Parts Of Speech And Their Position In The English Sentence

In the  mind of a learner of English, candidate-to-be for the Cambridge examinations, when self-correcting his/her answers in one of the Reading and Use of English paper, part 3 tasks, “Again have I made the same mistake! No way! How is it possible? I know this word as well as my name! Instead, I wrote another part of speech. What if I get it wrong in the exam? No room for this kind of mistakes! Wait, don’t rack your brain. Why did I write an adjective instead of an adverb? Let me re-read the text around the gap.” Bravo, my dear learner, this is exactly the right kind of mindset learners like you need when analysing and correcting their answers. Counting points and turning the page is the biggest mistake a learner could do. 

For this reason, today we will look, through a magnifying glass, into how we can identify which part of speech we need to fill the gap with given its place in the sentence. The examples I will provide you with are taken from Cambridge exams sample papers, published as from 2015 to 2021. 

To begin with, let’s see which are the four parts of speech required in Part 3 of the Reading and Use of English paper. Apropos of that, as I mentioned in the previous article, Orthography And Cambridge Exams, whether you are preparing yourself for the B2 First, C1 Advanced or even C2 Proficiency, there are eight questions in each of them and the same parts of speech as below-mentioned:

  1. Nouns
  2. Adjectives
  3. Adverbs
  4. Verbs

These belong to the Open Class category.  The other ones, like pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, articles/determiners, and interjections belong to the Closed Class. Why Open Class? The reason lies in the fact that the number of verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs can increase as the English language grows. The range of the ones belonging to the Closed Class, instead, rarely grows and is renewed. Hold on a second! We are talking about Function Words, aren’t we? Whereas words like nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are called Content Words, right? So, contrary to Part 2 in the Reading and Use of English paper, where we need function words, in Part 3, content words are required.

Now we are ready to analyse where in the sentence these four are located. 


They are used to name a person, an animal, an object, a place, or a concept.

Where the nouns are used in the sentence depends on their function.

  • As a subject, the noun comes before the verb.

e.g. Wu Yulu’s OBSESSION with robots began when he was a child. OBSESS

(Cambridge English: First for Schools Practice Test A)

  • As an object, it comes after the verb.

e.g. The researchers used special EQUIPMENT to capture these noises; EQUIP

(Cambridge English First for Schools 1, test 1)

  • As an object of preposition, the noun follows a preposition

e.g. A team from the UK and Norway made this significant find after applying techniques normally used in the EXPLORATION of oil and gas. EXPLORE

(Cambridge B2 First for Schools 4, test 1)

  • As a modifier of other nouns, it comes before the noun.

e.g. People paid an ADMISSION charge of one penny to enter a coffee shop (…) ADMIT

(Exam Booster for First and First for Schools)


They describe nouns or pronouns. Adjectives are usually:

  • Before the noun or the pronoun that they modify

e.g. Nevertheless, Durrani puts up with this UNHELPFUL behaviour. HELP

(Cambridge English: First for Schools Practice Test B)

  • After a stative verb, e.g. to be.

e.g. The activities are so ENJOYABLE that you will forget that they are also educational. ENJOY

(Cambridge English First for Schools 1, test 2)

Nota bene: Adjectives in English have no plural form!


They describe a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs usually appear:

  • Before or after the verb, before the adjective, or at the beginning or end of the sentence.

e.g. Experts GENERALLY believe that they were written by a civilization known as the Olmecs. GENERAL

(Cambridge English First for Schools 1, test 4)

  • Before the adjective

e.g. Although the new planet is CONSIDERABLY closer to Proxima Centauri than Earth (…) CONSIDER

  • At the beginning or end of the sentence.

e.g. INCREASINGLY, a visit to a coffee shop had a serious purpose, too (…) INCREASE

(Exam Booster for First and First for Schools)


They describe specific actions, and express what a person, animal, place, or concept does. There are non-action verbs, or stative verbs, that refer to feelings or state of being, and action verbs, that refer to literal actions.

Most of the time, the verb follows the noun

What I’m going to tell you now might be a real eye-opener for some of you. In almost none of the Part 3 exam tasks, are verbs required to be formed, since they are given at the end of the line. Still, there are cases, through very few,  when we do need a verb.

e.g. The event PROVED to be highly successful with over five hundred people attending. PROOF

(Cambridge English. First. Handbook for teachers for exams from 2016)

Identifying what exact part of speech is necessary is crucial in Part 3 of the Reading and Use of English paper. It is not easy at first. It takes time, patience and willingness to improve. Do you know what really does the trick? It’s reading. Read in English as much as possible. Consequently, most of the words in such a task will simply pop into your head. Reading does wonders for Cambridge English candidates!

Here is an article, for both students and teachers, with useful tips we need to take on board when tackling Part 3.

Now that you are armed with everything you need to successfully tackle Part 3, I’ve got a challenge for you. I’ve chosen a piece from the all-times favourite – Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, Chapter Eight. 

First, read the text and try to identify which part of speech is necessary given the context. Next, write the eight words. Remember to write them in CAPITAL LETTERS, since you must do so in the exam. Last but not least, read the text again to make sure the words written fit the context and everything make sense.

  3. Adjective: MISTAKEN
  6. Adjective: DIFFERENT
  7. Noun: CHOICES
  8. Noun: PROOF

Once again, I hope the above-provided material will help you understand how to come up with the right word in Reading and Use of English paper, part 3. There is always a logical answer. If you are sitting on the fence, trust your instinct!

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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