Give me an Adjective
by Cherie Tucker
In case someone asks you to play Mad Libs, we’d better review
the eight parts of speech. Remember, words can act as many
different parts of speech. The designation depends on the
function a word plays in a sentence. You can watch a play,
or play ball, or have a play day. So get out your
memories from sixth grade:
NOUNS are the names of people, places, and things: Mr.
Rogers, Norway, grammar. Intangibles also have names: hunger,
PRONOUNS stand in for nouns. If you don’t want to
repeat someone’s name, for example, use a pronoun. Jim will
be late, but he (not Jim again) called and is on
his (not Jim’s) way.
ADJECTIVES, a Mad Libs favorite, are words that
describe nouns and pronouns, fetching, obstreperous, orange,
to refine your image precisely for the reader.
ADVERBS modify verbs by telling the how, when,
why, where. He walked slowly. He then drove
home. They also refine the adjectives further. If you say
it’s a big dog, but you want to modify the concept of big,
you would add extremely. (Mark Twain says to avoid very
and suggests you use damn instead. After all, how big is
very big?) They also modify other adverbs: He walked fast
for an old guy. How fast? Amazingly fast.
PREPOSITIONS show the relationship of nouns or
pronouns to one another. Think of an airplane and a cloud.
Anywhere that plane can be in relation to the cloud is a
preposition: It can be over, under, beside, below. (By the
way, you can end a sentence with a preposition as long as it isn’t
redundant. For example, we say, “What’s this for?” all the time,
not “For what is this?” It’s the where’s it at that
must be avoided. Where is doing its adverbial
best to tell you you’re looking for location. You don’t need
a preposition of location to do the same thing. That would be like
saying he killed him dead.)
CONJUNCTIONS join words or phrases or clauses, and
here’s a trick for remembering them. Think FANBOYS. That’s F(or),
A(nd), N(or), B(ut), Y(et), and S(o). If they are joining two
clauses that can stand alone as sentences, they need commas before
(He went to the store, but he didn’t buy anything.) No comma
if they merely join two things (He walked to the store but
rode the bus home.)
INTERJECTIONS are things you blurt when you stub your
toe, for example, and usually have exclamation points after them.
Ouch! or OMG!
OK, now you can play Mad Libs without fear. That game may even help
Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to
professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.
She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the
University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits