How to Identify the Function of a Word, Phrase or Clause and Adverbs or Adjectives

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    Phrases and Clauses

    • 1). Determine whether the word or words you are looking at contain a subject that is actively doing something. A clause is a group of words that has a subject and verb, while a phrase is a word or group of words that is missing either a subject or a verb. For example, "the dog was walking" is a clause, while "the dog" is a phrase.

    • 2). Examine the words to figure out whether they could stand alone in a sentence or whether they form a clause. If the words could stand alone and create a complete sentence with punctuation, then they form an independent clause. If the words require another clause in order to form a complete thought with punctuation, then they form a dependent clause.

    • 3). Recognize common prepositions when they appear at the beginning of the group of words you are studying. When a group of words begins with a preposition, the group is a prepositional phrase. Some of the most popular prepositions include: about, because, for, on, to and with.

    Adverbs and Adjectives

    • 1). Isolate the word and look at its spelling. Remember that adverbs typically end in "-ly." For example, the words "quickly" and "simply" are both adverbs because they are typically used to describe a verb. It is important to remember, however, that although the "-ly" pattern at the end of the word can be a good clue, not all words that end in "-ly" are adverbs and some adverbs do not end with this pattern.

    • 2). Research the meaning of the word in a dictionary. You can often understand the function of a word within a sentence by understanding what it means. The dictionary will also often contain the part of speech.

    • 3). Consider how the word is used within the sentence. If the word is used to describe a noun or pronoun, it's function is as an adjective. If it is used to describe another adjective or a verb, it is an adverb.


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