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Structure, Words

Note 124 – Content words v structure words

Words have two classes: content words and structure words.

Content words

Content words are the core words which give meaning to the sentence.  They are the ones that we stress the most when we speak our sentences out loud.  They can be nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, according to the Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation by John Seely.  ‘House’, ‘dance’, ‘bag’ and ‘suit’ are examples of content words.

The free dictionary online defines ‘content word’ as “a word to which an independent meaning can be assigned”. 

Structure words (or sometimes called function words)

Words like ‘so’, ‘but’ and ‘however’ are all examples of ‘structure words’ (or function words).  These are less likely to be emphasised or stressed when you speak a sentence out loud.  If speaking to a baby or trying to communicate to someone who doesn’t understand English very well, we could get our message across by missing out the structure words.

The free dictionary online defines ‘function word’ (or structure word) as “a word that is uninflected and serves a grammatical function but has little identifiable meaning”.

Now for a sentence…

“Yoga is extremely good for your posture”

If you were to say the sentence out loud, you would tend to stress the words in bold (the content words) and put less stress on the others (the structure words).

As with most things there are always exceptions.  There may be times when you want to stress a structure word.  In the sentence above you may be debating with someone who thinks that running is good for your posture but yoga isn’t. In that case you may need to emphasise the word ‘is’.

That’s it for today. Don’t forget that you can subscribe to receive my daily blogs by email so that you don’t miss any. Just click ‘sign me up’ on the home page. Alternatively you can follow my blogs on Twitter!/madeirasandraor my new Tips and Luxuries Facebook page. Requests for future blogs (punctuation/grammar/writing tips) are always welcome.

Until tomorrow…


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Reference list:

 John Seely  The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, USA

The free dictionary online:


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


One thought on “Note 124 – Content words v structure words

  1. Hi Sandra. I am currently busy with an assignment that requires me to study the linguistic features of a text (not my strong trait). Thanks for your post. It was simple and to the point. Made it so much easier to understand the difference. Have a great day.

    Posted by Azima Nakedar | October 7, 2015, 2:13 pm

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