What Are Noun Phrases?
A noun phrase is a group of words headed by a noun and its modifiers (such as 'the,' 'a,' 'of him,' 'with her'). In this case, the preceding words modify the head.
Different Parts of a Noun Phrase
A noun phrase consists of a noun, which is called the head, and any dependent word(s) before or after the head which modifies the head and is called a modifier. These dependent words (modifiers) give us specific information about the head.
Parts of a Noun Phrase
Basically, a noun phrase is consist of three main parts:
There are different types of modifiers that are used before the head of the noun phrase to modify it that are called pre-determiners. These pre-modifiers are:
Determiner + Noun
A modifier can be a 'determiner that is used before the head of noun phrase. There are different types of determiners in English, each has its own order. There are actually concepts, as pre-determiners and post-determiners which makes clear the order of the determiners.
Here, 'my' is a determiner and 'my friend' is a noun phrase.
Here, 'this' is a determiner and 'this book' is a noun phrase.
Here, 'all' is a quantifier (pre-determiner), 'these' is a determiner and together they form a noun phrase.
Adjective + Noun
A noun phrase can also be comprised of an adjective and a noun. Adjectives are words that can describe the nouns as modifiers.
He wanted to buy
Here, 'new' is an adjective that modifies the noun 'shoes.'
Compound nouns have different structures, some words such as nouns are placed before the head of the noun phrase to make compound nouns. Check out the examples.
My aunt cooked some
I need a
Participles + Nouns
Participles are verbal nouns (v + -ing or v + -ed) that can be used before the head of a noun phrase to modify it. Take a look at these examples to help you learn them better.
This is a
You cannot make a
Possessive Nouns + Nouns
Possessive nouns can be used before the head of a noun as modifiers they can show possessions and relations. Check these examples.
I called his
Post-modifiers are placed after the head of a noun phrase to describe them. the most important non-finite post-modifiers are participle and infinitive clauses. Here are the post-modifiers on the list.
- prepositional phrases
- infinitive clause
- participle clause
- relative clauses
A prepositional phrase is a phrase that is placed after a preposition. When it comes to noun phrases, prepositional phrases can be put after the noun and modify it. Here are a few examples.
That-clauses are clauses that start with the term 'that' and are used to modify a noun. Here are the examples.
Infinitive clauses are made of the particle 'to' followed by the base form of the verb. Remember not to confuse infinitive clauses with prepositional phrases. Check out the examples.
Participles can also be used to postmodify a noun. Here are a few examples that help you learn them better.
When Do We Use Noun Phrases?
Here are a few examples for each function of noun phrases.
The box is
No Modifier and Noun Phrases
A noun phrase can be just one noun, which means sometimes the head of a noun phrase can shape the noun phrase on its own.
Here, 'people' is a noun used as a noun phrase.
Noun Phrase: Order
Here is the order of pre-modifiers that is required to make a noun phrase.
- 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
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.
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.'
What Is the Difference between a Noun Clause and a Noun Phrase?
Noun phrases never have a verb, they may be one or more words, however, noun clauses can never be only one word and they usually have a subject and a verb. Some noun clauses such as non-finite noun clauses do not follow the same rule. Check out the examples.
In this example, the relative pronoun 'whoever' is the subject of the verb 'wants,' so, it is a noun clause.
Here, the noun phrase 'that beautiful girl' has no verbs.
The Importance of Spotting the Head Noun
One of the important things about recognizing the head of a noun phrase is to choose the right verb for the sentence. You have to spot the head noun, because when it is the subject of a verb, it is the head noun that determines the verb. Look at the example:
His big bag of chips was (not
were) in the kitchen.
Here, the head noun is 'bag' not 'chips,' therefore we should use a singular verb for the sentence.
A noun phrase is a group of words headed by a noun or a pronoun that includes modifiers. Noun phrases make the noun more specific.
Noun Phrase Structure
|Determiner + Noun||
|Adjective + Noun||
I have bought
|Quantifier + Determiner + Noun||
Noun Phrase Order
- Determiner + adjectives + nouns as modifiers + head
- What Are Noun Phrases?
- Different Parts of a Noun Phrase
- When Do We Use Noun Phrases?
- No Modifier and Noun Phrases
- Noun Phrase: Order
- A Noun Phrase within a Noun Phrase
- What Is the Difference between a Noun Clause and a Noun Phrase?
- The Importance of Spotting the Head Noun