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 English, particles are used to indicate various grammatical relationships between words in a sentence. They can be used to modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.

Particles: Types

There are 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. The Negative Particle

Adverb Particles

Phrasal verbs consist of a verb followed by a particle or a preposition to create a specific, idiomatic meaning. In this usage, particles function like adverbs, modifying and expanding the meaning of the verbs. As a result, they are referred to as adverb particles.

How to Identify an Adverb Particle from a Preposition?

Distinguishing between particles and prepositions in phrasal verbs can be difficult because they look the same.

The main difference between particles and prepositions is that particles do not and cannot introduce a prepositional phrase, but the preposition in a phrasal verb always does. 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. So, it is a particle.

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

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 last two examples are created using 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 'eat' to form the phrasal verb 'eat up'.

I was driving along, thinking about her.

In this sentence, 'along' is an adverb particle, joining 'drive' to form the phrasal verb 'drive along'. It is almost unnecessary to use 'along' in the example, and the meaning of the sentence would be complete without it.

She got upset and walked away slowly.

Why Do We Use Particles?

You may wonder why English uses particles at all. While there is no clear answer and linguists do not agree on their reasons, it's important to note that phrasal verbs that use adverb particles have become increasingly common over time.

Adverbial particles give additional and expanding meaning to the sentences. Compare the following examples:

Liza ate up all her lunch.

Liza ate all her lunch.

The difference between 'eat' and 'eat up' is their level of detail. 'Eat up' is slightly more detailed and more visual than 'eat.'

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 meaning on its own.

'up' is a particle creating a phrasal verb

Tip!

Keep in mind that 'to' can also be a preposition, as 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.

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 consider them conjunctions.

Discourse Particles

Discourse markers have little or no meaning on their own and are only used to indicate 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 English.

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 negative particle and that is the word 'not'. Take a look at the examples:

He is not a very nice man.

I do not like this pizza at all.

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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