Building Phrases

phrase is a group of two or more grammatically linked words without a subject and predicate -- a group of grammatically-linked words with a subject and predicate is called a clause.

The group "teacher both students and" is not a phrase because the words have no grammatical relationship to one another. Similarly, the group "bay the across" is not a phrase.

In both cases, the words need to be rearranged in order to create phrases. The group "both teachers and students" and the group "across the bay" are both phrases.

You use a phrase to add information to a sentence and it can perform the functions of a subject, an object, a subject complement or object complement, a verb, an adjective, or an adverb.

The highlighted words in each of the following sentences make up a phrase:

She bought some spinach when she went to the corner store.
Lightning flashed brightly in the night sky.
They heard high pitched cries in the middle of the night.
In early October, Giselle planted twenty tulip bulbs; unfortunately, squirrels ate the bulbs and none bloomed.
Small children often insist that they can do it by themselves.
The Function Of Phrases

A phrase may function as a verb, noun, an adverb, or an adjective.

Verb Phrases

A verb phrase consists of a verb, its direct and/or indirect objects, and any adverb, adverb phrases, or adverb clauses which happen to modify it. The predicate of a clause or sentence is always a verb phrase:

Corinne is trying to decide whether she wants to go to medical school or to go to law school.
He did not have all the ingredients the recipe called for; therefore, he decided to make something else.
After she had learned to drive, Alice felt more independent.
We will meet at the library at 3:30 p.m.

Noun Phrases

A noun phrase consists of a pronoun or noun with any associated modifiers, including adjectives, adjective phrases, adjective clauses, and other nouns in the possessive case.

Like a noun, a noun phrase can act as a subject, as the object of a verb or verbal, as a subject or object complement, or as the object of a preposition, as in the following examples:

subject
Small children often insist that they can do it by themselves.
object of a verb
To read quickly and accurately is Eugene's goal.
object of a preposition
The arctic explorers were caught unawares by the spring breakup.
subject complement
Frankenstein is the name of the scientist not the monster.
object complement
I consider Loki my favorite cat.

Noun Phrases using Verbals

(by David Megginson)

Since some verbals -- in particular, the gerund and the infinitive -- can act as nouns, these also can form the nucleus of a noun phrase:

Ice fishing is a popular winter pastime.

However, since verbals are formed from verbs, they can also take direct objects and can be modified by adverbs. A gerund phrase or infinitive phrase, then, is a noun phrase consisting of a verbal, its modifiers (both adjectives and adverbs), and its objects:

Running a marathon in the Summer is thirsty work.
I am planning to buy a house next month.

Adjective Phrases

An adjective phrase is any phrase which modifies a noun or pronoun. You often construct adjective phrases using participles or prepositions together with their objects:

I was driven mad by the sound of my neighbour's constant piano practising.

In this sentence, the prepositional phrase "of my neighbour's constant piano practising" acts as an adjective modifying the noun "sound."

My father-in-law locked his keys in the trunk of a borrowed car.

Similarly in this sentence, the prepositional phrase "of a borrowed car" acts as an adjective modifying the noun "trunk."

We saw Peter dashing across the quadrangle.

Here the participle phrase "dashing across the quadrangle" acts as an adjective describing the proper noun "Peter."

We picked up the records broken in the scuffle.

In this sentence, the participle phrase "broken in the scuffle" modifies the noun phrase "the records."

Adverb Phrases

A prepositional phrase can also be an adverb phrase, functioning as an adverb, as in the following sentences.

She bought some spinach when she went to the corner store.

In this sentence, the prepositional phrase "to the corner store" acts as an adverb modifying the verb "went."

Lightning flashed brightly in the night sky.

 

In this sentence, the prepositional phrase "in the night sky" functions as a adverb modifying the verb "flashed."

In early October, Giselle planted twenty tulip bulbs; unfortunately, squirrels ate the bulbs and none bloomed.

 

In this sentence, the prepositional phrase "in early October" acts as an adverb modifying the entire sentence.

We will meet at the library at 3:30 P.M.

 

In this sentence, the prepositional phrase "at 3:30 P.M." acts as an adverb modifying the verb phrase "will meet."

The dogs were capering about the clown's feet.

In this sentence, the prepositional phrase "about the clown's feet" acts as an adverb modifying the verb phrase "were capering."

 

Written by Heather MacFadyen

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