The aim of this study was to analyze qualitative aspects of verbal fluency in depression. Phonemic and semantic output was scored for word clustering and switching between clusters in depressed patients and normal control subjects. Depressed patients (n=25) and normal control subjects (n=19) were administered both phonemic and semantic fluency tasks. All patients were also evaluated with executive card sorting tests. Patients with depression produced fewer words on the semantic fluency task than controls and showed normal performance on the phonemic fluency tasks. The deficit on semantic fluency of depressed patients was related to a reduced number of switches with normal cluster sizes. The number of switches in depression was associated with a reduced ability to shift mental set on card sorting tests, suggesting that verbal fluency impairment reflects general executive problems in depression.