A modifier is a word or group of words that describe other word or words in a sentence.

What are modifiers?

In English grammar, modifiers are words or groups of words that provide additional information about other words in a sentence. They function to add detail, clarify, or limit the meaning of a word or a group of words.

Types of Modifiers

In English grammar, there are several types of modifiers that provide additional information and modify different parts of a sentence. The main types of modifiers are:

1. Adjective

Adjective modifiers, also known as adjectives, modify nouns or pronouns by describing their qualities or characteristics. They answer questions like "What kind?" or "Which one?".


  • The red car
  • A tall man
  • Beautiful flowers.

2. Adverb

Adverb modifiers, also known as adverbs, modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs by providing information about how, when, where, or to what extent an action occurs. They answer questions like "How?" or "When?".


  • She ran quickly.
  • He speaks softly.
  • They arrived late.

3. Prepositional Phrase

Prepositional phrase modifiers consist of a preposition and a noun phrase. They function as adjectives or adverbs, providing information about location, time, manner, or purpose.


  • The book on the table (modifies the noun "book"), He walked with confidence (modifies the verb "walked").

4. Participial Phrase

Participial phrase modifiers consist of a participle (verb form) and any accompanying words. They modify nouns or pronouns by providing information about a preceding action or state.


  • The girl crying in the corner (modifies the noun "girl"), The broken window (modifies the noun "window").

5. Infinitive Phrase

Infinitive phrase modifiers consist of the word "to" followed by a base form of the verb. They modify nouns, pronouns, or verbs, and indicate purpose or intention.


  • The desire to learn (modifies the noun "desire"), He ran to catch the bus (modifies the verb "ran").

6. Relative Clause

Relative clause modifiers, also known as adjective clauses, are dependent clauses that begin with a relative pronoun (e.g., who, whom, whose, which, that). They modify nouns or pronouns by providing additional information.


  • The book that I borrowed (modifies the noun "book"), The person who won the prize (modifies the noun "person").

7. Adverbial Clause

Adverbial clause modifiers are dependent clauses that function as adverbs, providing information about time, place, manner, condition, or reason. They often begin with subordinating conjunctions (e.g., when, where, how, because).


  • She left when the movie ended (modifies the verb "left"), He smiled because he was happy (modifies the verb "smiled").

These different types of modifiers allow for more precise and detailed descriptions in sentences, enhancing the overall meaning and conveying specific information. Using modifiers effectively can make writing more vivid and engaging while providing clarity to the reader.

Premodifiers & Postmodifiers

Premodifiers and postmodifiers are types of modifiers that provide additional information about a noun in a sentence. The key difference lies in their placement relative to the noun they modify.

1. Premodifiers

Premodifiers come before the noun they modify. They can be single words (adjectives, determiners, numerals) or phrases (prepositional phrases, participial phrases) that provide descriptive or limiting information about the noun.


  1. The beautiful sunset (adjective premodifier)
  2. Three tall trees (numeral premodifier)
  3. An old wooden desk (adjective premodifier)
  4. The girl with long, curly hair (prepositional phrase premodifier)

Premodifiers add details or specify characteristics of the noun, allowing for more precise descriptions.

2. Postmodifiers

Postmodifiers come after the noun they modify. They can be phrases (prepositional phrases, relative clauses) or clauses (adjective clauses) that provide additional information or provide further clarification about the noun.


  1. The house by the lake (prepositional phrase postmodifier)
  2. The person who won the prize (relative clause postmodifier)
  3. The book that she recommended (adjective clause postmodifier)

Postmodifiers provide additional details, explanations, or identification about the noun.

Both premodifiers and postmodifiers play important roles in enhancing the meaning and clarity of a sentence. It's important to note that while premodifiers usually describe general characteristics or qualities, postmodifiers often provide more specific or defining information about the noun. 

Use of Premodifiers

Premodifiers are words or phrases that come before the noun they modify. They provide additional information about the noun, such as describing its qualities, identifying its origin, specifying its type, or indicating its purpose. Here are some rules to keep in mind when using premodifiers in English: 

1. Placement

Premodifiers are placed directly before the noun they modify. They can consist of single words (adjectives, numerals) or phrases (prepositional phrases, participial phrases).


  1. The big house
  2. A beautiful sunset
  3. Three tall trees
  4. An old, wooden desk
  5. The girl with long, curly hair

2. Order of Adjectives

When multiple adjectives are used as premodifiers, there is a specific order in which they are generally arranged. This order is often referred to as the OSASCOMP rule (Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Color, Origin, Material, Purpose).


  1. A lovely little puppy (Opinion - Size)
  2. An old round table (Age - Shape)
  3. A red Italian sports car (Color - Origin - Type)
  4. A sturdy wooden chair (Opinion - Material)
  5. A beautiful silver necklace (Opinion - Material)

Note: While this order is commonly followed, there can be variations depending on the specific context and intended meaning.

3. Hyphenation

When two or more adjectives together form a single idea modifying a noun, they are often hyphenated. This is especially true when the adjectives are compound or when they precede a noun as a unit.


  1. A well-known author
  2. A five-year-old child
  3. A high-speed train
  4. A state-of-the-art facility

4. Commas

Commas are used to separate coordinate adjectives (adjectives of equal importance) when they are modifying the same noun. However, if the adjectives are cumulative or express a single idea, no comma is used.


  1. She wore a long, flowing dress. (Coordinate adjectives)
  2. He had a small black dog. (Cumulative adjectives)

Note: The "comma test" can be applied to determine if adjectives are coordinate or cumulative. If the adjectives can be rearranged or if "and" can be inserted between them without changing the meaning, they are coordinate and require a comma.

5. Specificity and Clarity

When using premodifiers, it's important to be specific and clear in conveying the intended meaning. Consider the order, relevance, and necessity of premodifiers to ensure they enhance the understanding of the noun.


  1. A red sports car (clear and specific)
  2. A small old house (clear but redundant unless both qualities are important)
  3. An expensive new car (clear but could be more specific: An expensive brand-new car)

By following these rules, you can effectively use premodifiers to provide additional information and create detailed descriptions of nouns in your writing or speech.

Use of Postmodifiers

When using postmodifiers in English, which are modifiers that come after the noun they modify, there are some important rules to keep in mind. Here are the key guidelines for using postmodifiers effectively: 

1. Placement

Postmodifiers come after the noun they modify, typically in the form of phrases or clauses. They provide additional information or clarification about the noun.


  1. The book on the shelf (prepositional phrase postmodifier)
  2. The person who is sitting over there (relative clause postmodifier)
  3. The party that we attended last night (relative clause postmodifier)

2. Punctuation

When a postmodifier is a phrase or a nonessential clause providing additional information, it is usually set off by commas.


  1. The dog, with its tail wagging, ran towards us.
  2. The movie, which was directed by Steven Spielberg, was a box office hit.

However, if the postmodifier is essential to the meaning of the sentence, it is not set off by commas.


  • The car that I borrowed is in the parking lot.

3. Relative Clauses

Postmodifiers often take the form of relative clauses, which provide more specific information about the noun. In relative clauses, a relative pronoun (such as "who," "which," or "that") introduces the clause.


  1. The man who is talking to Sarah is her brother.
  2. The book that I'm reading is very interesting.

Relative clauses can be essential or nonessential. Essential relative clauses are not set off by commas and provide necessary defining information about the noun. Nonessential relative clauses provide additional, non-crucial information and are set off by commas.

4. Appositives

Appositives are noun phrases that provide further identification or clarification about a noun. They are set off by commas.


  1. John, my best friend, is coming over tomorrow.
  2. The city of Paris, known as the City of Lights, attracts millions of tourists.

Appositives provide additional details or descriptions about the noun they follow.

5. Specificity and Clarity

When using postmodifiers, it is crucial to be specific and ensure that the information provided enhances the meaning and clarity of the sentence. Consider the relevance and necessity of the postmodifier in conveying the intended message.


  1. The car driven by James Bond, which can transform into a submarine, is incredibly popular.

By following these rules, you can effectively use postmodifiers to provide additional information, clarification, or specificity about the noun in your sentences. They contribute to creating more detailed and precise descriptions.