Adjective Phrases

Introduction to Adjective Phrases

An adjective phrase, often known as an adjectival phrase, is a group of words that perform the role of an adjective in a sentence. It describes a noun or a pronoun, providing more detailed information about it. The primary characteristic that distinguishes an adjective phrase is that its headword is an adjective.

This tutorial will delve into understanding adjective phrases, their usage, types, and how to identify them in a sentence.

Understanding Adjective Phrases

An adjective phrase can be as simple as a single adjective or as complex as an adjective plus additional modifying elements such as determiners, intensifiers, prepositions or conjunctions. The headword, which is an adjective, comes first, followed by the other constituents. Here's an example:

In the sentence "She is absolutely lovely", "absolutely lovely" is an adjective phrase where 'lovely' is the headword (adjective), and the adverb 'absolutely' intensifies the adjective.

Types of Adjective Phrases

1. Prepositional Adjective Phrases

These are adjective phrases that start with a preposition. The preposition, along with its object and any associated adjectives or adverbs, forms the phrase. For example:

  • In the sentence "The parcel is under the table", "under the table" is the prepositional adjective phrase which describes the location of the parcel.
  • 2. Participle Adjective Phrases

    Participle adjective phrases start with a present or past participle (verbs functioning as adjectives). They may also include modifiers pertaining to the participle. Here's an example:

  • In the sentence "The books scattered across the floor were hers", "scattered across the floor" is the participle adjective phrase describing the books.
  • 3. Comparative and Superlative Adjective Phrases

    Comparative adjective phrases express a higher or lower degree of a quality, whereas superlative adjective phrases express the highest or lowest degree possible. An example:

  • In the sentence "Maria is more dedicated than I thought", "more dedicated than I thought" is a comparative adjective phrase.
  • In the sentence "He is the most intelligent person I know", "the most intelligent" is a superlative adjective phrase.
  • Position of Adjective Phrases

    Adjective phrases usually appear immediately after the noun or pronoun they modify. This position is often referred to as the postpositive position. However, in some cases, an adjective phrase can also be used in the prepositive position, that is, before the noun or pronoun. Let's illustrate this with an example:

  • "I saw a cat with fluffy, black fur" – 'with fluffy, black fur' is an adjective phrase appearing after the noun 'cat' (postpositive).
  • "Embarrassed, he left the stage" – 'Embarrassed' is the adjective phrase appearing before the pronoun 'he' (prepositive).
  • Identifying Adjective Phrases

    There are some general tips that can help you to identify adjective phrases in sentences:

    1. Look for the Headword

    As mentioned before, an adjective will always be the headword in an adjective phrase. If the phrase contains an adjective and functions to modify a noun or pronoun, it is an adjective phrase.

    2. Look for Modifiers

    Modifiers (adverbs or other adjectives) used with an adjective also indicate an adjective phrase. The phrase can also contain a preposition and its object.

    3. Test Position

    Try placing the phrase immediately before or after the noun it modifies. If the sentence still makes sense, you likely have an adjective phrase.


    Adjective phrases add richness and detail to our sentences, thereby making our language more engaging and precise. By mastering the use of adjective phrases, you can greatly enhance your descriptive skills, both in spoken and written English.

    This tutorial has provided you with a comprehensive view of adjective phrases, their types, and how to identify them. Practice them in writing to grasp their usage well.

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