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Using P-words as Particles

P-words are defined as prepositions and adverbs that no longer perform prepositional or adverbial functions. P-words are function words, which are defined as words that perform definite grammatical functions but that lack definite lexical meaning.

In grammar, a particle is a function word 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. P-words are the only grammatical from that perform the grammatical function of particle in English. Examples of p-words as particles include the following:

  • throw up (phrasal verb)
  • squirrel away (phrasal verb)
  • lay in on (phrasal verb)
  • ought to (quasi-modal verb)
  • used to (quasi-modal verb)
  • had better (quasi-modal verb)
  • none of the (determiner phrase)
  • all three of the (determiner phrase)
  • many of the (determiner phrase)


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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