The Particle in English Grammar

The Particle in English Grammar
Coming up next: What is a Preposition? - Definition, Uses & Examples

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 What Is a Particle?
  • 0:57 What Do Particles Do?
  • 3:27 What Particles Don't Do
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Particles are small words, but they make a world of difference in the English language. In this lesson, we'll look at their use and a debate between experts on if they are adverbs or something else entirely.

What Is a Particle?

Chances are you are familiar with the basic parts of speech. Nouns provide something or someone, while verbs provide the action or inaction. Pronouns substitute for nouns and other pronouns, while adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. By the time you throw in conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections, you've got everything just about covered.

In fact, it sort of starts to resemble a fully-formed train, with verbs providing the engine, nouns providing the boxcars, and conjunctions linking it all together. However, you've got to have some people on those train cars to give them purpose and help them along.

In English, we have other words known as particles, which are perhaps best described as those words that don't fit into any of the other parts of speech, but their use is of the utmost importance. In our train example, they are like the people who help the train along.

What Do Particles Do?

Imagine these two sentences: 'Jack cut the limb' and 'Jack cut off the limb.' It's pretty easy to identify the nouns, the articles, and the verbs. But what about that word 'off' in the second sentence? Is it just part of the verb 'cut off?' Well not exactly. 'Off' is, in that example, exactly what I mean by a particle. After all, 'cut' and 'cut off' are essentially two different verbs.

Now, you might be tempted to call these words adverbs; after all, they are modifying the intensity of a verb. However, that subject is still up for some debate by grammarians. The point is that the world 'off' changes a simple carving in a limb into a full-fledged, ax-wielding method of destruction.

Let's look at another example. Let's say that you were playing catch with a friend. The action that you and your friend are doing could be described by this sentence: 'You threw the ball.' It gives a nice image of two friends playing catch. But let's say that things change a little bit. Turns out you're not playing catch with a friend, but about to have a rapping contest with someone you really don't like. Now the sentence that best describes your actions would be: 'You threw down.' However, that example did give me the chance to use the verb 'throw down'. As I don't condone violence, we'll stick with the meaning of 'throw down' that doesn't involve fisticuffs.

Now, while it's very colloquial, that doesn't mean that we can't apply grammar to it. What exactly are you throwing when you 'throw down?' Unless you are particularly violent with the microphone, chances are you're not physically throwing anything to the floor. However, when we put the particle 'down' after the word 'threw,' the meaning of threw changes from launching an object through the air and instead becomes the act of challenging someone to a rapping contest.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support