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English Phrases

Phrases refer to the grammatical terms that are a combo or a set of words that do not have the subjects and verbs.

English Phrases

What Exactly Is a Phrase? Definition And Examples

Phrases refer to a group (or pairing) of words in English Language. Also, phrases can be short or long, but it lacks the subject-verb combination required to form a sentence.

Some instances of phrases encompass:

  • after the dinner (the prepositional phrase )
  • the pleasant neighbour (the noun phrase )
  • were waiting for the performance (the verb phrase )

There is no subject performing an action in any of these situations (subject-verb). As a result, each instance is simply a set of words known as a phrase.

The most significant parts of English grammar are phrases and clauses.

Phrases and clauses encompass everything in a statement. Clauses are the heart of sentences, and phrases help the statements to be meaningful. If sentences are the foundations of a structure, phrases are the bricks. A phrase can always be included within a clause, but on the contrary a phrase cannot contain the clause.

A phrase is thus a sequence of words that contains no finite verb and serves to finish the sentence to make it meaningful.

Phrases vs Clauses: A Word Unit Hierarchy

A phrase is a collection of any words that do not include a subject performing an activity. Whereas on the other hand, A clause is formed when a set of words has a subject performing an action (subject-verb).

To make statements more complicated, phrases can be added. A concept can start with a single term and progress to a compound statement

English Phrases


dinner (word); before the dinner (phrase); that my mother cooked (clause)

  1. I was satisfied after the dinner that my mother cooked. (sentence )
  2. I was stuffed after the dinner that my mom cooked since I ate too much. (complex sentence )
  3. I was satiated after the dinner that my mother cooked, but my sister was still starving. (compound sentence )

A phrase is always made up of more than one term or word.

Some More Phrase Examples

Let's look at some more phrases before we get into the various types of grammatical phrases.

  1. In the sky (prepositional phrase )
  2. beside the couch (prepositional phrase )
  3. Along the route (prepositional phrase )
  4. to be alive and breathing (infinitive phrase )
  5. Looking breath-taking (participle phrase )

As you can see, English phrases can be almost any word combination as long as there is no subject-verb coupling.

Types Of Phrases

The English phrases can be of various types. These can be

  1. Noun Phrases
  2. Adjective Phrases
  3. Adverbial Phrases
  4. Prepositional Phrases
  5. Conjunctional Phrases
  6. Interjectional Phrases
  7. Absolute Phrases
  8. Appositive Phrases
  9. Participle Phrases
  10. Gerund Phrases
  11. Infinitive Phrases
English Phrases

Noun Phrases

This type of phrase is frequently built around a single noun and serves as a subject, object, or complement in a phrase.

Examples of Noun Phrases:

  1. When I'm at the crease, I prefer to swing the bat (An object )
  2. Reading books is a great habit. (A subject )
  3. The likelihood of that match occurring is low. (A subject )
  4. We are saddened by her loss.

Adjectival Phrase

This type of phrase is made up of an adjective and functions in the statement as a single adjective.

Examples of Adjectival Phrases are :

  1. Alex is a well-manneredgentleman.
  2. He is a charming person.
  3. Julie has a spectacular sense of style.
  4. She has an intriguinglife.
  5. A lot of individuals work at night.

Adverbial Phrase

This type of phrase changes a verb or an adjective and functions as an adverb in a statement.

Examples of Adverbial Phrases are :

  1. The rabbit runs at a great speed.
  2. I was in a rush at the time.
  3. I ran as quickas I could.
  4. Johnny works very quickly.

Prepositional Phrase

This type of phrase is always preceded by a preposition and links nouns.

Examples of Prepositional Phrases are :

  1. George gave his life for the sake of his nation.
  2. Everyone has to depart from this world in the end.
  3. He's on his way.
  4. By working mindlessly, you will not get excellence.
  5. Despite his efforts, he was humiliated by his supervisor.

Note: Prepositional phrases encompass all other sorts of phrases.

English Phrases

Conjunctional Phrase

In a statement, a conjunctional phrase functions as a connection, i.e. conjunction.

Examples of Conjunctional Phrase are ;

  1. As soon as visitors went in, William came out.
  2. Players have to work very hard so that they can win the upcoming tournament.
  3. I will come to the wedding provided that friends come.
  4. John began working immediately in order to complete it before time.

Interjectional Phrase

Interjections which have more than one term are titled the interjectional phrases.

Examples of Interjectional Phrase are ;

  1. What a shame! He is no longer alive.
  2. What a treat! I won the competition.
  3. Please, please! Do not mention it again.

Absolute Phrase

Absolute Phrases are phrases that comprise of nouns or pronouns accompanied by a participle and any relevant modifiers. They are also known as Nominative Phrases since they alter indefinite classes.

Examples of Absolute Phrase are ;

  1. Weather permitting, we will come for the ceremony.
  2. God willing, she will pass the examination this year.
  3. The sweltering sun having set, and people left for the new film.

Appositive Phrase

An appositive is a Noun or Pronoun that is frequently followed by a modifier that sits alongside other Nouns or pronouns to characterize it. An Appositive Phrase is a group of terms that comprise an Appositive and come after or before the Noun or Pronoun that it distinguishes or describes.

Examples of Appositive Phrase are ;

  1. My childhood friend, Bennett, always studies hard in the classes.
  2. His co-worker, Bob, prefers and enjoys tea more than coffee.
  3. Jeff, the police guard on duty, gave the ticket for jumping a red light.

Participle Phrase

It consists of a participle, its modifier(s), and/or the items that fulfil the statement's meaning.

Examples of Participle Phrase are ;

  1. Running briskly, I continue looking in all the directions.
  2. Walking up the stairs, she nodded at all of us.
  3. She looked back, beginning the car's ignition.

Gerund Phrase

This type of phrase includes a Gerund, its modifier(s), and any other required elements. They serve as Nouns in the same way that Gerunds do, which implies they can be both Subjects and Objects of statements.

Examples of Gerund Phrase

  1. Snacking plenty of chips and cookies in one sitting is a terrible idea.
  2. Doing the laundry gives me cold and chills.
  3. I resent rushing right before the closing date.

Infinitive Phrase

Such types of English Phrases are made up of infinitive verbs (To + base verb) as well as modifiers and/or complements.

Examples of Infinitive Phrase are ;

  1. We prefer to study together.
  2. William likes to answer mathematical problems too much.
  3. Megan walks quickly to be there at the exact time.

Simple Phrase Examples

Let us begin with a statement that has no phrases and then add-ones.

1. Sandra eats muffins every day.

(There are no phrases in this statement.) The sentence's components are all single words. )

2. My friend Sandra eats muffins daily.

(The above-mentioned statement is now a phrase.) It is a three-word phrase that serves as the statement's subject. It is worth noting that the statement itself lacks a subject and verb. )

3. My friend Sandra eats muffins during the weekdays.

(Another phrase has been added.) This one also includes three words, but it serves as an adverb. )

4. My friend Sandra was eating muffins during the weekdays.

(Another phrase has been added.) There are two words in this one. It is a compound or a multi-word verb. )

5. My friend Sandra was eating chocolate muffins from the patisserie during the weekdays.

(Another phrase has been added.) This one contains five words. In this statement, it serves as a direct object. )

The previous examples demonstrate that phrases work as a single element within a statement. But let's take a deeper look.

The term "chocolate muffins from the patisserie" has its own embedded phrase ("from the patisserie"). This is a prepositional phrase used to describe "chocolate muffins." As a result, a phrase inside a phrase is possible. It's actually quite common. There's more to it. The phrase "was eating chocolate muffins from the patisserie during the weekdays" is also included. It's known as a verb phrase. (A verb phrase is made up of a verb and modifiers. These modifiers can also be sentences, as in this case.)

Why Are Phrases Important?

As stated earlier, phrases have a very wide scope, and it is not rare for one phrase to contain another phrase, which may contain an embedded phrase. That looks complicated, and it may be, but each phrase has one basic, important fact: it would only work as one part of speech.

That being stated, here are the top seven phrase-related writing concerns.

1. Check for subject-verb harmony with the head noun whenever the noun phrase is the subject of the verb.

For instance -

The difficult tests come at the start of the term. (Incorrect )

The difficult tests come at the start of the term. (Correct )

In the above sentences, the verb comes is incorrect and is not syncing with the subject tests.Do not be misled into associating the verb with the closest noun (here, "tests"). Whenever a noun phrase is the subject of the verb, then in that case the verb is governed by the head noun.

2. While placing the prepositional phrases, avoid ambiguity. Ambiguity in prepositional phrases might be problematic.

Consider the following example :

Julie fed the Lion in the Zoo.

In the above sentence, is the prepositional word indicating where Julie was when she fed the Lion, or which Lion Julie fed? Is "in the zoo" an adverb that modifies "fed" or an adjective that modifies "Lion"? You would think there was only one Lion if you interpreted it as an adverb (indicating to us where Julie was).

If you viewed it as an adjective (for example, "the Lion that was in the zoo"), you'd think there were other Lion too.

You should rephrase to remove any ambiguity. For instance,

Julie was in the Zoo when she fed the Lion.

Julie fed the Lion that was in the Zoo.

Of course, because readers have some background, there is rarely actual ambiguity, but they must still endeavour to maintain the sentences ambiguity-free in order to present themselves as clear thinker.

Here's another instance:

Peter and his father were united after seven years in KFC. (incorrect)

Whenever you are using a prepositional phrase, consider whether it may be altering something else in your statement. Keep in mind that while you may understand what the prepositional phrase modifies, your readers may not.

If the prepositional phrase is unclear, place it next to (typically quickly to the right of) whatever it is supposed to alter. That is generally sufficient.

As an example:

Peter and his father were united in KFC after seven years.

Sometimes you have to rephrase something. For instance,

  • Joseph whacked the thief with a bat. (Incorrect and ambiguous )
  • Joseph whacked with a bat the thief. (Incorrect and ambiguous )
  • Joseph used a bat to whack the thief.(This rephrased version is correct. )

3. A hyphen should not be used with an adverb concluding in "-ly. "

When an adverb with the ending -"ly" modifies an adjective, never use a hyphen to attach it to the adjective. The hyphen is not required.

Helen has gorgeously-formed hands.

(The hyphen is unnecessary when the adverb finishes with "ly." )

If the adverb is one that can be confused for an adjective, such as "well," "quick," "best," etc., use a hyphen to remove any uncertainty.

Helen has well-formed hands.

(The hyphen is required to indicate that you are referring to the adverb "well," i.e., happily, rather than the adjective "well," i.e., happy.)

4. In most cases, eliminating "in order" from a statement that begins "in order to" saves two words.

If you need to reduce the number of words, you can typically replace "in order to" with "to" without losing sense. For example, in order to see a concept realized, you must have a tenacious belief in it.

5 Correctly punctuate your participle sentences.

Here are some broad recommendations to help you effectively place and punctuate a participle phrase.

Tip 1: Whenever a participle phrase appears at the beginning of a sentence, split it with a comma and follow it with the noun being altered.

Removing his spectacles, the teacher nodded his head with dissatisfaction.

Tip 2: Do not use a comma after a participle phrase that modifies a noun.

Controversy is talk that has been made unpleasant by morals.

If the participle phrase is unnecessary (i.e., one can eliminate it or place it in a bracket), split it with a comma (or more commas if this is in the middle of a sentence). (Dashes or brackets could also be used.)

For instance, The black car, which was uninsured in the U.S.A and was most likely stolen in Paris, served as the getaway vehicle.

Tip 3: Whenever a participle phrase appears at the conclusion of a sentence rather than shortly after its noun, use a comma to indicate that it is not altering what comes before it.

For instance, The lads adored their accessories, wearing them even while sleeping.

6. Next on the list is Split infinitives are acceptable.

A split infinitive is common in infinitive phrases (e.g., "to really attempt," "to secretly observe").

The most concise and natural method to communicate is using a split infinitive. However, there is a problem with the split infinitives: Some consider it non-standard English or possibly a grammatical error. Let us be clear about something. Split infinitives are totally fine.

But are you willing to accept the chance that a few of your readers will think you're sloppy for utilizing a split infinitive? Here is some guidance: Try rephrasing the sentence to eliminate the split infinitive from it, but if it does not flow as good or seamless(and it usually won't), stick with the split infinitive.

The split infinitives are highlighted in these cases, while the infinitive phrases are underlined.

For instance;

John requires to accurately report the facts.

John requires to report the facts accurately.

(The second (reworded) version is more secure. It sounds fine, and it lacks a split infinitive, which may irritate certain readers.

7. Gerunds can help you save words and enhance your reading flow.

Gerund phrases might help you reduce your word count and write more fluid sentences.

Consider the following sentence:

For instance, the find of this new tunnel will help to speed up the research of the west tunnels.

(There are much too many nouns in this statement.) It's lengthy and stuffy, with no natural flow. )

Here's a statement using gerund phrases :

Finding this new tunnel will aid in researching the west tunnels.

(There are two gerund phrases in this reworded sentence.) It flows significantly better than the previous one.)

The Hierarchy or Organization of Word Units

The word unit structure is as follows:

  1. Word (for example, Lion) (word is the smallest meaningful unit. )
  2. Phrase (for example, An eight-tall Lion) (A phrase is an individual piece of information composed of more than one term. It will not have a subject or a verb. )
  3. Clause (e.g., When an eight-foot-tall Lion came... )
    (A clause is a distinct bit of info that consists of more than one word and includes a subject and a verb. )
  4. The sentence (e.g., An eight-foot-tall Lion came. )
    (A sentence expresses an entire concept. There must be at least one clause. An independent clause is a type of clause that can serve independently as a statement. ),/li>
  5. Complex Sentence (e.g., When an eight-foot-tall Lion arrived, the tourists stopped their cars. )
    (A complex sentence is one which includes a minimal of one independent clause and at least one other clause. )
  6. Compound Sentence (e.g., An eight-foot-tall Lion arrived, and the tourists stopped their cars. )
    (A compound sentence refers to the one that comprises of at minimum 2 autonomous clauses. )

Phrases That Serve as Different Parts Of Speech

Here's a breakdown of the parts of speech, along with the examples of the phrases that serve as them.


I'm searching for a book that will make me intelligent.

(This is an instance of an infinitive phrase used as an adjective.) It refers to "a book." Adjectives are frequently used with phrases. )


I am coming there to help you.

(This is an instance of an infinitive phrase acting as an adverb.) It is a reasonable adverb. Phrases frequently serve as adverbs. )


She is not only upset but also frustrated. (Correlative Conjunction )

(This is an instance of a phrase that serves as conjunction.) The majority of conjunctions are single words, not phrases.


There are a few folks I know who can give you a hundred reasons.

(In this case, two phrases serve as determiners.) Both of these determiners are quantifiers. The majority of determiners are single terms.


Oh my goodness! She succeeded.

(This is an instance of a phrase used as an interjection.) The majority of interjections are single words. )


Running the faucet is important to clear the air chamber.

(This is an instance of a gerund phrase used as a noun.) Phrases are frequently used as nouns.)


According to Sign, the mechanism is flawed.

(This is an instance of a phrase that serves as a preposition.) The majority of prepositions are single words. )


No one is perfect.

(This is an instance of a phrase that serves as a pronoun.) The majority of pronouns are a single word. )


I am coming there to assist you.

(This is an instance of a phrase that acts as a verb.) Individual words are only one-word verbs (e.g., like, perform) in the simple past tense (performed, liked) and the simple present tense (likes, performs). The remaining phrases contain auxiliary verbs. )

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