POSTMODIFIERS masterclass

In this post, we learn what postmodifiers are and how to use them in a sentence correctly.

What are postmodifiers in English?

Postmodifiers are words that come after a noun and give information about it. They are a part of a noun phrase.

The following 6 things function as postmodifiers in a noun phrase:

  1. Prepositional phrases
  2. Present participle phrases
  3. Past participle phrases
  4. Infinitive phrases
  5. Relative/Adjective clauses
  6. Appositives

They all are called postmodifiers as they come right after the noun they modify.

1. Prepositional phrase

prepositional phrase starts with a preposition and is followed by the object of the preposition. When a preposition phrase comes right after a noun and modifies it, we call it a postmodifier.

Structure: preposition + object of the preposition

  • The house across the street is believed to be haunted.

Noun phrase = the house across the street
Premodifier = the (article)
Noun = house
Postmodifier = across the street (prepositional phrase)

Here, the prepositional phrase ‘across the street’ modifies the noun ‘house‘ and tells us which house we are referring to in the sentence.

  • The guy in the blue coat is my neighbor.

Noun phrase = the guy in the blue coat
Premodifiers = the
Noun = g
Postmodifier = in the blue coat (prepositional phrase)

Which guy is my neighbor? The prepositional phrase ‘in the blue coat’ identifies the noun guy. Not any guy present there is my neighbor; the guy in the blue coat is my neighbor.

  •  They are writing a movie about his life.

Noun phrase = a movie about his life
Premodifier = a (article)
Noun = movie
Postmodifier = about his life (prepositional phrase)

The prepositional phrase ‘about his life‘ modifies the noun ‘movie’ and helps us to understand which movie the speaker is talking about writing. It is starting with the preposition ‘about’ and is followed by the object of the preposition his life.

More examples:

  • Could you call the boy from Bihar?
  • He lives in the small hut across the river.
  • The ending of the movie was very dramatic.

2. Present participle phrase

present participle phrase starts with a present participle (a verb ending with ‘ING’), sits next to a noun, and modifies it.

Structure:

Present participle + object of the present participle
Present participle + adverb
Present participle + object of the present participle + adverb

A present participle phrase can be formed using any of the above structures.

  • I was talking about the man holding your sister’s hand.

Noun phrase = the man holding your sister’s hand
Premodifier = the (article)
Noun = man
Postmodifier = holding your sister’s hand (present participle phrase)

The present participle phrase (in red) is coming next to and modifying the noun ‘man’. It is working as an adjective.

  • Could you bring a few students protesting in the canteen?

Noun phrase = a few students protesting in the canteen
Premodifier = a few (quantifier)
Noun = students
Postmodifier = protesting in the canteen (present participle phrase)

The present participle phrase ‘protesting in the canteen’ is sitting next to the noun ‘students’ and giving essential information about it. Since it is coming after the noun it’s modifying, we are calling it a postmodifier.

Note: A present participle phrase is a reduced adjective clause.

  • Could you bring a few students protesting in the canteen?
  • (present participle phrase)

  • Could you bring a few students who are protesting in the canteen?
  • (adjective clause)

    • People living in villages are tough when it comes to enduring pain.

    Noun phrase = People living in villages
    Noun = people
    Postmodifier = living in villages (present participle phrase)

    ‘Living in villages’ is a present participle phrase that’s coming next to the noun ‘people’ and modifying it with essential information.

    More examples:

    • The man talking to your sister is a professional singer.
    • Nobody likes to talk with the man sitting on the rock alone.
    • Some of your friends living with you are very passionate about technology.

    3. Past participle phrase

    past participle phrase starts with a past participle (V3), sits next to a noun, and modifies it.

    Structure:

    Past participle + object of the present participle
    Past participle + adverb
    Past participle + object of the present participle + adverb

    A past participle phrase can be formed using any of the above structures.

    • We have come here to see the boy injured in the attack.

    Noun phrase = the boy injured in the attack
    Premodifier = the (article)
    Noun = boy
    Postmodifier = injured in the attack (past participle phrase)

    Here, the past participle phrase is identifying the noun ‘boy’ and giving essential information for us to identify him.

    • The actor approached for this role is busy with his own project right now.

    Noun phrase = the actor approached for this role
    Premodifier = the (article)
    Noun = actor
    Postmodifier = approached for this role (past participle phrase)

    The past participle phrase is identifying the noun ‘actor’ and giving essential information for us to identify him. It is telling us which actor the speaker is referring to.

    • Your car stolen last month has been found by the police.

    Noun phrase = your car stolen last month
    Premodifier = your (possessive adjective)
    Noun = car
    Postmodifier = stolen last month (past participle phrase)

    ‘Stolen last month’ is the past participle phrase, coming next to the noun ‘car’ and modifying it with essential information.

    More examples:

    • They are still searching for the bike stolen from this park last month.
    • The man taken to the police station is a terrorist.
    • Some gifts bought last night have been lost.

    Note: A past participle phrase is a reduced adjective clause.

    • Your car stolen last month has been found by the police. (past participle phrase)
    • Your car that was stolen last month has been found by the police. (adjective clause)

    4. Infinitive phrase

    A group of words that starts with an infinitive and works as a noun, adjective, or adverb is called an infinitive phrase. As a post modifier, it functions as an adjective, comes right after a noun, and modifies it.

    Structure:

    Infinitive + object of the infinitive
    Infinitive + adverb
    Infinitive + object of the infinitive + adverb

    • This is the only way to achieve your goals.

    Noun phrase = the only way to achieve your goals
    Premodifier = the, only
    Noun = way
    Postmodifier = to achieve your goals (infinitive phrase)

    ‘To achieve your goals’ is the infinitive phrase that’s coming next to the noun ‘way’ and giving information about it.

    • You need a person to help you with your communication skills.

    Noun phrase = a person to help you with your communication skills
    Premodifier = a
    Noun = person
    Postmodifier = to help you with your communication skills (infinitive phrase)

    ‘To help you with your communication skills’ is the infinitive phrase that’s coming next to the noun and giving essential information about it, telling us what kind of a person that needs to be.

    • The right man to hire is Jacob.

    Noun phrase = the right man to hire
    Premodifier = the, right
    Noun = man
    Postmodifier = to hire (infinitive)

    ‘To hire’ is the infinitive, coming next to the noun ‘man’ and giving information about it.

    Examples:

    • I wish I had someone to stand by me.
    • The guy to learn SEO from is Mangesh Kumar Bhardwaj.
    • I have a class to take.

    5. Adjective clause

    An adjective clause is a dependent clause that sits next to a noun/pronoun and gives information about it.

    • I love the book that my father gifted me on my last birthday.

    Noun phrase = the book that my father gifted me on my last birthday
    Noun = book
    Premodifier = the
    Postmodifier = that my father gifted me on my last birthday (adjective clause)

    ‘That my father gifted me on my last birthday‘ is the adjective clause that’s sitting next to the noun ‘book’ and modifying it. An adjective clause is also called a relative clause as it starts with a relative pronoun.

    • I don’t want to talk about the movie that we watched last night.

    Noun phrase = the movie that we watched last night
    Noun = movie
    Premodifier = the
    Postmodifier = that we watched last night (adjective clause)

    Here, the adjective clause is coming next to the noun ‘movie’ and giving essential information about it. It’s telling us which movie the speaker is referring to.

    More examples:

    • I don’t know anyone who can teach you boxing.
    • People who can control their minds live a highly successful life.
    • We are looking for a place where we party peacefully.

    6. Appositive

    An appositive is a noun or a noun phrase that comes after a noun and renames it.

    • Her roommate Sofia Charles does not talk to people politely.

    Noun phrase = her roommate Sofia Charles
    Noun = roommate
    Postmodifier = Sofia Charles

    ‘Sofia Charles’ is the postmodifier (a noun) that’s coming next to the noun ‘roommate’ and renaming it.

    • One of his friends Jon Morley is a professional singer.

    Noun phrase = her roommate Sofia Charles
    Noun = roommate
    Postmodifier = Sofia Charles

    ‘Jon Morley’ is an appositive (a noun) that’s naming a person.

    More examples:

    • My friends Mangesh and Archit help me with everything I do.
    • My history teacher Jon Morley is getting married next week.

    There are two types of appositives in English:

    1. Essential Appositives
    2. Nonessential Appositives

    Note that only essential appositives function as postmodifiers; nonessential appositives are offset using commas as they give extra information about the noun they come after.

    Essential appositive: My history teacher Jon Morley is getting married next week.
    Nonessential appositive: Jon Morley, my history teacheris getting married next week.

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