Grammatical particle

From Academic Kids

In linguistics, the term particle is often employed as a useful catch-all lacking a strict definition. In general, it is understood that particles are function words that tend to be uninflected, though the term may have a broader definition.

Depending on its context, the meaning of the term may overlap with such notions as "morpheme", "marker", or even "adverb" (another catch-all term). Like many linguistic concepts, the precise content of the notion is very language-specific.

The term particle is often used in descriptions of Japanese and Korean, where they are used to mark nouns according to their case or their role (subject, object, complement, or topic) in a sentence or clause. In fact these particles are simply postpositions.

Under the strictest definition, which demands that a particle be an uninflected word, English deictics like this and that would not be classed as such (since they have plurals), and neither would Romance articles (since they are inflected for number and gender).

On the other hand, if a particle is defined as simply an invariable word, interjections are to be classed as particles, as well as sentence-tagging particles like Japanese and Chinese question markers.


Résumé of the different types of particle in English

Articles, infinitival, prepositional, and adverbial particles

  • The definite article the (the indefinite article a or an cannot really be classed as uninflected as in the plural it is not used)
  • the infinitive to, as in to walk
  • adverbs, such as even as in even the youngest of them
  • prepositions as in over as in I went over the hill; or as in phrasal verbs such as put off as in we put it off too long

Interjections, sentence connectors, and conjunctions

Sentence connectors, tags or tag questions (also called sentence-finals), and conjunctions connect to what has been said in a previous clause or sentence. These three types of grammatical particles, however, similarly to modal particles in some other languages, also reflect the mood and attitude of the speaker to what has gone before in the conversation, or is likely to follow later, as after greetings etc. Interjections, sentence connectors, and conjunctions, because of their similar functions, should be grouped together:


The list of interjections is probably never-ending as it belongs to the open class word category and is subject to new creations at all times.

Sentence connectors

  • so (as in So what)
  • well (as in Well, we can’t help that)
  • still (as in Still, it could have been a lot worse)
  • yet {as in I am older now, yet I still enjoy some of the things I used to do)
  • as
  • also
  • however
  • nevertheless
  • otherwise
  • anyway
  • then
  • also
  • too (as in that, too, has been said in the past}

Tags or tag questions (sentence-finals)

  • "...didn't they?"; "...wasn't it?"; "...shouldn't it?", etc.


  • and
  • nor
  • but
  • while (while it is true, that all line repairs are undertaken on Sundays, not all trains should be assumed to be late)
  • although/though
  • for (as in she could not see the film, for she was too young
  • because
  • unless
  • since (as in since you asked, I will tell you)

External links

  • Thai Particles ( (Large list of Thai particles with explanations and example sentences).

de:Partikel (Grammatik) fr:Particule (grammaire)


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