Types of Phrases

A group of related words without both subject and verb is called phrase. For example, He is laughing at the comedian.

A phrase works as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective or preposition in a sentence. The function of a phrase depends on its construction (words it contains). On the basis of their functions and constructions, there are nine common types of phrases in English grammar.

Types of Phrases

  • Noun phrase
  • Prepositional phrase
  • Verb phrase
  • Adverb phrase
  • Adjective phrase
  • Appositive phrase
  • Infinite phrase
  • Participle phrase
  • Gerund phrase

1- Noun Phrase

      A noun phrase contains a noun and other related words (usually modifiers and determiners) which modify the noun. It works like a noun in a sentence.

A noun phrase consists of a noun as the headword and other words (usually modifiers and determiners) which come after or before the noun. The whole phrase functions as a noun in a sentence. 
Noun Phrase = noun + modifiers        (the modifiers can be after or before the noun)

Examples:
            He is wearing a nice blue shirt.                    (as noun/object)
            She brought a glass full of juice.                  (as noun/object)
            The boy with blond hair is laughing.             (as noun/subject)
            A man on the road was fighting.                   (as noun/subject)

A sentence can also contain more noun phrases. 
For exampleThe girl with hazel eyes bought a beautiful car.

2- Prepositional phrase

A prepositional phrase possesses a preposition, object of the preposition (noun or pronoun) and may also consist of other modifiers.

Examples: on a table, near a wall, in the room, at the office, under a tree.
A prepositional phrase starts with a preposition and mostly ends with a noun or pronoun. Whatever prepositional phrase ends with is called an object of the preposition. A prepositional phrase works as an adjective or adverb in a sentence.

Examples:
              A boy on the road is singing a song.            (As adjective)
              The man in the room is our father.               (As adjective)
              She is shouting in a loud voice.                    (As adverb)
               He always treats in a good manner.            (As adverb)

3- Adjective Phrase

An adjective phrase is a group of words that works like an adjective in a sentence. It consists of adjectives, modifier and any word that modifies a noun or pronoun.
An adjective phrase works as an adjective to modify (or tell about) a noun or a pronoun in a sentence.
Examples:
              He is wearing a nice blue shirt.                     (modifies shirt)
              The girl with blond hair is singing a song.     (modifies girl)
              He gave me a glass full of juice.                   (modifies glass)
              A boy from China won the race.                    (modifies boy)
Prepositional phrases and participle phrases also work as adjectives so we can also call them adjective phrases when they function as an adjective. In the above sentence “The girl with blond hair is singing a song”, the phrase “with blond hair” is a prepositional phrase but it works as an adjective.

4- Adverb Phrase

A group of words that functions as an adverb in a sentence is called the adverbial phrase. It consists of adverbs or other words (preposition, noun, verb, modifiers) that make a group work as an adverb in a sentence.
An adverbial phrase works as an adverb to modify a verb, an adjective or another adverb.
Examples:
            He always treats in a good manner.              (modifies verb treat)
            They were shouting in a loud voice.              (modifies verb shout)
            She always speaks with care.                       (modifies verb speak)
            He sat at a corner of the room.                      (modifies verb sit)
            They returned in a short while.                      (modifies verb return)

A prepositional phrase can also act as an adverb phrase. For example in the above sentence “He always treats in a good manner”, the phrase “in a good manner” is a prepositional phrase but it acts as an adverbial phrase here.

5- Verb Phrase

A combination of the main verb and its auxiliaries (helping verbs) in a sentence is called a verb phrase.

Examples:
             He is eating an apple.
             She has completed her task.
             You should prepare for the exam.
             She has been working for two hours.

According to generative grammar, a verb phrase can consist of the main verb, its auxiliaries, its complements and other modifiers. Hence it can refer to the whole predicate of a sentence.
Example: You should prepare for the exam.

6- Infinitive Phrase

An infinitive phrase consists of an infinitive(to + simple form of the verb) and modifiers or other words associated to the infinitive. An infinitive phrase always works as an adjective, adverb or a noun in a sentence.
Examples:
            She likes to read novels.                                 (As noun/object)
            To earn money is a desire of everyone.          (As noun/subject)
            He shouted to inform people about the fire.    (As an adverb, modifies verb shout)
            He made a plan to buy a flat.                           (As an adjective, modifies noun plan)

7- Gerund Phrase

A gerund phrase consists of a gerund(verb + ing) and modifiers or other words associated with the gerund. A gerund phrase works as a noun in a sentence.
Examples:
              I like writing good essays.                                 (As noun/object)
              She started thinking about the future.               (As noun/object)
              Sleeping late night is not a good habit.             (As noun/subject)
              Crying of a baby woke him up.                          (As noun/subject)

8- Participle Phrase

A participle phrase consists of a present participle (verb + ing), a past participle (verb ending in -ed or other forms in case of irregular verbs) and modifiers or other associated words. A participle phrase is separated by commas. It always works as an adjective in a sentence.
Examples:
             The kids, making a noise, need food.                       (modifies kids)
             I received a letter, mentioning about my job.            (modifies letter)
             The chair, made of steel, is too expensive.              (modifies table)
             We saw a car, damaged in an accident.                   (modifies car)

9- Absolute Phrase

A group of words including a noun or pronoun and a participle as well as any associated modifiers is called Absolute Phrase (also called nominative phrase). The absolute phrase describes (give information about) the entire sentence. It resembles a clause but it doesn't have a true finite verb. It is separated by a comma or pairs of commas from the rest sentence.
Examples:
             She looks sad, his face expressing worry.
             She was waiting for her mother, her eyes on the clock.
             John is painting a wall, his shirt dirty with paint.

See also

Difference between phrase and clause

Clauses in English Grammar

Types of clause

Types of subordinate clause

Introduction of phrase

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