Content and Function Words

Listen to the sentence below. Which words are stressed? Why?

Are we going to see a film?

The words ‘going’, ’see’ and ‘film’ are stressed because they are content words.

What is the difference between content & function?

  • Function words carry only grammatical meaning such as:
    prepositions (in, on, at etc.), 
auxiliaries (are, was, do etc.), 
quantifiers (some, any, all etc.) and 
pronouns (he, we, this etc.).
  • Content words carry real meaning such as:
    nouns (Sophie, chair, computer etc.)
, verbs (hit, swim, eat etc.), 
adverbs (wrongly, frequently, generally etc.) and adjectives (beautiful, green, fantastic etc.).
  • Normally content words carry stress and function words are unstressed or weak.


Underline the Function words in the sentences below:

A. Is it really going to rain tomorrow? B. I’ve ordered the salmon and mashed potatoes. C. Her brother’s a really big fan of German rap. D. Elvis was born in America. E. A fantastic little bistro has opened in Holborn. F. Can you spare any change? G. How many people are there in your family? H. Do they know it’s Christmas time? I. Of course you can come to the party. J. Expect a cold easterly wind and scattered showers.

A. is, it, to B. I’ve, the, and C. her, a, of D. was, in E. a, has, in F. can, you, any G. how, are, there, in, your H. do, they, it’s I. of, you, can, to, the J. a, and