According to the criteria of form, meaning and function, all words are
divided into notional and functional, which reflects their division in the earlier
grammatical tradition into changeable and unchangeable.
Functional words are characterized by incomplete nominative meaning, they
are non-self-dependent and they perform mediatory functions in the sentence.
On the principle of "generalized form" only unchangeable words are
traditionally treated under the heading of functional parts of speech. As for their
individual forms as such, they are simply presented by the list, since the number of
these words is limited, so that they don’t need to be identified on any general
To the basic functional series of words in English belong the article, the
preposition, the conjunction, the particle, the modal word, the interjection.
3. The Conjunction
Every conjunction has its own meaning, expressing some connection or
other existing between phenomena in extralinguistic reality.
When discussing prepositions, we noted that in a certain number of cases the
use of a given preposition is predicted by the preceding word: thus the verb depend
can only be followed by the preposition on (or upon), the adjective characteristic
only by the preposition of, etc. In such cases the preposition has no meaning of its
own. Conjunctions in this respect are entirely different. Their meaning is
independent of preceding words.
Two levels are distinguished — that of phrases and that of sentences.
On the phrase level it must be said that conjunctions connect words and
phrases. It is the so-called co-ordinating conjunctions that are found here, and only
very rarely subordinating ones.
On the sentence level it must be said that conjunctions connect clauses (of
different kinds). Here we find both so-called co-ordinating and so-called
In comparing prepositions with co-ordinating and subordinating
conjunctions we cannot fail to notice that while prepositions have nothing in
common with co-ordinating conjunctions, some prepositions are very close in
meaning to subordinating conjunctions, and in some cases a preposition and a
subordinating conjunction sound exactly the same.
It should also be noted that the difference between prepositions and
conjunctions is much less pronounced in Modern English than in Russian, where
prepositions are closely connected with cases, while conjunctions have nothing
whatever to do with them. In English, with its almost complete absence of cases,
this difference between prepositions and conjunctions is very much obliterated.
4. The Particle
Particles usually refer to the word (or, sometimes, phrase) immediately
following and give special prominence to the notion expressed by this word (or
phrase), or single it out in some other way, depending on the meaning of the
The question of the place of a particle in sentence structure remains
unsolved. The following three solutions are possible:
(1) a particle is a separate secondary member of the sentence, which should
be given a special name;
(2) a particle is an element in the part of the sentence which is formed by the
word (or phrase) to which the particle refers (thus the particle may be an element
of the subject, predicate, object, etc.);
(3) a particle neither makes up a special part of the sentence, nor is it an
element in any part of the sentence; it stands outside the structure of the sentence
and must be neglected when analysis of a sentence is given.
Each of these three views entails some difficulties and none of them can be
proved to be the correct one, so that the decision remains arbitrary.
The gerund is originally a verbal noun in –ing. Similar to the infinitive, the
gerund is the name of a process, but its substantive meaning is more strongly
pronounced than that of the infinitive: unlike the infinitive, the gerund can be
modified by a noun in the genitive case or by the possessive pronoun and used
The general combinability of the gerund, like that of the infinitive, is dual,
sharing some features with the verb, and some features with the noun.
The verbal features of the gerund. Like the verb, the gerund distinguishes the
categories of voice and temporal correlation:
writing (non-passive, non-perfect) – being written (passive, non-perfect)
having written (non-passive, perfect) – having been written (passive,
It is obvious that gerunds derived from intransitive verbs have only two
forms: non-perfect active and perfect active, e.g. walking vs. having walked.
The gerund has the following syntactic features of the verb: it can function
as part of the verbal predicate (e.g. If he stops working, he will die); it can be
followed by an object (e.g. I remember locking the door) and an adverbial modifier
(e.g. He avoids driving fast).
The nounal features of the gerund. Similar to the noun, the gerund can be
modified by a noun in the genitive case or in the common case, which, when
pronominalized, turn into the possessive and objective forms, respectively:
She did nothing to encourage John’s going abroad.
She did nothing to encourage John going abroad. vs.
She did nothing to encourage his going abroad.
She did nothing to encourage him going abroad.
The standard form is the form with the noun in the genitive case or with the
possessive pronoun. The other form is more common in spoken English. The
gerund in the latter construction is traditionally called the half-gerund.
Unlike the noun, the gerund cannot be used in the plural; it cannot be
preceded by the article (or its substitute); it cannot be determined by the adjective.
Like the noun, the gerund can be used as the subject, the object, the
predicative, and the attribute.