Languages › English as a Second Language Content and Function Words Share Flipboard Email Print Andy Roberts/Getty Images English as a Second Language Vocabulary Basic Conversations for English Language Learners Pronunciation & Conversation Writing Skills Reading Comprehension Grammar Business English Resources for Teachers By Kenneth Beare English as a Second Language (ESL) Expert TESOL Diploma, Trinity College London M.A., Music Performance, Cologne University of Music B.A., Vocal Performance, Eastman School of Music Kenneth Beare is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and course developer with over three decades of teaching experience. our editorial process Kenneth Beare Updated October 02, 2018 Each word in English belongs to one of the eight parts of speech. Each word is also either a content word or a function word. Let's think about what these two types mean: Content Words vs. Function Words Content = information, meaningFunction = necessary words for grammar In other words, content words give us the most important information while function words are used to stitch those words together. Content Word Types Content words are usually nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. A noun tells us which object, a verb tells us about the action happening, or the state. Adjectives give us details about objects and people and adverbs tell us how, when or where something is done. Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs give us important information required for understanding. Noun = person, place or thingVerb = action, stateAdjective = describes an object, person, place or thingAdverb = tells us how, where or when something happens Examples: Nouns Verbs house enjoy computer purchase student visit lake understand Peter believe science look forward to Adjectives Adverbs heavy slowly difficult carefully careful sometimes expensive thoughtfully soft often fast suddenly Other Content Words While nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are the most important content words, there are a few other words that are also key to understanding. These include negatives like no, not and never; demonstrative pronouns including this, that, these and those; and question words like what, where, when, how and why. Function Word Types Function words help us connect important information. Function words are important for understanding, but they add little meaning beyond defining the relationship between two words. Function words include auxiliary verbs, prepositions, articles, conjunctions, and pronouns. Auxiliary verbs are used to establish the tense, prepositions show relationships in time and space, articles show us something that is specific or one of many, and pronouns refer to other nouns. Auxiliary verbs = do, be, have (help with conjugation of tense)Prepositions = show relationships in time and spaceArticles = used to indicate specific or non-specific nounsConjunctions = words that connectPronouns = refer to other nouns Examples: Auxiliary Verbs Prepositions do in has at will though is over has been between did under Articles Conjunctions Pronouns a and I an but you the for him so us since ours as she Knowing the difference between content and functions words is important because content words are stressed in conversation in English. Function words are non-stressed. In other words, function words are not emphasized in speech, while content words are highlighted. Knowing the difference between content and function words can help you in understanding, and, most importantly, in pronunciation skills. Exercise Decide which words are function and content words in the following sentences. Mary has lived in England for ten years.He's going to fly to Chicago next week.I don't understand this chapter of the book.The children will be swimming in the ocean this time next week.John had eaten lunch before his colleague arrived.The best time to study is early in the morning or late in the evening.The trees along the river are beginning to blossom.Our friends called us yesterday and asked if we'd like to visit them next month.You'll be happy to know that she's decided to take the position.I won't give away your secret. Check your answers below: Exercise Answers Content words are in bold. Mary has lived in England for ten years.He's going to fly to Chicago next week.I don't understand this chapter of the book.The children will be swimming in the ocean at five o'clock.John had eaten lunch before his colleague arrived.The best time to study is early in the morning or late in the evening.The trees along the river are beginning to blossom.Our friends called us yesterday and asked if we'd like to visit them next month.You'll be happy to know that she's decided to take the position.I won't give away your secret. Content or Function Word? Pronunciation Practice Practice Stress and Intonation Using a Focus Word to Help With Pronunciation English Pronunciation Practice Understanding English Pronunciation Concepts Lesson Plan: Label Sentences with Parts of Speech Intonation and Stress in English ESL Vocabulary Words for Body Movements Know your Auxiliary Verbs Using a Wider Range of Vocabulary - ESL Lesson Plan Sentence Patterns Essential Basic English Lessons How to Improve Your Pronunciation Adjectives and Adverbs: A Guide to Usage English Contractions Parts of Speech: What Are Verbs?