This article deals with the types of phrases.

Table of Contents

Phrases Definition:

A phrase is a group of words which function as a meaningful unit of a sentence. A phrase does not have a finite verb and it cannot express complete sense. It can work as a part of a sentence or clause. 

Easy example of phrases:

Look at the following two sentences and read the explanation below: 

  • Birds fly. 
  • Many beautiful birds fly. 

The subject of the first sentence (Birds) is made up of one word and it is a noun. On the other hand, the subject of the second sentence (Many beautiful birds) is made up of three words, (many, beautiful, & birds). Thses three words are doing the function of a noun. We call it phrase (a noun phrase).

The following sentence has two phrases. 'The blue whale' and 'very loud voices'.

The blue whales have very loud voice.

Remember, a phrase does not contain any verb that changes form and cannot convey a complete idea. 

What is a phrase? 

A phrase is "a small group of words without a FINITE verb that together have a particular meaning and that typically form a part of a sentence."-Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

A phrase is "a word or group of words which form grammatical units such as noun phrase, verb phrase or adjective phrase. Phrases are the constituents of clauses." -Cambridge Grammar of English

 Kinds of Phrases

There are many kinds of phrases such as: 

  1. Noun Phrase
  2. Adjective Phrase
  3. Adverbial Phrase
  4. Prepositional Phrase
  5. Verb Phrase
  6. Infinitive Phrase
  7. Participle Phrase
  8. Gerund Phrase
  9. Conjunctional Phrase
  10. Interjectional Phrase
  11. Appositive Phrase
  12. Absolute Phrase 

1. Noun Phrase

A noun phrase is a group of words doing noun job. It is generally formed of a noun and its modifiers. In a sentence, noun phrases are used as subject, object, or complement.

  • Owls are nocturnal animals
  • The naughty boys are hitting the poor frogs
Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary says: 
"A noun phrase is a word or group of words in a sentence that behaves in the same way as a noun, that is as a subject, an object, a complement, or as the object of a preposition."
Cambridge Grammar Gear 5 says:
"A group of words that contains a head noun and some other words before or after it is a noun phrase. It plays the role of a noun in the sentence."
"A noun phrase is a group of words that ends with a noun. It contains determiners, adjectives, adverbs, and nouns. It cannot begin with a preposition." 
Examples of Noun Phrase
The bold words in the following sentences are noun phrase.
  • Ms Neha is a nurse
  • She works in a hospital
  • It is in London.

You have probably noticed that noun phrase can be one word, or a group of words. It can be a noun with or without any modifiers. It can be a pronoun also. But our today's lesson deals with the noun phrases wich have more than one words. 

Formation of Noun Phrases

A noun phrase is made of a noun which is called the head word and any other dependent words that modify the noun. The dependent words that modify the head noun are called modifiers. Modifiers give specific information about the head.


The modifiers that occur before the nouns are called pre-modifiers. Pre-modifiers are determiners and adjectives. 
A determiner is a word such as thesomemy, etc. that comes before a noun to show how the noun is being used. (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary) Click here to know more about determiners. 
A modifier is an adjective or an adjective phrase that modifies a noun. It describes a noun phrase or restricts its meaning in some way. Click here to know more about modifiers. 
Examples of the Formation
A noun phrase is a Modifier + Noun combination. Noun phrases are formed in the following ways.

1. Noun Phrase = Determiner + Adjective + Noun

  • a barn owl
  • some big boys
  • two young lady

2. Noun Phrase = Determiner + Noun

  • many birds
  • this house
  • our village

3. Noun Phrase = Adjective + Noun

  • golden opportunity
  • empty vessel
  • ancient mariner

4. Noun Phrase = Noun + Noun

  • table tennis
  • shoe rack
  • cricket team

5. Noun Phrase = Possessive Noun + Noun

  • boys' school
  • Jidaan's boot
  • mother's love

    6. Noun Phrase = Noun +and + Noun

    • joy and sorrow
    • bread and butter
    • Mike and Becky


    A noun phrase may have post-modifiers after it. As many as four types of phrases and one type of clause can function as the post modifiers of a noun phrase. They are:

    • Prepositional phrases
    • Participal phrases
    • Infinitive phrases
    • Adjective phrases &
    • Adjective clauses


    Post-modifiers are prepositional phrases, participle phrases, or infinitive phrases that function as adjective phrases. They are not compulsory elements of the noun phrase.  

    (i) Noun Phrases with Prepositional Phrases as Post-modifier

    • The people of Japan are hard working. ('The people' is a noun phrase and 'of Japan' is a prepositional phrase. 'The people of Japan' is a noun phrase.)
    • A man with a gun entered the hall. ('A man' is a noun phrase and 'with a gun' is a prepositional phrase. 'A man with a gun' is a noun phrase.)

    (ii) Noun Phrases with Participle Phrases as Post-modifier

    • Things done by halves are never done.
    • I saw an old woman lying on the road.

    (iii) Noun Phrases with Infinitive Phrases as Post-modifier

    • The poor man has nothing to eat
    • There is a basket to put the trush

    (iv) Noun Phrases with Adjective Phrase as Post-modifier

    • We painted the house green.
    • They found the man very sick.

    (v) Noun Phrases with Adjective Clause as Post-modifier

    • People who live in glass house should not throw stones at others.
    • All that glitters is not gold.

    Head Noun: 

    The head of a noun phrase can be a noun or a pronoun. Look at the followin examples:
    • Wild birds can fly free. (noun as head of noun phrase)
    • They can fly free. (pronoun as head of noun phrase)

    Position of Noun Phrases

    Noun phrases are used as subjectobject of verbobject of prepositionsubject complementobject complement, and appositive

    Noun Phrase as Subject: 

    • A blue whale weighs more than 2500 people.
    • The young whales live with their parents.
    • A barn owl can eat about ten mice per night. 
    • A very young child never leaves its mother. 
    • The grumpy owl was unkind. 
    • wise farmer saved the owl. 
    • Many harmful insects are killed when we use pesticide. 
    • Old people need our help.

    Noun Phrase as Object of Verb: 

    • A baby whale drinks 130 gallon milk a day.
    • Whales have loud voice.
    • Owls kill the harmful rats
    • Mother whale feeds her child with milk.
    • Some mice were disturbing the farmer
    • Mother whale feeds young child with milk.
    • Do you play table tennis?

    Noun Phrase as Object of Preposition: 

    • The whale babies feed on their mother's milk.
    • A child can easily swim through the whale’s arteries.
    • Owls sleep in the daytime
    • They hunt for their food at night.
    • The whale lives in the sea.
    • An owl lives in our granary
    • Some large mice lived in the old house

    Noun Phrase as Predicate Nominative: 

    • Whales are the largest mammals
    • Owls are nocturnal birds.
    • They are familiar birds.
    • They are farmers’ friends
    • The blue whale are the largest creature on earth. 

    Other Phrases as Noun Phrases

    Other phrases can do the work of nouns. Then they are called Noun Phrases. Here are some examples.

    Infinitive Phrases Working as Noun Phrase: 
    • Whales love to sing
    • He wants to visit America.
    •  To win a prize is my ambition.
    • I want to know his name.
    • I wish to buy a large and beautiful house. 
    Gerund Phrase Working as Noun Phrase

    • Qualifying in the admission test is not easy. 
    • Owls love hiding themselves in the day

    A noun phrase cannot begin with a preposition. For example, the mat in the following sentence is a noun phrase. But on the mat is a prepositional phrase. 

    • A fat cat sat on the mat. (Noun Phrase)
    • A fat cat sat on the mat. (Prepositional Phrase)
    Order of Determiners
    Sometimes a noun phrase may contain several determiners of different classes. Then it follows the following order.
    QuantifierArticles/  Possessive/ DemonstrativeNumeralsNoun
    Order of Adjectives
    Sometimes a noun phrase may contain several modifiers of different classes. If you are learning English as a foreign or second language, it might be difficult for you to remember which type of adjectives you will use in which order. Here is a solution for you. Just remember the two words: DOSA SCOMPDOSA SCOMP is the abbreviated form of the following types of adjectives: 

    D=Determiners: a, one, this, your
    O=Opinion Adjective: good, bad, boring, distusting
    S=Size Adjective: big, small, tiny, large
    A=Age Adjective: old, new, young, elderly
    S=Shape Adjective: round, square, rectangular, triangular
    C=Colour Adjective: blue, black, red, yellow
    O=Origin Adjective: Indian, American, British, Turkish 
    M=Material Adjective: cotton, wooden, silk
    P=Purpose Adjective: dining (table), school (bag), table (tennis)
    Note Carefully
    Sometimes a phrase may be made up of two or more phrases. Look at the following sentence carefully. Here, 'an old woman lying on the road' is a noun phrase working as an object of the verb 'saw'. This noun phrase is made up of the following four phrases:
      I saw an old woman lying on the road. (Noun phrase) 

      2. Adjective Phrase

      An adjective phrase does the work of an adjective. It is generally formed of an adjective and its modifiers. 

        • These are extremely expensive ornaments.
        • Whales are wonderfully social
        • Their maternal instincts are also highly developed.

        Compare the following sentences carefully and read the explanation below.

        • I have a wooden boat. 
        • I have a boat made of wood.

        In the first sentence, one word adjective (wooden) modifies the noun boat. In the second sentence, a phrase (made of wood) also modifies the same noun boat. So, made of wood is an adjective phrase. 

        Let's see another example:

        • Rosamond liked the purple jar. 
        • Rosamond liked the jar of purple colour

        In the first sentence, one word adjective (purple) modifies the noun jar. In the second sentence, a phrase (of purple colour) also modifies the same noun jar. So, of purple colour is an adjective phrase. 

        Form of Adjective Phrases

          1. Adjective Phrase = Adverb + Adjective

          Most adjective phrases are formed of one adjective and one or more adverbs modifying the adjective. Look at the following examples. 

          • The bird is very little.
          • She looks extremely lovely.

          2. Adjective Phrase = Adjective + and/ but/ or + Adjective

          Two or more adjectives joined with andbut, and or can form an adjective phrase.

          • We bought a large and beautiful house.
          • There is no hard and fast rule in film making.
          • The rule is now null and void
          • The tortoise is slow but sure
          • The tortoise is slow and steady
          • She is more or less hungry. 
          • It is hard to tell who is good or bad in the Balkans.
          • It is hard to tell who is cruel or kind in the Balkans.

          3. Participle Phrases Working as Adjective Phrases 

          participle phrase working as an adjective phrase is most often used just after the noun it describes. If the participle phrase has a prepositional phrase as its complement, the prepositional phrase also becomes a part of the adjective phrase. 

          • The book bought from College Street is lost.   
          • Police found a sick old man crying piteously for help.
          • The man lying on the bed is sick. 
          • I saw a cow eating grass
          • The man walking along the road is my teacher. 
          • Things done by halves are never done. 
          • The bridge destroyed by the flood has been repaired. 
          • The passenger injured in the accident has died. 

          4. Prepositional Phrases Working as Adjective Phrases (Noun + Prepositional Phrase)

          Prepositional phrases canact like adjective phrases. When a prepositional phrase works as an adjective phrase, it generally appears just after the noun it modifies. 

          • The girl in green is my cousin. 
          • The cat on the mat is fat.
          • A woman with a veil over her body approached the doctor. 
          • The book on the table is mine. 
          • He was a young man of noble birth
          • He loves the girl with blue eyes
          • The tree at my window is a friend of me

          5. Prepositional Phrases Working as Adjective Phrases (Adjective + Prepositional Phrase)

          Adjectives and prepositional phrases can form adjective phrases. 

          • He was second to none
          • The tablet is out of date
          • The man is blind of an eye
          • She is blind to her son's fault
          • The forest is full of danger
          • I am hard of hearing
          • The girl is proficient in English
          • The book is out of print now. 
          • Things which are out of sight are out of mind

          3. Adverbial Phrase

          An adverbial phrase does the work of an adverb. It is generally formed of an adverb and its modifiers.

          • Whales can move very fast
          • The cubs grow awefully fast

          What is an adverbial phrase?

          A phrase which does the work of an adverb is an adverbial phrase. 

          Easy Examples of Adverbial Phrases

          • They reached home safe and sound
          • Last week he received the amount.
          • We must buy the tickets next week
          • He came last Sunday.

          The Form of Adverbial Phrase

          Adverbial phrases have very irregular form. That is, you have to identify the adverbial phrases by their position and function in the sentence. Yet, the following examples will help you.

          Adverbial Phrase = Intensifier + Adverb

          • Caterpillers walk very slowly.
          • Bolt runs extremely fast

          Adverbial Phrase = Adverb + and + Adverb

          • He comes here off and on.
          • We requested him again and again

          Prepositional Phrase as Adverbial Phrase

          Phrases like preposition + noun are called prepositional phrases. Most prepositional phrases work as adverbs. When a prepositional phrase works like an adverb, we call it adverbial phrase.

          • We always play football after work
          • The fat cat sat on the mat.
          • He ran with great speed
          • He worked with all sincerity.
          • The book borrowed from the library is lost. 
          • When I went abroad, I stayed in the suburb of Australia. 
          • We met beside the camp.
          • Water passes through the pipe.
          • We were waiting for the bus
          • The police arrested him for speeding.

          Infinitive Phrase as Adverbial Phrase

          Infinitives often indicate purpose, reason or result. These infinitives along with their objects and complements form adverbial phrase.

          • He comes to see his children.
          • Agamemnon lived to regret his sin
          • I am glad to know your success.
          • I am going there to visit my friend

          Nominative Absolute as Adverbial Phrase

          Nominative absolute does the work of adverb and so it is called adverbial phrase.

          • The sun having set, we returned home. 
          • The director being absent, the manager presided over the meeting. 

          Noun Phrases as Adverbial Phrase

          Sometimes noun phrases can function like adverbial phrases. This mainly happens when a noun related to time is modified by this, last, next, and every.

          • It has been raining cats and dogs.
          • Father is coming next week
          • He came last week
          • He goes to school every day
          • Where will you stay next Monday?

          Adverb Questions

          When?Where?Why? and How? are adverb questions. We can identify adverbs with the help of these questions. They can help us identify adverbial phrases also.

          Types of Adverbial Phrase

          There are many types of adverbial phrases. The most common adverbial phrases are:

          • Adverbial phrase of time (answers the question 'When')
          • Adverbial phrase of place (answers the question 'Where')
          • Adverbial phrase of manner (answers the question 'How')
          • Adverbial phrase of reason (answers the question 'Why') 

          Adverbial Phrase of Time (WHEN)

          Adverbial phrase of time tells us when something happens. It answers the question when

          • They go to cinema every week.
          • I was born in February.

          Adverbial Phrase of Place (WHRE)

          Adverbial phrase of place tells us where something happens. It answers the question where

          • Dad works in New York.
          • The sun rises in the east.

          Adverbial Phrase of Manner (How)

          Adverbial phrase of manner tells us how something happens. It answers the question how

          • They were speaking very loudly
          • She cried like a child

          Adverbial Phrase of Reason (Why)

          Adverbial phrase of manner tells us why something happens. It answers the question why

          • The man is crying for help
          • She is absent because of illness

          4. Prepositional Phrase

          A prepositional phrase is formed of a preposition and a noun or pronoun working as its object. 

          • In fact, whales behave like human beings
          • We can learn a lot from the whale.
          • Some whales sing beautifully for twenty hours at a stretch.
          Structure of Prepositional Phrase
          Prepositional Phrase=Preposition+Noun Phrase
          • a man of letters
          • good for nothing
          • fond of him
          • in Australia
          • early in the morning
          • by an old man
          • beside the main road
          • over our head
          Remember! A prepositional phrase acts as an adjective or an adverb. If a prepositional phrase does the work of an adjective, it is called an adjective phraseIf it does the work of an adverb, it is called an adverbial phrase
          Prepositional phrases as adjective: 
          • The whale is an animal of friendly nature
          • A woman with a veil over her body approached the doctor. 
          • The people in the room stood up to him. 
          • The girl with long hair is my cousin. 

          Prepositional phrases as adverb: 

          • Whales live in water
          • Some whales sing beautifully for twenty hours at a time.
          • We were waiting for the bus
          • The police arrested him for speeding.

          Prepositional Phrases Functioning as Preposition

          • He was absent on account of illness. 
          • The beggar in front of the gate looked very hungry. 

          5. Verb Phrase

          A verb phrase is a group of words containing one main verb and one or more auxiliary verbs.  

          • You may go now.
          • I have done the work.
          • The train is moving fast enough
          • It has been raining since morning. 

          6. Infinitive Phrase

          An infinitive phrase is formed of an infinitive and its object or complement.

          • I am going there to visit my friend
          • I am glad to work with you
          • I want to see you here.
          • I am glad to know your success

          7. Participle Phrase

          A participle phrase is formed of a participle and its object or complement.  

          • I have a boat made of wood
          • Loudly knocking at the door, he demanded admission.
          • Qualifying in the admission test is not easy. 
          • Near the forest, police found a sick old man lying on his back and crying piteously for help. 
          • The book bought from College Street is lost. 

          8. Gerund Phrase

          A gerund phrase formed of a gerund and its object or complement

          • Qualifying in the admission test is not easy.
          • She loves watching television.
          • They enjoy catching sea fish.
          • Walking in the morning is good for health. 

          9. Conjunctional Phrase

          A conjunctional phrase joins words, phrases, or clauses

          • David as well as Christine has come.
          • Come as soon as you can.
          • He talks as if he were a fool. 
          • The man is not only poor but also lazy. 

          10. Interjectional Phrase

          An interjectional phrase does the work of an interjection.

          • For God's sake! Hold your tongue.
          • My goodness! What have you done? 

          11. Appositive Phrase

          An appositive phrase is a noun phrase that is placed after another noun or noun phrase where the second noun phrase identifies or renames the first one

          • Mr. James, our new captain, is an active boy. 
          • Alice, my sister, is an smart girl. 

          12. Absolute Phrase

          An absolute phrase (nominative absolute) is made up of a noun and a participle phrase. Absolute phrase modifies the whole clause or whole sentence.

          • The marriage ceremony being over, the guests went away.
          • The sun having set, we returned home. 

          Select the correct answer

          Q1. What is phrase?
          A group of words to express certain idea.
          Nouns and verbs are combined together to express certain idea.
          Nouns and adjectives are combined together to express ideas.
          A group of related words used as single parts of speech.
          Q2. He was absent on account of illness. Here “on account of” is-----.
          Conjunctional phrase
          Adjective phrase
          Prepositional phrase
          Adverbial phrase
          Q3. Raihan stood in front of me. Here “in front of” is-----.
          Noun phrase
          Prepositional phrase
          Verbal phrase
          Adjective phrase
          Q4. To win a prize is my ambition. Here ‘To win a prize’ is a/an-----.
          adjective phrase
          noun phrase
          adverb phrase
          conjunctional phrase
          Q5. 'A woman with a veil over her body approached the doctor. Here “with a veil” is a/ an-----.
          A Verbal Phrase
          An Noun Phrase
          An Adverbial Phrase
          A Prepositional Phrase
          Q6. Near the forest, police found a sick old Rohingya lying on his back and crying piteously for help. Here “lying on his back” is a/ an-----.
          noun phrase
          verb phrase
          adjective phrase
          adverbial phrase
          Q7. The people in the room stood up to him. Here 'in the room' is-----.
          A prepositional phrase
          An advance phrase
          An adjective phrase
          A noun phrase
          Q8. 'We always play football after work'. Which one is a prepositional phrase?
          we always
          play football
          after work
          always play
          Q9. Qualifying in the admission test is not easy. Here “Qualifying in the admission test” is-----.
          noun phrase
          main phrase
          adjective phrase
          adverbial phrase
          Q10. The fat cat sat on the mat. Here “on the mat” is-----.
          Noun phrase
          Adverbial phrase
          Verbal phrase
          Adjective phrase
          Q11. He ran with great speed. Here ‘with great speed’ is a/an-----.
          noun phrase
          adjective phrase
          adverb phrase
          participle phrase
          Q12. The girl in green is my cousin. Here “in green” is a/ an-----.
          a noun clause phrase
          an adverbial phrase
          an adjective phrase
          a prepositional phrase
          Q13. 'One fine morning' is-----.
          a sentence
          a clause
          an idiom
          a phrase
          Q14. I have no kith and kin in this town. Here “kith and kin” is-----.
          Noun phrase
          Adjective phrase
          Prepositional phrase
          Conjunctional phrase
          Q15. The cat on the mat is fat. Here “on the mat” is-----.
          Noun phrase
          Verbal phrase
          Adverbial phrase
          Adjective phrase