Types of Phrases

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What is a Phrase?

A phrase is any collection of related words that, unlike a sentence, has no combination of subject-predicate. The words in a phrase function together so that the phrase itself acts as a single part of speech. Phrases can never stand alone as sentences.

For example, 

He is playing with his toy.

A phrase can be written as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, or preposition in a sentence. The function of a phrase is based entirely on its structure. On the basis of their functions, phrases are divided into various types-

1. Noun Phrase

A noun phrase co. It functions like a noun in a sentence with all its other determiners that modify the noun. The noun is the headword of the sentence and others are put after or before the noun.

A noun phrase consists of a noun as the headword and other words (usually modifiers and determiners) that come after or before the noun. The complete phrase serves as a noun in a sente

Noun Phrase = noun + modifiers        


  • She is wearing a beautiful saree.                     (as noun/object)

  • She brought herself a watch.                            (as noun/object)

  • The house with cobwebs is abandoned.         (as noun/subject)

  • A man on the roof was shouting.                     (as noun/subject)

A sentence can also contain more noun phrases.

For example.

 The girl with green eyes bought a cute cat.

2. Adjective Phrase

An adjective phrase is a group of words along with its modifiers, that functions as an adjective in a sentence. .An adjective phrase works as an adjective to transform (or tell about) a noun or a pronoun in a sentence.


  • He is wearing a strong flowery perfume.             (modifies perfume)

  • Cinderella looked gorgeous in her white gown.  (modifies cinderella)

  • He gave me a glass full of wine.                              (modifies glass)

  • A boy from Australia won the race.                         (modifies boy)

Prepositional phrases and participle phrases also serve as adjectives so we can also call them adjective phrases when they function as an adjective. In the above sentence 

3. Prepositional  Phrase

These phrases are the most commonly used phrases. These will be found everywhere, in a sentence, clause, and even phrases. The preposition phrase always begins with a preposition and noun and pronoun are its objects. Such as, in the room, from the shop to the library, etc. 

The object of a preposition can possess its own modifiers, which also are part of the prepositional phrase.

For example-

  • The women in suffocating attire looked tired and annoyed.

  • He sat by the rushing river to write his poem.

  • Let me go to the room.

4. The Participial Phrase

This phrase begins with a past or present participle followed by its modifiers and determiners.

They can be also used as adjectives. 

Feeling the fresh air, Jim realized that he had reached the valley.

In the preceding sentence, the present participle “feeling” inducts the participial phrase, which includes the participle’s object (air) and its modifiers (the fresh). This participial phrase pretends as an adjective changing the subject of the sentence (Jim).

The enemies, trapped by the soldiers, threw down their guns.

Here, the past participle “trapped” starts the participle phrase “trapped by the soldiers” The entire phrase serves as an adjective transforming the subject of the sentence (soldiers). Notice the phrase-within-a-phrase here. “By the soldiers” is a prepositional phrase modifying the participle trapped.  

Phrases can act as modifiers in other phrases.

5. The Gerund Phrase 

Gerund phrase might look like a participle phrase as they too begin with the -ing form of the verb along with its object and modifiers. But, the gerund phrase aways serves as a noun in a sentence and not as an adjective.

Like other nouns, a gerund phrase can act as the subject of a sentence, the object of a verb or preposition, or complementary of a linking verb. 

In the following example, the gerund phrase “Riding the Spanish bull” acts as a noun and is the subject of the verb “terrified.”

Riding the Spanish bulls, terrified Hugh. 

6. The Infinitive Phrase

An infinitive phrase has an infinitive (for example, to sleep, to have walked, to consider, to throw) along with its objects and modifiers. Infinitive phrases usually serve as nouns, though they can also be used as adjectives and adverbs.

In this sentence, “To dance freely” is an infinitive phrase acting as a noun. It is the subject of this sentence.

To dance freely was his only wish.

Here, “take severe action” is an infinitive phrase serving as a noun. It is the direct object of the predicate “didn’t want.”

The teachers didn’t want to take severe action.

Next, the infinitive phrase “to spend foolishly” acts as an adjective modifying the noun money.

He had plenty of time and money to spend foolishly.

These were the type of Phrases and the following exercise will help you practice.


Identify the Following Underlined Phrases as a Prepositional Phrase, Participial Phrase, Gerund Phrase, or Infinitive Phrase.

a. Dreaming about mountains is my favourite hobby.

b. Kevin wants to make society liveable.

c. Lying on his bed, Richard felt worse.

d. Ted sang in church.

e. Dr Sharma planned to have read that book.