Particles

Particles are words that have a grammatical function but do not fit into the main parts of speech. In order to learn about them, start studying them right here!

"Particles" in the English Grammar

What Are Particles?

'Particle' comes from Latin and it means 'a share or a part.' In grammar, a particle is a word that has a grammatical function but does not fit into the main parts of speech.

Particles: Types

We have different types of particles in English Grammar. The most common ones are:

  1. Adverb Particles
  2. Grammatical Particle (the infinitive marker to)
  3. Discourse Particles
  4. Negative Particle

Adverb Particles

Phrasal verbs consist of a verb followed by a particle or a preposition to create a specific, idiomatic meaning.

How to Identify an Adverb Particle from a Preposition?

Because particles and prepositions look the same, knowing when a phrasal verb is using one or the other, might be difficult.
But, particles are used more like adverbs. They modify and expand the meaning of the verbs. For this reason, particles are sometimes referred to as adverb particles or even just adverbs.

The crucial difference between particles and prepositions is that particles do not and cannot introduce a prepositional phrase, but the preposition in a phrasal verb always will.
Let's compare some examples:

All my old books were taking up space in the bedroom.

'Up' in the phrasal verb 'take up' changes the meaning of the verb, but it does not introduce a prepositional phrase expressing direction, location, time, or possession. So, it is a particle.

Do you have a few minutes to look over these articles?

Now take a look at some examples with phrasal verbs that are made with prepositions in order to clarify the differences:

She will look after the children tomorrow.

He came across an antique box in the attic.

As you can see, the phrasal verbs in the examples above are created by a preposition rather than a particle, because the information that comes immediately after the phrasal verb completes a prepositional phrase. Without these prepositional phrases, the sentences would be incomplete.

Liza ate up all her lunch.

'Up' in this example is the adverb particle, joining with 'eat' to form the phrasal verb 'eat up'.

I was driving along, thinking about her.

In this sentence, 'along' is the adverb particle, joining with 'drive' to form the phrasal verb 'drive along'. It is almost unnecessary to use 'along' in the example, and we could still fully understand the meaning of the sentence without it.

Why We Use Particles?

You may wonder why to use particles in English at all? There is not a clear answer to this one and linguists do not agree on the reasons for these particles, but you should know that phrasal verbs that use adverb particles have become more common over time.

She got upset and walked away slowly.

Adverbial particles give additional and expanding meaning to the sentences. Look at this example again:

Liza ate up all her lunch.

Without the adverb particle, the sentence would be like this:

Liza ate all her lunch.

The difference between 'eat' and 'eat up' is nuance. 'Eat up' is a bit detailed and more visual than 'eat.'

Tip!

Particles perform very subtle roles in sentences, but their existence adds flavor and extended detailed meaning.

Grammatical Particle

The infinitive 'to' is an example of a grammatical particle. It is also called an infinitive marker. The Infinitive marker does not have any meanings on its own.

'up' is a particle creating a phrasal verb

Tip!

However, 'to' can also be a preposition, for example in 'I'm going to Germany in winter.'

Now let's look at some examples where 'to' acts as the infinitive marker:

She wants to move to Germany.

Justin hopes to find the love of his life.

Discourse Particles

Discourse markers have little or no meaning on their own and are only used to show the emotion and attitude of the speaker; therefore, their inclusion or exclusion does not affect the grammatical correctness of the sentence.

'Well' and 'now' are two examples of discourse markers in the English language.

Now, let's talk about the next question. (used to get somebody's attention)

Now, what did you say your job was? (introducing another question)

Well, you could at least have called me! (showing anger)

Well, well, well! Look who finally decided to show up! (showing surprise)

Negative Particle

The English language has one main negative particle and that is the word 'not'.

He is not a very nice man.

I do not like this pizza at all.

Tip!

The words 'yes' and 'no' are sometimes categorized as grammatical particles as they do not fit into the main parts of speech. But some people describe them as conjunctions.

Review

What Are the Particles?

Particles are not considered as main word classes, but they are words that are used to make us more clear and They even work to make some phrasal verbs, infinitives, etc.
Here are four different types of particles:

  1. Adverb Particles
  2. Grammatical Particle
  3. Discourse Particles
  4. Negative Particle

Adverb Particles and Grammatical Particles

Adverb particles are added to phrasal verbs to make them clear, but there is a point that is important to know; adverb particles cannot introduce a 'prepositional phrase'. The grammatical particle is the word 'to' that is used to make infinitives. Also, keep in mind that it does not have any meaning on its own.

The girls finally lived down the incidents.

To drink too much wine. weakens your liver.

Discourse Particles and Negative Particles

Discourse markers come in the sentence to show emotions, they have little or no meanings so deleting them from the sentence makes no difference. A negative marker (not) is put after the auxiliary verbs to negate the sentences. It has no meaning on its own.

Phew! We are safe now.

My boss did not accept the new project, so we changed the plan.

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Postpositions

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Conjunctions

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Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions joins subordinate or dependent clauses to the main or independent clauses. To know all about these tricky grammatical words, click!

Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are words that their main job is joining two equal grammatical notions together. Here, we will discuss them more thoroughly.

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