Types of Phrases

A phrase is a group of related words within a sentence that complements the overall structure of the sentence. A phrase lacks both the subject and the object. Hence, a phrase cannot stand alone to give complete meaning. The underline group of words in the following sentence is a phrase.

I saw a joker in the street.

A phrase can act as a noun, an adjective, a preposition or an adverb. The function of a phrase depends upon its construction and place in a sentence. Depending upon its function in a sentence, phrases are divided into various types: Noun Phrase, Verb Phrase, Adjective Phrase, Adverb Phrase, Gerund Phrase, Infinitive Phrase and Absolute Phrase.


A phrase that acts as a noun in the sentence is called a Noun Phrase. It contains a noun and other associated words (usually determiners & modifiers) which modify the noun.

A noun phrase consists of a noun as a head-word and other related words (determiners & modifiers) may come before or after the noun. The entire phrase serves as a noun in a sentence.

Noun Phrase = noun + modifiers (or determiners)


They hired a huge beautiful home.                              (as noun: object)
She bought a decent black shirt.                                   (as noun: object)
One of our close relatives never drinks coffee.    (as noun: subject)
A woman in the window shouted for help.              (as noun: subject)

A sentence can also consist of more than one noun phrase.
One of our close relatives bought a beautiful red car.      (as nouns both as subject & object)


A phrase comprising a preposition and object of the preposition (noun or pronoun) is called a prepositional phrase. It may also contain other modifiers.

e.g. near a wall, on a table, in the room, under a tree, at the door etc.

A prepositional phrase has a noun or pronoun which is called the object of the preposition.


The kids were laughing at the joker.
He is sleeping on the carpet.
The teacher looked at the blackboard.
He drives the car in a high speed.         
He always speaks in a loud voice.         


A phrase that acts like an adjective in a sentence is called an adjective phrase. Like an adjective, it modifies (adds to meaning  of) a noun or a pronoun. It consists of adjectives, modifiers and other words modifying the noun or pronoun.

A kid on the roof is looking at the sky.                             (modifies noun: kid)
The boy in the shop is my friend.                                        (modifies noun: boy)
She bought a beautiful brown chair.                                 (modifies noun: chair)  
A lady with long hair is walking in the garden.           (modifies noun: lady)
She gave me a cup full of tea.                                              (modifies noun: cup)
A student from my college won the competition.     (modifies noun: student)       


A phrase that acts like an adverb in a sentence is called an adverb phrase. Like an adverb, it modifies (adds to meaning of) a verb or other adverb in the sentence. It contains an adverb and other words (i.e. noun, preposition, modifiers) which, as a whole, acts as an adverb phrase.


He drives a car at a very high speed.                       (modifies verb: drive)
The racer was running very fast.                               (modifies verb: run)
She always speaks in a respectful way.                 (modifies verb: speak)
They walked along the wall.                                        (modifies verb: walk)
She welcomed the guests in a nice way.                (modifies verb: welcome)
He stayed at college for a few hours.                     (modifies verb: stay)
The kid sat beside her mother.                                   (modifies verb: sit)                         


A verb phrase is a group of main verb and helping-verbs (auxiliaries) within a sentence.


She is writing a letter
He has taken his annual exam.
Students must reach in time for the class.
They have been playing the game since morning.
She is waiting for someone.


An infinitive phrase contains an infinitive (to + base form of a verb) and modifiers or other related words linked to the infinitive. An infinitive phrase always acts as a noun, an adjective or adverb in a sentence.


I enjoy to drive a car.                                                                              (As noun)
To get success in exam is an ambition of every student.   (As noun)
The government made a plan to help the poor.       (As adjective modifying noun: plan)
She sang a song to please the audience.             (As adverb modifying verb: sing)
The joker danced to entertain the people.         (As adjective modifying noun: dance)


A gerund phrase is a group of a gerund (verb + ing), modifiers and other related words linked to the gerund. A gerund phrase functions as a noun in the sentence.


I enjoy listening to music.                  (As noun/as object)
He started writing the letter.                 (As noun/as object)
Walking in the sun affects the complexion of a person.  (As noun/as subject)
The crying of a baby disturbed me a lot.     (As noun/as subject)


A participle phrase is a group of a present-participle (verb + ing) or a past-participle verb, modifiers and other linked words. A participle phrase is punctuated with a comma or commas. It always acts as an adjective (modifying a noun) in a sentence.

The students, raising their hands, need extra page.         (modifies noun: students)
She got a mail, stating about her exam.                        (modifies noun: mail)
The chair, made of plastic, looks very beautiful.                (modifies noun: chair)


An absolute phrase is also called a nominative phrase. It consists of a noun or a pronoun, a participle and linked modifiers. It modifies (tells more about) the sentence. It looks like a clause but lacks a true finite verb. It is separated by a comma in a sentence.


She is looking very much happy, her face expressing a shine of happiness.
He, having books in his hand, was going to college.
He, having anger in his eyes, met his enemy.