Substitutes For Parts Of Speech

Grammar Basics and Tips

Substitutes For Parts Of Speech

The four lexical parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs) include a sub-classes small group of function words that may be substituted for them in certain contexts, usually to avoid repetition.

a. Noun substitutes

The personal, possessive, and demonstrative pronouns are well-known examples which the advanced student will have no trouble recognizing. There are others, however, less often discussed, which are worth some attention.  Such is the small group of words sometimes called function nouns, most of which have identical homophones among the noun determiners but can be distinguished from these by their occurrence in isolation from nouns and in positions where nouns usually occur.  The chief of these function nouns are:

one some either much each
none all neither more both
a few the former the first
several the latter the last


  • Are there any pencils here? I need one.
  • Yes, there are several in that drawer.
  • Do you have any sugar? I need some.
  • Have you seen any new students?  Yes, I saw some this morning.
  • Which do you like best, radio or TV? Neither appeals to me much, but If I have to choose I guess I prefer the latter.

Notice that some of these function nouns can only replace singular nouns (one) others only plurals (both, several) still others either singulars or plurals ( some, none, either, the latter, etc).

b. Verb Substitutes

To avoid repetition, single auxiliaries (including modals) may act as short referents for longer and more complex verbal structures, provided that these have already been given in full at least once.


  • He has been studying very hard lately, but I haven’t.
  • Do you like to go to the movies every night?
  • No I don’t.

However, to call such auxiliaries true verb substitutes is not quite correct.  The single auxiliary actually repeats a similar auxiliary in the larger structure, and permits the omitted portion to be “understood”.

For a better example of verb substitution we can turn to certain uses of do.


  • She dances better than you do. (than you dance)
  • He likes swimming and so do I. (I like swimming too).

This is a true substitution, not a shortened repetition.


c. Adjective referents:  Such, that sort of, that kind of.

It would be incorrect to call these expressions adjective substitutes, since they seldom replace a single adjective, but rather refer back to (and sum up) a fairly complex adjectival content in the previous context.


  • It was one of those parties where everyone drinks too much and makes too much noise.
  • I don’t like such parties!


d. Adverb Substitutes. Then, there, that way, that so, etc.

Then, there, that way substitute for adverbial elements that modify the verb (expressions of time, place, manner, etc)


  • I was at the language school two years ago, but I don’t remember any teacher named Jones.
  • No, he wasn’t teaching there then.
  • Are you going by plane?
  • Yes, it’s lots quicker that way than by bus.


When that and so occur before adjectives they refer to elements in the previous context that qualify or amplify the meaning of such adjectives.


  • She’s been laughing and singing all morning I wonder why she’s so happy.
  • Can you read that sign back there?
  • No, my eyesight isn’t that good.

March 26, 2015