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!

"Noun Phrases" in English Grammar

What Are Noun Phrases?

Noun phrases are groups of words that function together to act as a noun in a sentence. A noun phrase can consist of just a single word, or it can be more complex and include modifiers, determiners, and other words that provide additional information about the noun.

Structure a Noun Phrase

In general, a noun phrase will include a head noun, which is the word that the phrase is centered around. Other words in the phrase will modify and provide additional information about the head noun, such as its quantity, possession, location, or other qualities. These modifiers are called dependents. A noun phrase can have one or more dependents or no dependents at all.

Basically, a noun phrase can consist of three main parts:

  • pre-modifier(s)
  • head
  • post-modifier(s)


Pre-determiners are a type of modifier that can be used before the head noun in a noun phrase to provide additional information about its quantity or specificity. English pre-modifiers include:


A determiner is a pre-modifier that provides information about the identity, quantity, or possession of the head noun. There are several different types of determiners in English, including articles, demonstratives, possessives, and quantifiers. These determiners appear in a specific order. in the phrase. Pay attention to the examples:

My friend is a dentist.

Here, 'my' is a determiner and 'my friend' is a noun phrase.

This book is really interesting.

Here, 'this' is a determiner and 'this book' is a noun phrase.

All these houses are up for sale.

Here, 'all' is a quantifier, and 'these' is a demonstrative determiner and together with the noun (house) they form a noun phrase.

Possessive Nouns

Possessive nouns can function as modifiers in a noun phrase, providing information about the possession or relationship of the head noun. Check these examples:

Hanna's father is a logical man. He would understand the situation.

I called his friend's girlfriend, but she couldn't come.

Attributive Prepositive Adjectives

A noun phrase can consist of an adjective and a noun. In this case, the adjective modifies or describes the noun, providing additional information about its characteristics or qualities.

He wanted to buy new shoes.

Here, 'new' is an adjective that modifies the noun 'shoes.'

The red cotton skirt is hers.

Noun Modifiers

Noun (pre)modifiers are optional words that come before a noun and modify its meaning. These modifiers function similarly to adjectives by providing additional information about the noun. Take a look at some examples:

I love mushroom soup, but she's making chicken soup.

I'm looking for a car park.


Post-modifiers are words or phrases that come after a noun or noun phrase to modify or provide additional information about it. Here are some of the most common post-modifiers in English:

  • prepositional phrases
  • that-clauses
  • infinitive clauses
  • participle clauses
  • relative clauses
  • adnominal adverbs

Prepositional Phrases

A prepositional phrase is a phrase that is placed after a preposition. In the case of noun phrases, prepositional phrases can be placed after the noun and modify it. Here are a few examples:

the house behind the fence

that room in the back

the man in the back yard

the doll under the table


That-clauses are subordinate clauses that begin with the word 'that' and modify or provide additional information about a noun or noun phrase. Here are some examples:

the dog that keeps barking

the house that is painted red

the teacher that gave me a zero

the doctor that saved Sara

Infinitive Clauses

Infinitive clauses are made up of the particle 'to' followed by the base form of the verb. Check out the examples:

a dog to train

a cat to chase the mice

a house to rent

a car to race

Infinitive clause vs. Prepositional phrase

Do not confuse infinitive clauses with prepositional phrases. While prepositional phrases consist of a preposition followed by a noun or pronoun, infinitive clauses consist of the particle "to" followed by a verb.

Participle Clauses

participle clauses are a type of non-finite clause that can modify a noun or noun phrase in a sentence. When used as postmodifiers, they follow the noun they modify. Here are a few examples:

the dog trained at the academy

the cat sleeping in the shade

the house rented in Hawaii

the girl standing over there

Relative Clauses

Relative clauses are clauses that start with a relative pronoun or a relative adverb, and are used to post-modify the head of a noun. Here are the examples:

the season when you arrived

the man whom I called my husband

the food that was made

the teacher who taught us math

Adnominal Adverbs

Adnominal adverbs are a kind of adverb that is used as the modifier of a noun and comes immediately after the noun or pronoun it modifies. For example:

Look at the man there!

Let's climb up that tree over here.

Using a Noun Phrase as the Subject

Noun Phrases: Functions

Noun phrases can be a single word or a group of words that serve several functions within a sentence, including the following:

Here are a few examples for each function of noun phrases:

A beautiful girl was crying. → subject

She has many good friends. → object

The box is a big expensive present. → subject complement

I will call you the red head. → object complement

Peter, Mark's father, is a handsome man. → appositive

Noun Phrases Without Modifiers

A noun phrase can consist of just one noun, which means that the head of a noun phrase can sometimes be a noun phrase in itself.

People want fresh, local food.

I called Hanna.

Noun Phrases: Word Order

Pre-modifiers that can be used to form a noun phrase appear in a particular order:

  • determiner + adjectives + nouns as modifiers + head

Check out the examples:

A broken wooden door

A (determiner) + broken (adjective) + wooden (adjective) + door (head)

His light green silk scarf

His (determiner) + light (adjective) + green (adjective) + silk (noun) + scarf (head)

Using Adverbs with Noun Phrases

Adverbs can be used in different positions. So, based on the context, you can use adverbs in different positions.

A Noun Phrase within a Noun Phrase

Sometimes one of the modifiers of a noun phrase can be a noun phrase on its own. For example:

the corner near that tall tree

Here, the noun 'tree' is the head of the phrase 'near that tall tree' which is a modifier for the wider noun phrase 'the corner near that tall tree.'

the little girl in the corner

Here, 'girl' is the head of the noun phrase, modified by a prepositional phrase 'in the corner.' 'Corner' is also the head of the phrase 'in the corner.'

Noun Phrase Vs. Noun Clause

Noun phrases typically do not contain a verb and can consist of one or more words. In contrast, noun clauses must contain a subject and a verb, and cannot consist of only one word. However, certain types of noun clauses, such as non-finite noun clauses, may not follow this rule. Check out the examples:

Whoever wants to pass the test must study the grammar very well. → noun clause

In this example, the relative pronoun 'whoever' is the subject of the verb 'wants,' so, it is a noun clause.

That beautiful girl is my sister. → noun phrase

Here, the noun phrase 'that beautiful girl' has no verbs.

The Importance of Identifying the Head Noun

It's important to identify the head noun in a sentence because when the head noun is the subject of a verb, it determines the form of the verb that should be used. Look at the example:

His big bag of chips was (not were) in the kitchen.

Here, the head noun is 'bag' not 'chips,' therefore a singular verb is used.


A noun phrase is a group of words headed by a noun or a pronoun that includes modifiers.

Noun Phrase Structure

Determiner + Noun My friend is a dentist.
Adjective + Noun I have bought new shoes.
Quantifier + Determiner + Noun All these houses are up for sale.

Noun Phrase Order

  • determiner + adjectives + nouns as modifiers + head


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Verb Phrases

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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.

Infinitive Phrases

Infinitive phrases are phrases that look like infinitives but they are used in special positions.
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