Noun Phrases for intermediate learners

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 consist of a noun and one or more modifiers. These modifiers are there to describe the noun. In this lesson, we will learn all about it.

Different Parts of a Noun Phrase

A noun phrase consists of a noun which is called a head noun and some modifiers. These modifiers can be adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, etc. They modify and describe nouns. Those that come before the head noun are called pre-modifiers and those that come after it is called post-modifiers. Below, we are going to examine them:


As mentioned above, pre-modifiers come before the head noun and modify it. Look at the list below to understand the different kinds of pre-modifiers:

Now, let us analyze each:

Possessive Nouns

When we want to show possession of something or someone or the relations between some people, we use 'possessive nouns' as pre-modifiers before the head noun. Look:

My sister's partner apologized and said he could not come.

As you can see, the 'partner' is the head noun.

Haven't you seen Sarah's book shop? It's so small, and cozy and you can find any book in it.

Noun Modifiers

We can also use some nouns to modify the head noun of the noun phrase. Look at the examples below:

Dad has cooked us a tomato soup.

Here, 'tomato' is a noun modifying 'soup'.

Have you ever tried Pesto Pasta?

Attributive Predicative Adjectives

Sometimes, we can have adjectives before the head noun to modify it. Look below:

Hannah and I wanted to watch a comedy movie.

That blue silk robe is mine, Jessie.


Determiners can also be pre-modifiers and describe the head noun in a noun phrase. Look at the examples below:

Those cats look so cute and fluffy.

As you can see, 'those' is a determiner and 'cats' is the head noun.

You left your book at my place.

Here, 'my' is a determiner and 'place' is the head noun.


As mentioned above, some modifiers come after the head noun and describe it. Below is a list of the most common post-modifiers:

Now, let us examine each closely:

Non-finite Clauses

As you know, 'non-finite' clauses are subordinate and they are mainly infinitives or participles. Look at the examples below to see how 'non-finite' clauses can be used to modify the head noun:

A place to live in peacefully is what she needs right now.

Here, an infinitive has been used as a post-modifiers to describe the head noun which is 'place'.

Look at that fluffy dog lying under the window.

Here, a present participle is modifying the head noun 'dog'.

Prepositional Phrases

We can also use prepositional phrases to modify the head noun in the noun phrase. Look at the following examples:

Somebody quiet down that dog in the back of the house!

No one has ever been in that room in the garden.

Relative Clauses

When a clause starts with a relative pronoun or a relative adverb, it is called a relative clause. Look at the following examples to understand how relative clauses can modify nouns:

The dog that bit me yesterday was in the streets today.

The girl whom I had trusted turned out to be a liar.


Noun phrases can have many different functions. Look at the list below:

Now, let us see how a noun phrase can be used as all the functions above:

The fluffy dog is moving its tail. (As the subject)

I don't need many people around me. (As the object)

It seems such a long time since we last talked. (As the subject complement)

My girlfriend cooked me a delicious meal. (As the object complement)


Please note that a noun phrase is different from a noun clause in that a noun clause has a verb whereas a noun phrase does not have a verb. Compare:

Those that stay motivated are better at handling life's hardships. (Noun clause)

The red cotton dress was torn apart. (Noun phrase)


It might come in handy to know that a noun phrase can sometimes have only one noun with no modifiers. Look:

She texted Archie.

Here, 'Archie' is a noun phrase and is the object of the sentence.


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