Word classes - continued


Adverbs give extra detail about other words. They can add detail to a verb, to an adjective or even to a whole sentence. Like adjectives, they can be single words or phrases. An adverb describes how, when or where something happens (and they often end in ‘–ly’):

  • The dog growled menacingly.
  • There were several seagulls squawking nearby.
  • The seagulls suddenly pounced on the family’s picnic.
  • The family could hardly move.
  • It was a very nice day.


Prepositions are short words and phrases that give information about place, time and manner, eg:

on, under, near, below, by, at, in


  • She first put it on the table but then hid it under her bed.
  • He’s coming at 6pm.

A preposition can also be used at the start and end of a sentence, eg:

  • After ten o’clock, no shops were open in the town.
  • At the stroke of six, he walked away.


You can join sentences, clauses and phrases together using connectives, or joining words. Some common connectives include ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘so’ and ‘then’. Using these can make your writing flow.


  • He was seventeen years old. He lived in Edinburgh. = He was seventeen years old and he lived in Edinburgh.
  • She was cold. She didn’t put her jacket on. = She was cold but she didn’t put her jacket on.

Be adventurous with connectives and aim to use some of the following:

  • whilst
  • beforehand
  • afterwards
  • firstly
  • finally
  • although
  • moreover
  • since
  • despite
  • consequently
  • because
  • instead
  • when
  • nevertheless
  • furthermore


A sentence:

  • is basically built from a subject and a verb
  • contains at least one main idea
  • sounds complete
  • starts with a capital letter
  • ends with a full stop or equivalent

Subjects and verbs

In a sentence, the verb describes the main action or state of the subject. Different types of verbs have different functions:

  • to show action, eg run, play, skip, discuss
  • to show state, eg think, consider, wish
  • to help out the main verb (auxiliary verbs), eg do, have, is
  • to show likelihood or possibility (modal verbs), eg might, could, would, should

Verbs also show the time frame of the action (past, present, future):

  • past, eg the game finished at 4 o’clock
  • present, eg he runs to work or he is eating his breakfast
  • future, eg the Johnsons will celebrate Christmas in style

In most sentences, the verb comes after its subject. The subject is usually a noun (a person, place or thing), for example:

  • he ran
  • their pet Siamese cat mewed
  • the day was long

Words and phrases

A sentence is built up from words. Sometimes words are grouped together in phrases.

A phrase acts as a single unit of meaning – for example ‘their pet Siamese cat’, ‘the fast-paced Hollywood film’.

A phrase can be replaced by a single word, eg the phrase ‘pet Siamese cat’ would be replaced by the single word ‘cat’ and still have the same basic meaning. We use phrases to add more detail to our writing.