Phrases

Phrases are comprised of one or more words that form a meaningful grammatical unit. They are one of the most important elements of English grammar.

"Phrases" in the English Grammar

What Are Phrases?

A phrase is comprised of one or more words that form a single part of speech (grammatical unit). If you think of a sentence as a building, phrases are like bricks of that building. They are typically a part of a clause or a sentence.

Phrases: Structure

A phrase is comprised of:

  1. One head (also called Headword)
  2. Two or more modifiers

The head of the phrase determines the grammatical nature of the unit.

Phrases: Types

There are five main types of phrases in English:

Other Types of Phrases

  • Conjunctional Phrase
  • Interjectional Phrase
  • Gerund Phrase
  • Participial Phrase
  • Infinitive Phrase
  • Appositive Phrase

Difference between Clause and Phrase

A phrase does not contain a subject and verb and cannot convey a complete idea. A clause does contain a subject and verb, and it can convey a complete idea.
Unlike clauses, phrases can never stand alone as sentences.

Noun Phrase

A noun phrase (NP) is comprised of a noun plus its modifiers. It can be one word or a group of words. A noun phrase can take the position of subject, object, or complement.

Tip

Usually, a noun phrase is just a noun or a pronoun.

Noun Phrase: Structure

A noun phrase can be made up of:

  • a Head
  • Pre-modifier(s)
  • Post-modifier(s)

Pre-modifiers

'Pre-' is a prefix that means 'before' and pre-modifiers means words that go before the head. Pre-modifiers can be:

  • Determiner (the, a, an, these, that, etc.)
  • quantifiers (some, a lot of, all, etc.)
  • numbers (two, ten, a hundred, etc.)
  • Adjectives (beautiful, young, careless, etc.)

In the table below, you can see the order of pre-modifiers:

Determiners and quantifiers Numbers Adjectives Noun
The beautiful house
These seven young soldiers
a lot of unused stuff

Post-modifiers

using a prepositional phrase

'Post-' is a prefix that means 'after' and post-modifiers are words that go after the head. Post-modifiers can be:

a boy with a blue hat

the girl standing over there

the house that we live in

Verb Phrase

A verb phrase is comprised of a main verb alone, or a main verb plus a modal and/or auxiliary verbs.

Tip

The main verb always comes last in the verb phrase.

Types of Verb Phrases

Based on the type of the head, there are two types of verb phrases:

  1. Finite Verb Phrases
  2. Non-finite Verb Phrases

Finite Verb Phrases

In finite verb phrases, the head verb is finite and it is in the present or past form.

I work in a bank.

I went to school.

Non-finite Verb Phrases

The head verb in 'non-finite verb phrases' is participle, gerund, or infinitive.

I am working in a bank.

She might have been waiting for him.

Prepositional Phrases

A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition, the object of that preposition (which can be a noun or a pronoun), and any modifiers of that object.

I lived near the Bakersfield's hospital.

The baby in the middle is the cutest.

Adjective Phrase

An adjective phrase is comprised of an adjective plus modifiers that describe a noun or a pronoun.

You have extremely gorgeous eyes.

The statues masterfully carved by artists are in the museum.

Adverb Phrases

The head of an adverb phrase is an adverb. Adverb phrases can appear alone or be modified by other words.

I will come as soon as possible.

Luckily for me, the bus arrived just in time.

Review

In this article, we have learned about phrases. They are words that are put together with no subjects and verbs. In this case, they cannot have a complete meaning. There are some main phrases and some other ones as follows:

main phrases 1. noun phrase 2. verb phrase 3. prepositional phrase 4. adjective phrase 5. adverb phrase
other types of phrases 1. conjunctional phrase 3. interjectional phrase 5. gerund phrase
2. participial phrase 4. infinitive phrase 6. appositive phrase

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