19.5 - Particles

From previous pages you can see how the use of small words or short phrases, be they pronouns or conjunctions, allow the writer to expand, refine, illustrate and introduce subtle shades of meaning to a text.

There is an additional category of small words, called particles, which assist in this. The eminent grammarian George Y. Shevelov refers to particles as "the microorganisms of language, which [...] lend it colour and flavour, like the bacteria in soured milk or beer".

You have already met many particles, often in their alter-egos of prefixes, adverbs or conjunctions, so the aim of this page is partly to revise and partly to present some new ones (this is not an exhaustive list, as some are more likely to be used in spoken language, and are not covered here).

Particles have various functions, including:


не not
ні (ані) no, neither


би/б used with conditional, but may also be used with infinitives and in sentences where the verb is implied e.g. Чому б не зробити ... (Why not do ...)


аж up to, as far as, as many as e.g. аж до самого берега (right up to the shore)
же/ж can be added to many words for emphasis; the rendering will vary e.g. Що ж ти робиш? (Whatever are you doing? What are you doing?)
не added to verbs for emphasis e.g. Що б ми не робили, не зможемо досягнути мети (No matter what we do, we won't achieve our aim)
навіть even
адже for, after all


тільки, лише only
саме, якраз precisely, just e.g. саме тепер (right now)
хоч би even if (only) e.g. Хоч би встигнути на потяг!
(If only we manage to catch the train!)
хіба really? is that so? e.g. Хіба він лікар? (Is he really a doctor?)
майже almost, nearly
приблизно approximately


також, теж also


чи changing a statement into a question
хіба see "highlighting" above
невже surely (not), that can't be e.g. Невже він лікар? (He's not a doctor, is he?)


хай, нехай let, may


ось here is, that is, e.g. Ось у чому питання (That is the issue)


як...! how, e.g. Як холодно! (How cold it is!)
що за...! what (a) ..., e.g. Що за дивні звуки! (What strange noises!)


так yes
авжеж of course, naturally, indeed
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© 2007 Marta Jenkala