Syntax

Content and functional words in English with Illustration

Every word in English refers to one of eight parts of speech . Each word is also either meaningful or functional. Let’s think about what these two types mean: Content and functional words in English

Content words versus functional words

  • Content = information, meaning
  • Function = necessary words for grammar

In other words, meaningful words give us the most important information, and control words are used to combine these words.

Content word types

Content words are usually nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. A noun tells us which object, a verb tells us about an action or state that is taking place. Adjectives give us detailed information about objects and people, and adverbs tell us how, when and where something is done. Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs give us important information we need to understand.

  • Noun = person, place, or thing
  • Verb = action, state
  • Adjective = describes an object, person, place, or thing
  • Adverb = tells us how, where and when something happens
Examples:
Nouns Verbs
house enjoy
a computer purchase
student visit
lake understand
Peter believe
the science look forward
Examples:
Adjectives Adverbs
heavy slow
hard attentively
careful sometimes
expensive thoughtfully
soft often

Other words of content

While nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs are the most important words in the content, there are several other words that are also key to understanding. These include negatives such as “no,” “no,” and “never”; demonstrative pronouns, including this, that, and those; and question words such as what, where, when, how, and why. Content and functional words in English

Types of functional words

Functional words help us connect important information. Functional words are important to understand, but they add no meaning other than defining the relationship between two words.

Functional words include

  1.  auxiliary verbs,
  2. prepositions,
  3. articles,
  4. conjunctions,
  5. and pronouns. 

Auxiliary verbs are used to indicate time, prepositions show relationships in time and space, articles show us something specific or one of many, and pronouns refer to other nouns.

  1. Auxiliary verbs = to do, to be, to have (helps with tense conjugation )
  2. Prepositions = show relationships in time and space
  3. Determiners/Articles = are used to refer to specific or non-specific nouns
  4. Conjunctions = words that connect
  5. Pronouns = refer to other nouns

Examples

  1. Prepositions:
    of, at, in, without, between
  2. Pronouns:
    he, they, anybody, it, one
  3. Determiners/Articles:
    the, a, that, my, more, much, either,
    neither
  4. Conjunctions:
    and, that, when, while, although, or
  5. Auxiliary verbs :
    verbs be (is, am, are), have, got, do

Content and functional words in English

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