Word forms

Main Word forms

The main word forms (also known as parts of speech or word classes) are as follows:


A noun is a word or group of words that names a person, a place, an object, an activity or a concept.

The traffic is heavy in the town centre today.


A verb is a word or a group of words that describes an action or a state of being:

I have been waiting for you for ages.


An adjective is a word that describes a noun or a pronoun. It often appears before the noun and after the article. It can appear after the words: look, feel or be.

The calculation is very complicated.

You look depressed.


An adverb gives more information about the meaning of a verb, adjective, another adverb or a sentence. Most adverbs end in –ly. They can appear in different places in the sentence.

Your input has been extremely helpful.

The children played happily together.

Next you add the milk.


A connective or linking word connects different parts of the sentence.

There are dogs and cats for sale in the pet shop.

I would pay for the meal, but I’ve forgotten my wallet.


A determiner is a word that limits the meaning of a noun. It could be an article (e.g. a, an, the); a demonstrative (this, that, these, those) or a possessive pronoun (my, your, his, her, etc.)

I have a pen here

Our car is at the garage.


A pronoun is a word used in place of a noun or noun phrase. A pronoun like this can refer to a whole sentence or group of sentences.

He told me to give it back to him.


A preposition is a word or group of words used before a noun or pronoun to show its relationship with other words in the sentence.

I lived in London for 3 years.

Common errors in word formation

Many Hong Kong students mix up different word forms. They may only know one form of the word; e.g. the noun, and use it where an adjective is needed.
Our team was success in the design competition.
Our team was successful in the design competition.
Some students use a verb instead of an adjective.  
She is a very pity old lady with no friends.
She is a very pitiful old lady with no friends.
A common mistake is:  
I feel very pity for her.
instead of  
I feel very sorry for her.

You should check your dictionary to find out which word form (part of speech) a particular word belongs to.

Exercise 1 Commonly confused word forms: adjective, noun or verb?

Choose the correct word form in the following sentences from the options given.

1a stability
1b stable

2a success
2b succeed

3a competitive
3b compete

4a satisfactory
4b satisfaction

5a lucky
5b luck

6a comfort
6b comfortable

7a convenience
7b convenient

8a entry
8b enter

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Exercise 2 Correct the mistake

Some of the following sentences contain the wrong form of the verb. If you see a mistake, put the correct form in the box provided. If there is no mistake, write Correct in the box provided.

1. loss
3. advice
4. recent
5. unsuitable
7. completing
8. feasible
10. Developing

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Exercise 3 Fill in the gaps with the correct word form

Read the following extract from the chief Executive’s budget report. Fill in the blanks using the words below. You will need to change the word form. The first one has been done for you.

1. substantially
2. reduction
3. decelerated
4. growth
5. establish
6. planning
7. finances
8. improvement
9. optimistic
10. monitoring

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