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Classification of words: word classes

What follows is but a rough explanation of the basic principles that allow the classification of words into different word classes (parts of speech).

Different words can have different positions in a sentence. All words which can occupy the same position in a sentence belong, roughly speaking, to the same word class.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Der alte Wagen fährt langsam .

Each position in this sentence can be occupied by other words:
  1. – alte Wagen fährt langsam
    dieser, jeder, ein
    = articles (determiners)

  2. Der – Wagen fährt langsam
    neue, grüne, unversicherte
    = adjectives

  3. Der alte – fährt langsam
    Bus, Chauffeur, Mann
    = nouns

  4. Der alte Wagen – langsam
    rollt, rostet, bremst
    = verbs

  5. Der alte Wagen fährt –
    schnell, aufwärts, nicht
    = adverbs
Generally, words that can substitute other words in a sentence belong to the same word class. Words belonging to the same word class share the same or similar features. The Word Grammar describes these features for each word class.

We distinguish the following word classes:


Note 1:

With this substitution of words the resulting sentence must be a grammatically correct sentence. It does not necessarily have to be meaningful. For example, the sentence

Der alte Wagen schmunzelt langsam.
(The old car smiles slowly)

is grammatically correct although it is not meaningful.

Note 2:

Other classifications are possible. For example, many grammar textbooks treat numerals as a separate word class („Zehn-Wortarten-Lehre“).

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