Adjective phrases in English: examples, types and rules

If you know what an adjective is in English, it shouldn’t be difficult to master adjective phrases. Reason? You are using them all the time. All the time.

What is an adjective? How is it any different from adjective phrases in English? An adjective is just a word that modifies a noun or a pronoun. An adjective phrase in English, on the other hand, is a group of words that does the same thing: describes or modifies a noun or a pronoun.

What is an adjective phrase in English?

An adjective phrase is a group of words that modifies a noun or pronoun in a sentence. It can be placed before or after the word (noun or pronoun) it modifies or describes.

Check definition of an adjective phrase by Wikipedia.

Adjective phrase examples

Examples of adjective phrases

  • My dog Jimmy is very cute.

    (The adjective phrase very cute describes the noun dog. It’s giving more information about it. It has a head adjective cute and its modifier very. Together, they’re modifying the noun dog.)
  • You look unbelievably strong.

    (The adjective phrase is describing the subject you, giving us more information about it. Strong is the head adjective, and unbelievably is an adverb that’s modifying the adjective.)
  • Your father is not nice to me.

    (The adjective phrase nice to me describe the subject your father. It’s telling us how your father is. In the adjective phrase, nice is the head adjective, and to me is a modifying phrase (prepositional phrase) that’s modifying the adjective.)
  • He’s dating a very smart girl.

    (Here, the adjective phrase is coming just before the word it modifies: girl. Like any adjective, an adjective phrase can also come before and after the noun or the pronoun it modifies.)
  • Any person smarter than you can do it.

    (Here, the adjective phrase is coming just after the noun it’s modifying: person. Smarter is the head adjective, and than me is a modifying phrase that’s modifying the adjective.)

How to form an adjective phrase?

An adjective that is formed using a basic adjective has the following things:

  1. Adjective
  2. One or more modifiers/intensifiers

My dog Jimmy is very cute.

  • Adjective phrase: very cute
  • Adjective: cute
  • Modifier/intensifier: very (Intensifying the adjective)

Any person smarter than you can do it.

  • Adjective phrase: smarter than you
  • Adjective: smarter
  • Modifier/intensifier: than you (modifying the adjective)

Now, remember, these adjective phrases are formed using a regular adjective. A word that works only as an adjective in English. But there are adjective phrases in English that are formed from words that originally are not adjectives but function as adjectives. We call them non-finite verbs. When we form adjective phrases using participles (present and past), we have different elements in the adjective phrase. Let’s look at different types of adjective phrases we have.

Types of adjective phrases in English

  1. Participle phrases
  2. Prepositional phrases

Participle phrases as adjectives

A participle phrase is a group of words that consists of a present participle, an ‘ing‘ form of a verb, or a past participle, the third form of a verb (V3). It is an adjective phrase headed by a participle. Don’t let the participle trick you; a participle looks like a verb but functions as an adjective.

We have two types of participle phrases:

1. Present participle phrase
2. Past participle phrase

Adjective phrase examples using present participles

  • The guy hiding behind the door is from a different class.
    (Hiding behind the door is the adjective phrase, starting with the present participle hiding and modifying the noun guy, telling us which guy the speaker is referring to. The entire phrase is working as an adjective.)
  • The girl dancing in the rain is the one I have a crush on.
    (Dancing in the rain is the adjective phrase, modifying the noun girl and telling us which girl the speaker is referring to.)
  • People living in Delhi are always complaining about the work the government does.
    (Living in Delhi is the adjective phrase that’s identifying the noun people. Not all the people in the world are always complaining; people living in Delhi are. The adjective phrase helps us know who these people are.)
  • Watching from the balcony, Jyoti enjoyed the game.
    (The present participle phrase is coming at the beginning of the sentence, describing the subject Jyoti. When a participle phrase comes at the beginning of a sentence, it is separated from the rest of the sentence using a comma after them.)
  • Motivating the class and giving them clarity about life, Ashish broke down.
    (The adjective phrase is describing the subject Ashish with two events. Using a participle phrase allows you to describe a noun with more details and a clear description.)
  • Joe Rogan, living the life of a martial artist, is the owner of JRE, the most popular podcast on the internet.
    (The adjective phrase is offset using two commas in this example as it gives nonessential information about the noun it describes: Joe Rogan.)

How to identify an adjective phrase using a present participle?

An adjective phrase that is formed using a present participle can be formed in the following ways:

  1. Present participle + object of the participle
  2. Present participle + object of the participle + modifiers
  3. Present participle + modifiers

The guy motivating the class is my school friend.

  • Adjective phrase: motivating the class
  • Adjective (Present participle): motivating
  • The object of the participle: the class

The man talking to the murderer without any fear is my school friend.

  • Adjective phrase: talking to the murderer
  • Adjective (Present participle): talking
  • The object of the preposition: the murderer
  • Modifier: without any fear

The guy dancing on the stage is my school friend.

  • Adjective phrase: dancing on the stage
  • Adjective (Present participle): dancing
  • Modifier: on the stage

Adjective phrase examples using past participle

Past participle phrases are adjective phrases that start with a past participle (V3) and modifies a noun or a pronoun. It can come at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence.

  • Played more than a million times on Youtube, my latest song is doing amazing.
    (Played more than a million times on Youtube is the adjective phrase, starting with the past participle played and describing the noun my latest song.)
  • Your friend died in a car accident came in my dream yesterday.
    (The adjective phrase is describing the subject your friend and identifying it for us. Not any friend of yours came in my dream, the one who died in a car accident. Since the adjective phrase is essential to identify the pronoun, it is not offset using commas.)
  • Considered the best application for learning English, my English learning application just crossed 1 billion downloads.
    (The adjective phrase is modifying the noun phrase my English learning application. When a participle phrase comes at the beginning of a sentence, we must use a comma after it.)
  • The little girl diagnosed with cancer has written a book about her life.
    (The adjective phrase is modifying the noun girl, telling us which girl the speaker is talking about.)
  • The insurance company will not pay for everything destroyed by the fire.
    (The adjective phrase is modifying the pronoun everything, telling us what it includes. Since it is essential to identify the pronoun, it is not offset using a comma.)
  • I am planning to buy iPhone 11, rated 4.9 by the experts.
    (The adjective phrase is modifying the noun iPhone 11, but it is giving nonessential information about it, and that’s why it is separated with the rest of the sentence using a comma.)

Important points

1. When an adjective phrase, formed using a participle, comes at the beginning of a sentence, we must use a comma after it even if it is essential to the meaning of the noun or the pronoun it modifies.

  • Motivating the class and giving them clarity about life, Ashish broke down.
    Played more than a million times on Youtube, my latest song is doing amazing.

2. Generally, a participle phrase gives essential information and is not offset using commas when it comes after the noun or the pronoun it modifies. But when it gives nonessential information, use one or two commas depending upon its place in the sentence. Preparing you smart brains for every scenario! ūüėČ

  • Joe Rogan, living the life of a martial artist, is the owner of JRE, the most popular podcast on the internet.
  • I am planning to buy iPhone 11, rated 4.9 by the expert

Propositional phrases as adjectives

When prepositional phrases function as an adjective, modifying a noun or a pronoun, they are called adjectival phrases as they function adjectivally. Let’s take some examples of prepositional phrases in English.

Examples:

‚ÄĘ They are writing a movie¬†about his life.
(The prepositional phrase about his life modifies the noun movie and helps us to understand what movie he is talking about writing. It is starting with the preposition about and followed by the object of the preposition his life. It is a prepositional phrase but working as an adjective.)

‚ÄĘ I‚Äôm marrying the girl¬†of my dreams.
(Which girl am I marrying? The girl of my dreams. The prepositional phrase of my dreams is helping us to identify the girl the speaker is talking about. It’s working as an adjective.)

‚ÄĘ The ending¬†of the movie¬†wasn‚Äôt good.
(The ending of what was not good? The prepositional phrase of the movie modifies the noun ending and identifies it for us.)

‚ÄĘ The guy¬†in the red shirt¬†is my neighbor.
(Which guy is my neighbor? The prepositional phrase in the red shirt identifies the noun guy. Not any guy present there is my neighbor, the guy in the red shirt is my neighbor.)

‚ÄĘ The house¬†across the street¬†is believed to be haunted.
(Here, the prepositional phrase across the street modifies the noun house.)

‚ÄĘ Don‚Äôt open the letter¬†inside the box; it‚Äôs personal.
(Which letter is personal? The letter inside the box.)

‚ÄĘ Students¬†from different countries¬†are studying in this college.
(From different countries is the prepositional phrase that’s modifying the noun students. Without it, the sentence gives a different meaning.)

‚ÄĘ I am¬†from India.
(From India is the prepositional phrase that’s giving information about the pronoun I.)

More examples of adjective phrases

  • Most people are¬†unhappy with their life.
  • Her¬†extremely beautiful¬†eyes are the reason I am with her.
  • People¬†abusing others for no reason¬†are losers.
  • Look at that girl doing stunts on the rope.
  • Jon is¬†extremely dangerous to fight against.
  • They are¬†from China.
  • Someone¬†at the stand¬†is crying.
  • Something¬†under the fridge¬†is moving.
  • The guy¬†giving the presentation¬†is my friend.
  • He was¬†surprisingly good.
  • The bike¬†completely burnt by the fire¬†has been taken by the insurance company.
  • An¬†overly confident¬†man¬†thinking he is unbeatable¬†faces reality very soon.
  • People¬†covered in mud¬†are my friends.
  • Believed to keep a doctor away, apples are¬†my favorite.

Why should we learn adjective phrases?

Sometimes, A word isn’t sufficient to describe a noun or a pronoun. We need a couple of words to express our message. That’s what adjective phrases help us do: make sentences with a lot of description to strengthen the meaning of a sentence, to make it more colorful and clearer.

Check out Yourdictionary and Grammarmonster for more examples.

Watch my Youtube lesson on Adjective phrases:

So, I am sure now you know what adjective phrases are and how we use them. That’s all about today’s class, smart brains. I’ll see you in the next class.

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