A phrase may function as a verb,
noun, an adverb, or an
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
- We will meet at the library at 3:30 p.m.
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
- Small children often insist that they can do it by
- 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
- subject complement
- Frankenstein is the name of the scientist not the
- object complement
- I consider Loki my favorite cat.
Noun Phrases using Verbals
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 pass-time.
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
- I am planning to buy a house next month.
An adjective phrase is any
phrase which modifies a noun or
pronoun. You often construct adjective phrases using participles or
prepositions together with their
- I was driven mad by the sound of my neighbour's constant
In this sentence, the prepositional phrase "of my neighbour's constant piano practising" acts
as an adjective modifying the noun
- My father-in-law locked his keys in the trunk of a borrowed
Similarly in this sentence, the prepositional phrase "of a borrowed car" acts as an
adjective modifying the noun
- 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
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
- 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."