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Grammatical Form of English P-words

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Grammatical Form of English P-words

P-words are prepositions and adverbs that no longer perform prepositional or adverbial functions. P-words are also function words, which are defined as words that perform definite grammatical functions but that lack definite lexical meaning. Belonging to a grammatical category consisting of a small closed word set, p-words show no inflectional variation. In the English language, p-words function as particles in phrasal verbs, quasi-modal verbs, and determiners phrases and as infinitive markers in infinitive forms of verbs.

P-words as Particles

The first grammatical function that p-words perform is the particle. Particles are function words that expresses a grammatical relationship with another word or words. Particles appear within three constructions in English: phrasal verbs, quasi-modal verbs, and determiner phrases. For example, the following italicized p-words function as particles:

  • Can you look some email addresses up for me? (phrasal verb)
  • Her boss really laid in on her poor interpersonal skills. (phrasal verb)
  • She ought to consider changing her hair color. (quasi-modal verb)
  • You had better pick up some milk and eggs on your way home. (quasi-modal verb)
  • Twelve of the chicks have escaped from the hen house again. (determiner phrase)
  • She has already read many of the recommended books. (determiner phrase)

P-words as Infinitive Markers

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The second grammatical function that p-words perform is the infinitive marker. Infinitive markers are function words that distinguishes the base form from the infinitive form of an English verb. For example, the following italicized p-words function as infinitive markers:

  • To err is human.
  • To not graduate now would be a shame.
  • He likes to dance the samba.
  • Grandpa still needs to fry the bacon.
  • Her great aunt is afraid to parasail.
  • Too many people will never find someone to love.

A p-word is a function word that resembles a preposition or adverb but that no longer performs a prepositional or adverbial function. P-words function as particles and infinitive markers in English grammar.

Summary

P-words are function words that resemble prepositions and adverbs but that no longer perform prepositional or adverbial functions.

P-word is a grammatical form.

P-words perform the grammatical functions of particle in phrasal verbs, quasi-modal verbs, and determiners phrases and infinitive marker in infinitive forms of verbs.

P-words belong to a closed class of function words that lack any variation in internal structure.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cat. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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