Function Words


voice in which the person or thing performing the action is the subject of the verb

John throws the pencil.


word or phrase that modifies a noun or adverb

It was a happy coincidence.


a word or phrase that modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb. An adverb often ends in -ly.

The detective paced slowly around the room.


word (a, an, the) that specifies or confines the meaning of a noun

Definite Article: The soldier died bravely.

Indefinite Article: A soldier never truly returns home.


in a sentence, a group of words that contains both a subject and a predicate

I (subject) can’t believe Barbara said those things. (predicate)


word that joins two or more words, phrases, clauses, or sentences

Sue and Sally have never been late; they are always on time.

collective noun

indicates a group of persons, things, or animals treated as a single entity

The fleet of ships arrives too late.

A chorus of angels quivers in her soul.

correlative conjunction

pair of words which, separated from each other in a sentence, act as a conjunction (joining two or more words, phrases, or sentences)

Either you are coming with me, or we will never see each other again.


noun formed from a verb, usually by adding -ing to the end

Running to catch a train can be very dangerous.


word, or expression comprising several words, the meaning of which extends beyond the usual meanings of the individual words

Chocolate tastes as good as ice cream.

The candidate claims to support tax cuts, in contrast to his prior statements.

Neither Tom nor Sam has the necessary skills to finish the job.

impersonal pronoun

pronoun that does not stand in for any particular noun, but instead refers to “people in general” or fulfills the sentence’s syntactical need for a pronoun

One must pay close attention to a test’s instructions.

It must be said.


dictionary form of a verb; in English, most often appears as “to ___ ” (“to eat”, “to run”)

To sleep, perchance to dream, aye there’s the rub.


word, phrase, or clause that provides extra information about another word, phrase, or clause

The soft pillow did not make up for the hard bed.


verb form that indicates the speaker’s position on the factuality of the sentence; indicates if action/condition is true or unlikely or if the speaker is giving a command

Indicative: Harry spends all of his money on comic books.

Imperative: Spend all of your money on comic books!

Subjunctive: I wish Paul were not spending his money so recklessly.


word that indicates a person, place, or thing

John ate pizza at the cafe with his friends.


in a sentence, the noun or noun phrase that receives or is otherwise affected by the action specified by the verb

Geronimo ran to the cliff.

passive voice

voice in which the person or thing performing the action is the object of the verb

The batter was hit by the pitch.


in a sentence, a group of words that contains either a subject or a predicate, but not both

Noun Phrase: the mouse in the trap

Prepositional Phrase: under the full moon

Verb Phrase: runs around and around

Adjectival Phrase: good as gold

Adverbial Phrase: happily oblivious


noun, pronoun, or adjective indicating multiple persons or things

Cows don’t like sheep.

also the form of the verb (especially in the present tense) that agrees with multiple persons, places, or things

Six cats are asleep on the rug.


pronoun or adjective indicating possession

Lucy’s book is over there.
(The proper noun Lucy is now used as a possessive adjective Lucy’s.)

That book over there is hers.
(Hers is a possessive pronoun)


part of a sentence or clause that, as a whole, modifies the subject; includes the verb, the object/s, or phrases presided over by the verb

Ricky reads.

Ricky reads the newspaper.

Ricky reads the newspaper to his grandfather.


word that shows the relationship between words, phrases, or clauses

The man from Brazil had never seen snow.

The tax collector tapped on the door.


word that stands in for a noun or noun phrase

John just meant to scare the boys. He made a terrible mistake, though.

proper noun

noun indicating a specific person, place, or thing

Cassandra decided the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia is one of her favorite works of architecture.

relative pronoun

pronoun that connects a subordinate clause to the rest of the sentence

Harry is the boy who won the race.

Harry is the boy whom Julie had a crush on.


group of words that contains a subject and a predicate and is able to stand on its own

This is a sentence.


noun or pronoun indicating one person, place, or thing

The cow does not like the sheep.

also the form of the verb (especially in the present tense) that agrees with one person, place, or thing

This gun only shoots blanks.


in a sentence, the noun or noun phrase that performs the action indicated by the verb or that is explained or described by the verb

The ship sailed through the night storm.


word that represents an action or state of being

We all know this already.


set of verb forms indicating the relationship between the subject and the action or condition expressed by the verb

Active: The big fish swallowed Jonah.

Passive: Jonah was swallowed by the big fish.

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