A phrase is one or more words that form a meaningful grammatical unit within a clause. A clause contains a subject and a predicate and in many cases, can be a sentence on its own. In contrast, a phrase can’t be its own sentence because a phrase does not contain a subject and predicate.
- Phrase: Meows so loudly
- Clause: That cat meows so loudly
Clauses contain phrases, and sentences contain clauses. There are five main types of phrases in English.
A noun phrase (NP) can be a single noun or a group of words built around a single noun. It provides detail or clarification about a noun.
- Animals need water.
- Who ate the last sandwich?
- All passengers with tickets can board now.
- My small dog barks at ducks.
- The boxy van outside has circled the block twice already.
A verb phrase (VP, also called a “verb group”) consists of the main verb and its auxiliary verbs (including modals). It contains a verb and any linking verbs or modifiers. A verb phrase plays the role of a verb in the sentence where it’s used.
- We have been working since 9 am.
- I will be going to France next week.
- It may have been repaired.
- Shelley has been waiting for an hour already.
- I am writing a novel.
An adjective phrase can be a single adjective or a group of words built around a single adjective. It describes or otherwise provides additional meaning for an adjective.
- He has clever ideas.
- It was a very big meal.
- The students were really bored with the film.
- That song choice was way too bold.
- She was taller than all of her classmates.
An adverb phrase can be a single adverb or a group of words built around a single adverb. It takes on the role of an adverb in a sentence. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.
- Please do it now.
- He spoke very softly.
- They did it as fast as possible.
- He bakes cakes every Sunday.
- We ran out of there at a breakneck speed.
A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition followed by its object (usually a noun phrase). They can also include modifiers.
- They were arguing about money.
- The window was behind a large brown sofa.
- The cat jumped onto the counter.
- The space under the grey shed is overgrown and needs to be cleared out.
- They resumed after an unusually large meal.
The table below shows all five phrase types used in a single clause:
|he||is jumping||over||the||very lazy||dog||as fast as possible|