A phrase usually refers to a group of words that work together to form a grammatical unit, although, in fact, a phrase may consist of just one word.

A clause or sentence can usually be broken down into phrases. There are five kinds of phrase and each phrase takes its name from the word class which plays the main part in its structure.

Thus, in a noun phrase a noun is the main part of the structure of the phrase and in an adjective phrase an adjective is the main part of the structure of the phrase.

Phrases in English Grammar

Noun Phrase

A noun phrase, also called a nominal phrase, is a group of related words in which the main word is a noun and which functions like a noun in a sentence or clause.

Thus, a very long black car is a noun phrase in which the main word is the noun car.

A noun phrase can either act as the subject, object or complement of the sentence or clause. The bold words in each of the following sentences are all noun phrases.

In the first two sentences the noun phrases act as the subject:

  • The most dreadful road accident has happened.
  • A terrible storm is forecast.

In the next two sentences the noun phrases act as the object:

  • We have some interesting new neighbours.
  • I met a very charming woman at the party.

And in the last two sentences the noun phrases act as the complement:

  • His father is a fairly talented artist.
  • My great-aunt later became a famous opera singer.

Adjective Phrase

An adjective phrase, also called an adjectival phrase, is a group of related words in which the main word is an adjective and which functions like an adjective in a sentence or clause.

Thus, rather too old is an adjectival phrases in which the main word is the adjective old. The bold words in each of the following sentences are adjective phrases:

  • She was tired, miserable and hungry.
  • The task was extremely challenging.
  • The patient was getting paler and weaker.
  • The flowers were fresh from the garden.
  • On the day of the picnic the weather was the worst possible.

Adverb Phrase

An adverb phrase, also called an adverbial phrase or an adverbial, is a group of related words in which the main word is an adverb and which functions like an adverb in a sentence or clause.

Thus, extremely frequently is an adverb phrase in which the main word is the adverb frequently. The bold words in each of the following sentences are adverb phrases:

  • I used to play tennis fairly regularly.
  • I saw both of them very recently.
  • I can’t stand this noise for much longer.
  • She greeted her guests extremely warmly.
  • The students are working really hard.
  • They live very close.
phrases in english grammar

Preposition Phrase

A preposition phrase, also called a prepositional phrase, is a group of related words in which the main word is a preposition and which functions like a preposition in a sentence or clause.

Thus on the table is a preposition phrase in which the main word is the preposition on. The bold words in each of the following sentences are preposition phrases:

  • We waited at the bus stop.
  • He placed the book on the table.
  • They walked into the room.
  • You must stay in the garden.

Participial Phrase

A participial phrase is a group of related words in which the main word is a participle of a verb, either a present participle, or a past participle. The bold words in the following sentences are participial phrases:

  • Bored by the party, she went home early.
  • Living by himself, he was frequently lonely.
  • Relieved by the news, he smiled broadly.
  • Laughing happily, she went off to celebrate.
  • Built by his father, the house had been designed by him.
  • Weeping bitterly, the child held the broken toy.
  • Destroyed by war-time bombing, the city is now being rebuilt.
  • Badly injured, the miners somehow managed to make their way to the surface.
  • Deeply touched by the gesture, the young woman wrote a thank you-note.

Thanks for reading about “phrases in English grammar”.

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