A Phrase is a small group of related words within a sentence or clause. A phrase functions as a part of speech and includes a head (or headword), which determines the nature of the unit.

Principal Types of Phrases:

1. Adjective Phrase: A word group with an adjective as its head. This adjective may be accompanied by modifiers, determiners, and/or qualifiers. Adjective phrases modify nouns. They may be attributive (appearing before the noun) or predicative(appearing after a linking verb), but not all adjectives can be used in both positions.


Hanifah opened a sweet young coconut.                                                                                                                   Humans can be fairly ridiculous animals.                                                                                                                     Femmi thinks the Gala tastes awfully funny.

2. Adverbial Phrase: A word group with an adverb as its head. This adverb may be accompanied by modifiers or qualifiers. An adverb phrase can modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb, and it can appear in a number of different positions in a sentence.


The Cheshire Cat vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of its tail.                                                                               The players responded surprisingly well to all the pressures of the playoffs.

3. Infinitive Phrase: A verbal construction made up of the particle to and the base form of a verb, with or without modifiers, complements, and objects. An infinitive phrase can function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb, and it can appear in various places in a sentence.


1. The specific images presented in films are often hard to remember in the same way that dreams are hard to remember.

2. The only way to never fail is to never attempt anything.

4. Noun Phrase: A word group with a noun or pronoun as its head. The simplest noun phrase consists of a single noun. The noun head can be accompanied by modifiers, determiners (such as the, a, her), and/or complements. A noun phrase (often abbreviated as NP) most commonly functions as a subject, object, or complement.


1. Panting, Harry fell forwards over the hydrangea bush, straightened up and stared around.

2. I would hold my laugh, bite my tongue, grit my teeth, and very seriously erase even the touch of a smile from my face.

5. Participial Phrase: A word group consisting of a present participle (also known as an -ing form) or past participle (also known as an -en form), plus any modifiers, objects, and complements. A participial phrase commonly functions as an adjective.


1. Driven by a steam engine, the first dishwasher was invented by an Indiana housewife in 1889.

2. The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail

6. Prepositional Phrase: Like adjectives and adverbs, prepositional phrases add meaning to the nouns and verbs in our sentences. There are two prepositional phrases in the following sentence: The steamy air in the kitchen reeked of stale food.

The first prepositional phrase– in the kitchen — modifies the noun air ; the second– of stale food –modifies the verb reeked . The two phrases provide information that helps us understand the sentence.

7. Verb Phrase: A word group that includes a main verb and its auxiliaries. Verb Phrases can be identified by . . . substitution procedures. Consider the sentence: Nimat cried, where cried constitutes the VP. Among many others, the following strings can substitute for cried in the slot Nimat _____. They thus fit the frame and are VPs (the verb in each VP is italicized):

Nimat fell.
Nimat lost the race,
Nimat won a prize for her efforts in the tournament.

References: About.com & Wikipedia.org

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Busola Ojumu

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I'm a teacher with passion and enthusiasm.
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