of regional vocabulary items

In the work you’ve done so far on ways to identify word classes, you have seen that many words can be identified by form, function and distribution.

In this activity, we’ll look at how you might use these ideas to identify some words which appear in regional varieties of English. You’ll see examples of regional dialect terms in the context which they were used, and your task will be to work out what grammatical role the word is performing.

Adjective identification

In this activity, students work through the criteria for identifying adjectives.

Adjective identification: Activity 1

Which words do you think are adjectives?

Adjective identification: Activity 2

Somehow, it didn't seem wise.

Is wise an adjective?

Adverb identification

Applying the semantic and structural criteria for adverbs

In this activity, students work through the criteria for identifying adverbs.

Adverb identification: Activity 1

Which words do you think are adverbs? Remember the following clues:

Adverb identification: Activity 2

The feeling of hopelessness she'd experienced earlier that afternoon swept over her again.

Is earlier an adverb?

Adverb placement

In this activity, students explore the possibility of placing adverbs in various places within a sentence.


  • Practise constructing sentences with adverbs.
  • Identify a key trait of adverbs - that they can often be placed at various points in a sentence.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will be building sentences with adverbs.

Adverb placement: Activity



Derived nouns and composition

In this activity we will look at suffixes that can change adjectives and verbs into nouns.

Derived nouns and composition: Activity 1

Complete the examples with nouns which are derived from the highlighted adjectives. The first answer is provided for you.

Anna was late. It annoyed me. → Anna's lateness annoyed me.

Jeff is shy. I didn’t notice this until the party. → I didn’t notice Jeff’s ___ until the party. I didn’t notice Jeff’s shyness until the party.

Derived nouns and composition: Activity 2

Complete the examples with nouns which are derived from the highlighted adjectives. The first answer is provided.

The peacekeeping forces withdrew. It led to civil war. → The withdrawal of the peacekeeping forces led to civil war.

Form and function: Activity 1

Analysing the way that form and function are related

In the exercise you'll be asked to identify the function and the form of the highlighted words.

Identify the Function

Identify the function of the highlighted words in the following sentences.

No 'AND's

In this lesson, students build a story without the word and.


  • Recognise the uses and meaning of the word and.
  • Become more conscious of our own use of the word and.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will tell a story. There's only one rule: no one is allowed to use the word and.


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