Function and Content Words

Pronunciation | Speaking | Listenings


No matter how good your English grammar and vocabulary may be, if your pronunciation is so bad that nobody can understand a word you say, then your English won't be much good as a means of communication. You might be good at grammar, have a broad vocabulary, and be able to explain all the aspects and tenses of English, but it's not much good if you can't be understood when you speak. I have designed these Activities to help you to improve your pronunciation, as well as other areas of your English.


It's not easy to teaching speaking skills remotely through a website, however good the site is. To really practice your speaking skills, you need someone to speak to who can correct your mistakes as you go. The Activities here will go some way to helping you to improve your speaking skills by helping you to mirror the speech you hear in the lesson. In this way, you can notice how your speech differs from that in the Activities and, by recording your own speech, you can adjust your pronunciation to more accurately match that in the Activities.


Reading is the easiest way to take in English. Listening is a much harder skill and one that has to be developed as you study the language. There are lots of speech features that arise when native English speakers speak English. These speech features, such as elision, simplification, intonation, stress, and rhythm, and the way in which speakers may miss out sounds or whole words, are important to understand if you are to be able to listen to and fully understand spoken English. These Britlish Library Activities will help you to develop you listening skills.  

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An explanation of function and content words in English. The difference between function and content words is one of the key factors in English sentence stress and the rhythm of English. This lesson help you to better understand them. I’ve used the terms function and content words several times in this course up to now. I thought it was a good time to tell you what they are. Function words are also known as structure words, grammatical words, grammatical functors, grammatical morphemes, function morphemes, form words, and empty words. That list will give you a good idea of what they are.

I’ve used the terms function and content words several times in this course up to now. I thought it was a good time to tell you what they are. Function words are also known as structure words, grammatical words, grammatical functors, grammatical morphemes, function morphemes, form words, and empty words. That list will give you a good idea of what they are. Content Words Content words make up 40% of our utterances and comprise 99% of our vocabulary. Content words are the important words in a sentence. Content words carry the information that we want to convey when we speak or write. As such, they are also the words that are given emphasis in a spoken sentence. Types of Content Words Content words are open class words and we can make new ones as we need. Content words include nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and main verbs. It’s easy to make a new noun. We invent new things every day and we need names for them. Likewise with verbs. We can easily turn an English noun into a verb. Google it, if you don’t believe me. (Here google is a new noun and verb) 60% of English Function words make up around 60% of the words we use, but they make up just 1% of an average person’s vocabulary. Without function words, we would be unable to convey the relationships between the content words. Function words are the skeleton or framework of the sentence. Because they do not carry meaningful content, they are generally not stressed or emphasised in spoken sentences, except in special cases. Types of Function Words Function words are determiners, conjunctions, prepositions, pronouns, auxiliary verbs, modals, qualifiers, and question words. Function words are closed-class words and we cannot make new ones. It’s not a coincidence that words like conjunctions and prepositions are the most difficult for students to master. This is because, unlike a noun, they are hard to visualise. Determiners Determiners include the articles, possessive pronouns, quantifiers, demonstratives, numbers. Articles include: a, an, the Demonstratives include: these, those, this, that Possessive pronouns include: my, his, hers, its, your, their, our, ours, whose, which Quantifiers include: a lot of, a little, much, any, some, both, most, many, a few, enough, several, none, all Conjunctions Conjunctions are words we use to connect parts of a sentence. Conjunctions include: and, but, for, yet, neither, or, so, when, although, however, as, because, before Prepositions Prepositions are words we use to begin prepositional phrases. Prepositional phrases give more information about nouns. In the phrase, work your way through this course, the preposition, through, introduces the prepositional phrase, this course. Prepositions include: in, on, of, by, at, over, with, across, into, within, around, between, without, through Pronouns Pronouns are words that substitute for nouns. It is important when using a pronoun that the noun it refers back to is clearly understood, otherwise confusion will ensue. Pronouns include: I, he, she, it, him, her, you, me, somebody, anybody, someone, anyone Auxiliary Verbs Auxiliary verbs are often called helping verbs, because they help the main verb. The three main auxiliary verbs are do, be, and have, which are the ways in which we show tense in the three English aspects. For more details about aspects, see the Grammar Activation Packs. Auxiliary verbs include: do, does, did, am, is, are, was, were, have, has, had, get, got Modal Verbs We use modal verbs to express possibilities or conditions. If you learn these models, you will be able to use conditionals correctly. Modal verbs include: can, could, will, would, may, might, shall, should Qualifiers Qualifiers are words that we used to show degree of adjectives or verbs. Qualifiers have no concrete meaning in themselves. In a sentence like, at Britlish you can improve your English very quickly, the word very is a qualifier. Qualifiers include: very, really, quite, rather, too, pretty, somewhat Question Words Can you guess what question words do? I hardly need to explain them here, do I? If you really want to go into question words in depth, check out the 5WH Questions Grammar Activation Pack in the Britlish library. Question words include: who, what, when, where, why, how   

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