Word Classes – Meaning, Types, Examples | How to Identify Word Classes in Sentences?

Words are the building blocks in any sentence. They just don’t ‘mean’ something, they ‘do’ something in every sentence. Hence words are grouped into word classes based on what they do. A word class is a group of words that have certain common features. The term “word class” is analogous to the more conventional term, “part of speech.” It is also variously named grammatical category, lexical category, and syntactic category.

Types of Word Classes

Word classes can be divided into two families:

  • Lexical Classes: Also known as open classes and form classes. The lexical classes include nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
  • Function Classes: Also known as closed classes and structure classes. Includes: pronouns, determiners, conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections.

Open and Closed Word Classes

As previously mentioned some word classes are open, that is, the class can be expanded with the addition of new words. Take the example of the class of nouns, it is potentially infinite as the number of words in the class is increasing as new scientific and technological discoveries are made.

The latter half of the twentieth century witnessed developments in computer technology which have in turn given rise to many new nouns like the Internet, URL website, bitmap, email, etc.

On the other hand, the word classes of prepositions, determiners, or conjunctions are known as closed word classes. Words like of, the, and but come under these. They are named closed word classes because they consist of a definite set of words. These classes never expand even though the words included in the class may change their spelling.

Open Word Classes

1) Nouns

This class includes words that you frequently use in everyday life. Nouns are most commonly understood as “naming” words, that is, it performs the function of naming “people, places or things”.

  • A person – Boy, Girl, John, etc
  • A thing- House, Dog, etc
  • A place- China, America, etc

However, the use of nouns is not restricted to just names of people, places, or things. Nouns also denote abstract and intangible concepts such as an idea, quality, or state. Example: Danger, Happiness, Love, etc.

2) Verbs

The words that you use to describe an action are known as verbs. Hence verbs are generally known as “action” words. Have a look at the given example: Rahul rides a scooter. The verb in the above sentence denotes an action that Rahul performs which is the action of riding a scooter.

However, the idea of verbs as “action” words is somewhat restricted. Many verbs don’t stand for action at all as in the given instance: Rahul seems desperate. We cannot say that the verb ‘seems ‘ refer to an action.

3) Adverbs

In English, an adverb describes a word that alters the meaning of a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs in a sentence give you more information about the sentence. They are used to express how an action is fulfilled. Adverbs can broadly be categorized into Simple Adverbs, IInterrogative adverbs, and Relative Adverbs.


  • Most adverbs end with the common ending – ly.
  • An adverb that modifies an adjective or another adverb usually goes before it.

4) Adjectives

Adjectives describe the quality of a noun. For example They stay in a beautiful house

The word beautiful indicates or refers to one of the attributes of the house that is described. Hence beautiful becomes the adjective in the above sentence.

A point to keep in mind: Some adjectives can be identified by their ending. Typical adjective endings include: able, al, ful, ic, etc.

You can even try out our other articles on How to Improve Your Vocabulary as well to expand your knowledge base.

Closed Word Classes

1) Determiners

You might have often noticed that nouns are preceded by words like the, a, or an. These words are known as Determiners. They suggest the type of reference that the noun has.

  • The determiner ‘the’ is called a Definite Article. It can be placed both before singular and plural nouns. For example The Taxi, The taxis
  • The determiner a or an is known as the Indefinite Article. It is used along with a singular noun. Example: A taxi

Apart from these, many other determiners express quantity. These include ‘al’, ‘both’, ‘many’ etc.

2) Conjunctions

These are used to express connections between different words.

Example: John and David are friends. And is used as a conjunction in the given sentence.
The most familiar conjunctions in English are: and, but, and or.

Conjunctions are further divided into two:

  • Coordinating Conjunctions: These conjunctions connect elements of equal syntactic structure. Example: Paul and David study together.
  • Subordinating Conjunctions: Connects elements of unequal syntactic structure. Example: I left early because I had an interview the next day.

3) Prepositions

Prepositions indicate the relation between different words. They occur before a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase and indicate a direction, time, place, location, and spatial relationship. Common prepositions include across, after, at, before, by, during, from, in, into, of, on, to, under, with, without, etc.

4) Pronouns

If we did not have the pronoun word families we would have to repeat a whole lot of nouns. A word that takes the position of a noun is named as a pronoun. Pronouns can be employed as a substitute for a noun.

  • Pronouns are divided into 5 categories:
  • Personal Pronouns: I, you, she, etc
  • Demonstrative Pronouns: This, these, etc
  • Possessive Pronouns: Yours, His, etc
  • Interrogative Pronouns: Which, What, etc
  • Reflexive Pronouns: Herself, Himself, etc.
  • Reciprocal Pronouns: Each other
  • Indefinite Pronouns: Few, Nobody, etc.
  • Relative Pronouns: Which, Whom, etc.

5) Interjections

Short exclamations like Oh!, Ah! etc are known as Interjections. Even though they have no grammatical value, we often use them in daily speech. Interjections are primarily used to express emotions such as anger, surprise, etc. Given below are a few examples.

Well! That hurts
Hey! Don’t be so clumsy

Remember, an interjection is always followed by an exclamation mark.

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FAQs on Word Classes

1. How to identify the word classes in a sentence?

A word class is a group of words that have certain common features. To find out the word classes within a sentence it is important that you familiarise yourself with the most common word classes in English. These include nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, etc.

2. How to classify a word class?

Word classes in English belong to two major categories. These are Open word classes that include nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. The second category is closed word classes that include: pronouns, determiners, interjections, etc.

3. What is the difference between a word class and part of speech?

The term “word class” is analogous to the more conventional term, “part of speech”. Both these terms refer to a group of words that have certain common features.


To understand the grammatical structures of sentences in a better way it’s best if you begin with word classes. Even though comprehending the different word classes may initially be a hectic task, once you master word classes, you will reach the exact meaning or message conveyed by a sentence.

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