English Grammar: Types of Phrases

Phrase is the combination of words with no complete meanings.

Like if I say, “in the field” the question will come in your mind WHAT in the field? So it means “in the field” doesn’t give complete meanings and our mind is left with questions.

And if I say, “I saw scarecrow in the field.” Now you got the complete meanings and you mind is not stuffed with questions. This is what we mean by complete meanings which a phrases lack.

Phrase is comprised upon TWO things

1. Head
2. Dependent

Head is the most important part of speech and information in a phrase that is why the phrase is named after it, like, in noun phrase noun is the most important part of it, similarly verb in verb phrase etc. Dependents are all other words or parts of speech that are dependent to the head of the phrase.

Types of phrases

There are SIX types of phrases

1. Noun phrase
2. Verb phrase
3. Adjective phrase
4. Adverb phrase
5. Prepositional phrase
6. Possessive phrase

Despite explaining one by one it is the better idea to explain maximum of them in a single example. Look at the following sentence.

A boy is reading novel in the library.

Now we have to divide above sentence into phrases. We can extract the following phrases out of it.

Noun phrases:

1. a boy, 2. the library, 3. novel in the library.

Heads of the phrases: 1. boy, 2. library and 3. novel
Dependents: articles or determiners (a and the) and prepositional phrase (in the library)

Verb phrase:

reading novel in the library.

     Head of the phrase: reading (verb)
     Dependents: prepositional phrase (in the library) and noun phrase (the library) and those      parts of speech that are contained by these phrases.

Prepositional phrase:

in the library.

Head of the phrases: preposition (in)
Dependents: noun phrase (the library) and the parts of speech noun phrase contains.

Adjective and adverb phrases

Degree modifiers (more, most, quite, very) and articles (a, an, the) are usually dependents of adjective and adverb in a phrase. Look at the following examples.

Adverb phrase: most attentively.
Head of the phrase: adverb (attentively)
Dependents: degree modifier (most)

Adjective phrase: the most impressive.
Head of the phrase: adjective (impressive)
Dependents: article (the) and degree modifier (most)

Possessive phrase

See the following example.

The employee’s resignation.

Above example is noun phrase, but if we cut it short as “The employee’s” it becomes possessive phrase because of possessive expression (‘s). If you observe you will see that it is possessive expression (‘s) that attracts your attention that’s why it the most important expression in phrase.

Possessive phrase: The employee’s
Head of the phrase: possessive expression (‘s)
Dependents: noun phrase (The employee)

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