What About Function Words?

We have heard of the multiple-choice cloze task and its multiple-choice questions where the options given are tricky synonyms, the open cloze task with its missing, simple though challenging, words, the word formation task and its “prompt” words, which must come in the shape required by the context, and the key word transformation one, the exam part that tests you on your paraphrasing skill. We have heard of all these Reading and Use of English paper tasks, still few of us know where the Function Words appear in the Cambridge exams.

What are FUNCTION WORDS?

Join me today and you will find out. You will look differently at the task you have most struggled with by now, I give you my word!

Let’s first savour a beautiful quote from the all-time favourite “The Lord of the Rings” Part 1 “The Fellowship of the Ring”.

All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.

J.R.R. Tolkien

What if I took away the words that are less stressed and left the ones we stress the most? Would we still understand the message and picture it in our mind? I reckon we would.

All that ___ gold ___not glitter, Not all those who wander ___ lost; ___ old that ___ strong ___ not wither, Deep roots ___ not reached ___ ___frost. From ___ ashes ___ fire ___ be woken, ___ light from ___ shadows ___ spring; Renewed ___ be blade that ___ broken, ___crownless again ___ be king.

I have kept the words that carry the most meaning when we speak. These are called content words, and they include nouns, adjectives, adverbs, main verbs, Wh-words, negation words, possessive pronouns and this/that. The ones taken out of the text have very little meaning and are called function words. Chief among these are the following parts of speech:

  • prepositions (as, to),
  • articles (the, a/an),
  • pronouns (he, us),
  • conjunctions (although, but),
  • modal verbs (may, can), and
  • auxiliary verbs (are, have).

So, here they are, the FUNCTION WORDS!

Where then are these tested in the Cambridge exams?

We must show how knowledgeable we are about function words in the following exams and their corresponding part, called Open cloze:

  • YLE A2  Flyers, Reading and Writing Paper, Part 6
  • A2 Key, Reading and Writing Paper, Part 5
  • B1 Preliminary, Reading Paper, Part 6
  • B2 First, Reading and Use of English Paper, Part 2
  • C1 Advanced, Reading and Use of English, Part 2
  • C2 Proficiency, Reading and Use of English, Part 2

I invite you now to challenge your English and see what level you can reach up to with flying colours. 

My classmates and I (1)  …………………. having a great time on this school trip. Today we’ve been (2) …………………. visit the museum. Our History teacher told us (3) …………………. famous enormous sculptures, and we took some great pictures of them, but in the pictures they look much smaller (4) …………………. they are. We are going to the zoo tomorrow. I am very excited (5) …………………. I have always wanted to see the farm animals.  I would like to go near baby animals. They are so cute!

1 are, 2 to, 3 about, 4 than, 5 because/since/as/and

Hi Jake,
I’m having a great time on holiday. We arrived two days ago. The weather has been amazing. It’s been sunny every day. The hotel is really comfortable, and the food is delicious as (1) ………………… . Yesterday, my grandparents and I went (2) ………………… a boat trip. It was fantastic! I swam (3) ……………….. the sea and saw some amazing colourful fish. I also took a lot of photos with my new underwater camera! The captain (4) ………………. really friendly. He told us interesting sea stories. He (5) ……………….. going to visit our town next summer! 
Anyway, I hope you’re OK! I (6) ……………….. phone you when I get home!
See you soon!

Love,

John

1 well, 2 on, 3 in, 4 was, 5 is, 6 will

If you ever visit the USA, don’t miss the chance to visit the Smithsonian Institute. It’s made up of 17 museums and galleries and the National Zoo in Washington D.C., as (1) ……………. as two museums in New York City.
The Smithsonian museums feature exhibits related (2) ……………. art, design, technology, history and culture, and contain about 154 million objects. You can learn (3) ……………. everything from the origins of man at the Natural History Museum to the future of space travel at the Air and Space Museum.
If you spent one minute at each exhibit, it would take (4) ……………. than 258 years to see them all.
Best of (5) ……………., it’s free to enter all the Smithsonian museums and galleries, so you can learn about anything in the world (6) ……………. paying a penny!

1 well, 2 to, 3 about, 4 more 5 all, 6 without

The safe way to travel
Being smart can make the difference between a great holiday and a disaster. (1) ……………. of all, watch your stuff. You are responsible for your possessions, so keep them in a place (2) ……………. is safe. Valuables such as passports should never be left out in the open or back in your hotel (3) ……………. they’re locked in the safe. Use cash machines wisely – do it in groups and during the day (4) ……………. possible. If your phone is lost or stolen, report its disappearance straightaway to your network provider so they can block calls on it. If you lose your wallet or cards, call your bank immediately (5) ……………. deactivate the cards. If you have travel insurance, you will be covered for lost luggage and theft, but you will (6) ……………. to have a police report to accompany your insurance claim. Finally, when it comes to staying safe, never break the law in a foreign country! Another thing to remember is hotel etiquette. Be considerate (7) ……………. other guests and keep the noise down, especially at night. Also, remember that charges for phone calls and anything consumed from the mini-fridge from your room must (8) ……………  paid when you check out of the hotel. Be smart and respectful in order to be safe and make the most of your holiday.

1 First, 2 that/which, 3 unless, 4 if/when/whenever, 5 to, 6 need/have, 7 of, 8 be

Bronze
The realization by pre-historic humans that certain substances which existed in their environment (1)……………. be manipulated to create objects that would make (2) ……………. lives easier was one of the first instances of (3)……………. we now call technological progress. The first metal that humans were able to make serious use of was copper. However, this metal, occasionally found as nuggets, though more commonly reduced from ores, is quite soft and will not hold an edge (4)……………. its own. Bronze, an alloy of copper with small amounts of tin, is a far more useful form. We can only speculate (5)……………. who came up with this combination, but thousands of years of working with copper preceded the discovery of bronze some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago in a number of places. As the first intentionally produced alloy, bronze gave rise to the widespread use of metals, notably for creating weapons. The first swords had bronze blades, and the ability of the material to hold a sharp edge whilst resisting chipping or breaking was perhaps its (6)……………. valued feature. Because the constituents of bronze, particularly tin, are not especially common, historians are (7)……………. the opinion that in all likelihood they were the first products of long-distance trade. Even before classical times, the Mediterranean region saw extensive trade of copper from Cyprus, whose name is thought to have given us the English word for copper, and tin from sources (8)……………. far away as Cornwall in southwest England.

1 could, 2 their, 3 what, 4 on, 5 about, 6 most, 7 of, 8 as

How have you found the tasks? Where on the Cambridge level ladder have you struggle the most? I am sure you have done your best!

To recap, the function words are grammar ones. On occasion, a few may be content or meaning words, e.g. nouns, verbs, or adjectives provided they are part of a fixed phrase or collocation.

One might wonder if it is possible to do such tasks with flying colours. It is challenging but doable indeed. The key lies in reading in English on a daily basis and being well-familiar with the English grammar. As easy as falling off a log!

I hope I have shed some light on how to do the open cloze part in the Cambridge exams. It’s all about keeping in mind the function words, isn’t it?

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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