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.

For example, the expression 'a really cute hamster' is a noun phrase containing the adjective phrase 'really cute.'

Phrases can consist of a single word or a complete 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, for example, a phrase whose head is a noun is called a noun phrase. The remaining words in a phrase are called the dependents of the head.

Phrases: Types

There are five main types of phrases in English:

the cute hamster → Noun phrase

play piano → Verb phrase

under the table → Preposition phrase

very delighted → Adjective phrase

too carefully → Adverb 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. Let's take a look at some examples:

shouts very loudly → phrase

That man shouts very loudly → clause

Clauses contain phrases, and sentences contain clauses.

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.


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

using a prepositional phrase

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.


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.


We have two types of phrases:

  • grammatical phrases: sentence components
  • common phrases: common expressions

Gerund Phrases

Gerund phrases are phrases that include a gerund (-ing + verb) and its modifiers. Gerund phrases act as a noun.

Eating healthy food is essential for your body.

We are looking forward to camping in the wilderness.

Infinitive Phrases

Infinitive phrases are phrases that are made up of an infinitive (to + base form of the verb) and its modifiers. For example:

I wish to make a complaint.

The teacher told the children to sit down quietly.

Participle Phrases

Participle phrases are phrases that take on the role of adjectives. Participle phrases are phrases that contain participles and their modifiers.

The continually crying baby was hungry.

The sadly devastated man killed himself.

Appositive Phrases

Appositive phrases are phrases that include an appositive and the noun or pronoun it describes. Appositives are short descriptions that add detail to a noun.

Mary Lou, my friend, wears glasses.

Center City, a neighborhood in Philadelphia, is a very lovely neighborhood.


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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Noun Phrases

When a group of nouns come together, they form a noun phrase. To know what is a noun phrase and how short or how long a noun phrase can be, start here!

Verb Phrases

It's time to learn how to identify the verb phrase in a sentence. Learning about verb phrases is essential in speaking and writing without mistakes.

Prepositional Phrases

What are prepositional phrases? Generally, as its name requires, prepositional phrases are phrases made of prepositions. To get to know them, read the article.

Adjective Phrases

Phrases are two or more words that can function as specific parts of speech. Adjective phrases are groups of words that function as adjectives.

Adverbial Phrases

Adverbial phrases are made of two or more words and are used as the adverb of the sentence. In this lesson, you will get to know phrasal verbs.


Gerunds are words derived from verbs that act as nouns. All gerunds include a verb and -ing. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

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