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function word

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noun

a word, as a preposition, article, auxiliary, or pronoun, that chiefly expresses grammatical relationships, has little semantic content of its own, and belongs to a small, closed class of words whose membership is relatively fixed (distinguished from content word).

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QUIZ YOURSELF ON "WAS" VS. "WERE"!

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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

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Also called form word.

Origin of function word

First recorded in 1935–40
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

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British Dictionary definitions for function word

function word

noun

grammar a word, such as the, with a particular grammatical role but little identifiable meaningCompare content word, grammatical meaning
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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