What is a noun phrase in English Grammar? 3 different types of noun phrases

What is a noun? How is it different from a noun phrase in English? Do we have different types of noun phrases in English? Why do we use a noun phrase? Let’s find out the answers to these questions in detail.

Do you guys know a noun phrase is the most used and common phrase in the English language? And since it is, it becomes important for us to master it.

Noun phrases in English are not any different from a noun. They both, a noun and a noun phrase, do the same thing: give us a name, a name of something or somebody. While a noun is only a word, a noun phrase is a group of words. A noun phrase comprises a noun and one or more words that modify the noun.

Nouns examples:

  • Man
  • Book
  • Dream
  • Building
  • Dancing
  • Love

Noun phrases examples:

  • A smart man
  • A life-changing book
  • A spooky dream
  • A gigantic building
  • Dancing in the rain
  • My love for you

See, how easily we changed nouns into noun phrases. Noun phrases are more detailed and colorful than nouns as they have modifiers in them that give more information about the nouns.

What is a noun phrase?

A phrase that functions as a noun in a sentence is called a noun phrase. What is a noun? It is a name of something or somebody. Well, that’s exactly what a noun phrase is. The only difference is that a noun phrase uses a couple of words for a name of something or somebody. Visit Wikipedia for a more formal and sophisticated definition.

A noun phrase comprises of a noun and the words that modify it: modifiers.

What are the functions of noun phrases?

Just like a noun, a noun phrase also functions as the following:

  1. The subject of a sentence
  2. An object of a sentence
  3. An object of a preposition
  4. Subject complement
  5. Object complement

Examples of noun phrases as the subject of a sentence

  • Some people deserve more than what they get.
  • The strength of a nation is its people.
  • The garden of her house is beautiful.
  • A big white dog bit me last night.

Examples of noun phrases as the object of a verb

  • She bought an extremely expensive car last month.
  • The company needs some great minds in the marketing team.
  • I gifted my friend a black shirt.

The last sentence has two noun phrases in it: my friend (indirect object) and a black shirt (direct object)

Examples of noun phrases as an object of a preposition

  • I am a big fan of your work. (object of the preposition OF)
  • We should do a study on his extraordinary brain. (object of the preposition ON)
  • It’s almost impossible to pass through this small hole. (object of the preposition THROUGH)

Examples of noun phrases as the subject complement

Subject complement: it is a word or a group of words that either renames the subject or modifies it. When it renames the subject, it works as a noun or a noun phrase, and when it renames the subject, it works as an adjective or an adjective phrase.

Examples:

  • You are the love of my life. (renaming the subject YOU)
  • The book you gifted was the best book I have ever read. (renaming the subject BOOK)
  • My dog is my best friend. (renaming the subject DOG)

Examples of noun phrases as the object complement

Object complement: it is a word or a group of words that either renames a direct object or tells us its state (what it has become now). A noun or a noun phrase renames the direct object, and an adjective or an adjective phrase modifies it (tells us what it has become now).

Examples:

  • We can’t make him the leader of the group.
    (renaming the direct object HIM)
  • She named her dog the cute devil.
    (renaming the direct object DOG)
  • Nobody considered me a worthy candidate for the job.
    (renaming the direct object ME)

Types of noun phrases in English

Here are three phrases that also function as noun phrases.:

  1. Gerund phrase
  2. Infinitive phrase
  3. Appositive phrase

GERUND PHRASE

Do you know what a gerund is in English? What is a gerund phrase in English grammar? You may or may not, but I bet you use them all the time; you might not be aware of how a gerund or a gerund phrase works.

A phrase that starts with a gerund and works as a noun is called a gerund phrase. A gerund is a word that is formed by adding ‘ing’ at the end of an action verb. Ex- playing, smoking, laughing, running, smoking, teaching, etc.,

A gerund phrase can play the following roles in a sentence:

  1. The subject of a sentence
  2. An object of a sentence
  3. A subject complement

Examples

  1. Dancing in the rain makes me happy.
    Gerund phrase – dancing in the rain
    Role – the subject of the sentence
    Asking WHAT to the verb gets us our gerund phrase.
  2. He loves going to new places.
    Gerund phrase – going to new places
    Role – the object of the verb LOVES, asking WHAT to the verb LOVES gets us our gerund phrase. He loves WHAT? He loves ‘going to new places.’
  3. Teaching unprivileged children is a generous act.
    Gerund phrase – Teaching unprivileged children
    Role – the subject of the sentence
  4. Most people hate waking up early in the morning.
    Gerund phrase – waking up early in the morning
    Role – the object of the verb hate
  5. Her favorite time pass is playing with kids.
    “Playing with kids” is the gerund phrase that’s working as the subject complement, defining and renaming the subject HER FAVOURITE TIME PASS.
    Her favorite time pass = playing with kids
  6. My hobby is making English lessons.
    “Making English lessons” is the gerund phrase that’s working as the subject complement, defining and renaming the subject MY HOBBY.
    My hobby = making English lessons

Subject complement: it is a word or a group of words that renames or describes the subject of a sentence.

How to form a gerund phrase?

A gerund phrase in English has the following components in it:

  1. A gerund
  2. An object of the gerund
  3. A modifier or a modifying phrase (optional)
  • Teaching unprivileged children is a generous act.

In the above sentence, “teaching” is the gerund, and “unprivileged children” is the object of the gerund TEACHING.

  • Dancing in the rain makes me happy.

In this sentence, “dancing” is the gerund, and “in the rain” is the modifying phrase that modifying the gerund (action) DANCING.

  • I love playing football with kids.

Here, “playing” is the gerund, and “football” is the object of the gerund, and WITH KIDS is the modifying phrase.

INFINITIVE PHRASE

An infinitive phrase is a group of words that starts with an infinitive (TO + V1) and is followed by the object of the infinitive or its modifier. It generally functions as a noun in a sentence but can also act as an adjective and an adverb.

Infinitives (TO + V1): to eat, to run, to love, to help, to sleep, etc.,
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Infinitive phrases:
To eat food (to eat = infinitive, food = an object of the infinitive)
To run daily (to run = infinitive, daily = modifier)
To love your country (to love = infinitive, your country = an object)
To sleep in the day (To sleep = infinitive, in the day = modifier)

An infinitive phrase can act as the following:

  1. Infinitive phrase as a noun
  2. Infinitive phrase as an adjective
  3. Infinitive phrase as an adverb

Infinitive phrase as a noun

When an infinitive phrase works as a noun, it can act as the following:

  1. The subject of a sentence
  2. The object of the main verb (action verb)
  3. A Subject complement

Examples:-

  1. To meet M.S Dhoni was an incredible experience.
    Infinitive phrase (subject)– to meet M.S Dhoni
  2. To believe in your craft is essential for success.
    Infinitive phrase (subject) – to believe in your craft
  3. You need to learn from your debacles.
    Infinitive phrase – to learn from your debacles
    Role – The object of the verb NEED
  4. She likes to dance in the rain.
    Infinitive phrase – to dance in the rain
    Role – The object of the verb LIKES
  5. One of my talents is to mimic people.
    Infinitive phrase (subject complement) – to mimic people
    One of my talents = to mimic people
  6. My dream is to be a doctor.
    Infinitive phrase (subject complement) – to be a doctor
    My dream = to be a doctor

Infinitive phrases as an adjective

  1. The guy to learn SEO from is Mangesh Kumar Bhardwaj.
    To learn SEO from” is the infinitive phrase that’s working as an adjective and modifying the noun GUY.
  2. We need some people to work on our social media platforms.
    “To work on our social media platforms” is the infinitive phrase, giving information about the noun PEOPLE.
  3. I wish I had someone to stand by me.
    “To stand by me” is the infinitive phrase that describes the pronoun SOMEONE.
  4. Do you need something to eat on the train?
    “To eat on the train” modifies the pronoun SOMETHING.

Infinitive phrases as an adverb

Just like an adverb, an infinitive phrase also modifies a verb and tells us for what reason or purpose an action happens.

  1. He is working day and night to launch an application.
    “To launch an application” modifies the verb WORKING and tells us WHY he is working day and night.
  2. Most people do things to impress others.
    “To impress others” modifies the verb DO and tells us WHY most people do things.

A sentence can also start with an infinitive phrase working as an adverb.

  1. To make my birthday special, my friends gave me a surprise party.
    The reason they give me a surprise party was “to make my birthday special.”

APPOSITIVE PHRASE

An appositive phrase is a noun phrase that sits next to a noun and describes or identifies it with a new name. In other words, an appositive or appositive phrase is bonus information, it can be essential, important for the meaning of the sentence, or non-essential, extra information that does not alter the meaning of a sentence.

An appositive phrase can be of two types:
1. Essential or restrictive appositive phrases
2. Non-essential or non-restrictive appositive phrases

Appositive phrases and commas

Non-essential appositive phrases are offset using commas before and after them. If a sentence ends with an appositive phrase, we just need one comma before it. On the contrary, essential appositive phrases are not offset using commas as they are important to the meaning of a sentence.

Examples of Non-essential appositive phrases

  • The Amazing Spider-Man, my favorite movie, is free on Netflix.

“My favorite movie” is the appositive phrase that’s sitting next to the noun “The Amazing Spider-Man” and remaining it with extra information. “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a specific name of a movie and does not need any description. The core sentence is “The Amazing Spider-Man is free on Netflix.”

  • Mangesh kumar Bhardwaj, a popular blogger, is my best friend.

“A popular blogger” is the appositive phrase that’s remaining the noun Mangesh Kumar Bhardwaj.

  • We are going to visit the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world.

The meaning of the sentence is already clear without using the appositive phrase “one of the seven wonders of the world” as “the Taj Mahal” is a proper name and does not need modification to be identified.

Examples of Essential appositive phrases

  • My first book “The power of self-doubting” changed many lives.

“The power of self-doubting” identifies and makes the meaning of the noun “My first book” specific. It helps us to identify which book it is.

  • My friend Mangesh Kumar Bhardwaj has been working on a life-changing book for new bloggers.

“Mangesh Kumar Bhardwaj” is identifying the noun “my friend” with a specific name. Without this information, we would not know which friend it is.

How to form a noun phrase?

Noun phrases in English can be formed in three ways:

  1. Pre-modifiers
  2. Post-modifiers
  3. Both pre and post-modifiers

Noun phrases using pre-modifiers

We have three things in pre-modifiers:

  1. Determiners
  2. Numbers
  3. Adjectives

A) Determiners

Determiners are words that determine the quantity of a noun. These include the following: Articles, possessive adjectives,
demonstrative adjectives, distributive adjectives, and quantifiers.

  • Articles (a, an, the)
    Noun phrases – book, an apple, the Taj Mahal
  • Possessive adjective (my, your, his, her, their, our)
    Noun phrases- My car, your sister, his mother
  • Demonstrative adjectives (this, that, these, those)
    Noun phrases- This guy, that car, these people, those girls
  • Distributive adjectives (Each, Every, either, neither, any, both, etc.,)
    Noun phrases- Each person, every dream, any plans, both pictures
  • Quantifiers (Some, many, a few, the few, a lot of, several, etc.,)
    Noun phrases – A lot of people, some friends, several leaders

B) Numbers
one, two, three first, second, third…

Note: Numbers are considered a part of quantifiers only. But we keep them separate as they refer to specific quantifies.

Noun phrases-
two girls, three dogs, the first match, my second love

C) Adjectives
small, big, intelligent, round, lazy, old, etc.,

Noun phrases-
a big room, an intelligent person, an old man

Points to remember:

A) We can’t use two or more types of determiners in a noun phrase.

  • A this man
  • My this car

But we do use the following structure: quantifiers + OF + possessive adjective + noun

  • Some of my friends
  • None of your projects
  • One of his students

B) Use two or more pre-modifiers in the following structure:

Determiners + Numbers + Adjectives + Noun

  • These many dark chocolates
  • Those 5 smart boys
  • My two younger brothers

Noun phrases using post-modifiers

There are 4 things that come in post-modifiers:

  1. Prepositional phrases
  2. Present participle phrases
  3. Infinitive phrases
  4. Relative clauses

A) Prepositional phrases

Noun phrases-

  • A girl with no tantrums
  • The person in the black shirt
  • Some people under your leadership

Examples:

  • I have never seen a girl with no tantrums.
  • The person in the black shirt is neighbor.
  • Some people under your leadership are doing great.

B) Present participle phrase

Noun phrases-

  • The man standing next to you
  • The girl talking to you
  • The students protesting outside the college

Examples:

  • The man standing next to you is my friend.
  • The girl talking to him is a dancer.
  • Jon is talking to the students protesting outside the college.

C) Infinitive phrase

Noun phrases-

  • Students to teach English
  • A suit to wear at the wedding
  • Work to finish this week

Examples:

  • I have students to teach English.
  • Jon is looking for a suit to wear at the wedding.
  • There is a lot of work to finish this week.

D) Relative clause

Noun phrases-

  • The man who gave me some money
  • The book that you gifted me last week
  • A laptop that does not catch viruses

Examples:

  • The man who gave me some money was different.
  • The book that you gifted me last week is amazing.
  • There is no laptop that does not catch any virus.

Noun phrases using pre and post-modifiers

  • The black dog that you have is scary.

Pre-modifiers:
The (article)
Black (adjective)

Post modifier:
That you have (relative clause)

  • Some young and energetic people from this city who are willing to put in extra hours are needed for this job.

Pre-modifiers:
some (determiner)
young and energetic (compound adjective)

Post modifiers:
from this city (prepositional phrase)
that are willing to put in extra hours (relative clause)

So, I hope this helps you master noun phrases in English. Grammarmonster has a pretty good post on it too! you could check it.

Thank you for giving it a read! Feel free to share it with others! The best way to empower people is to educate them. You got this power; exercise it. See you in some other post, smart brains! ūüėČ

Noun phrase in English

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