Introduction to Phrases

A phrase is a group of words that work together to deliver a particular meaning, though it sometimes lacks a subject, a verb or both. In other words, it’s a partial sentence, just a piece of a sentence, that is less than a sentence, yet expresses a complete thought. This tutorial will walk you through everything you need to know about phrases, how they function in sentences, and their various types. So, let’s dive right in.

Types of Phrases

There are several types of phrases in English grammar; they include:

  • Noun phrases
  • Verb phrases
  • Adjective phrases
  • Adverb phrases
  • Prepositional phrases
  • Conjunctional phrases
  • Interjectional phrases

Noun Phrases

Noun phrases are phrases built around a noun. They can function in a sentence as a subject, object, or complement. Examples of noun phrases include ‘a bunch of flowers’, ‘the fast car’, and ‘a beautiful painting’.

Verb Phrases

Verb phrases are phrases that are centered around a verb. A verb phrase can consist of a main verb alone, or a main verb plus any related auxiliary verbs, particles, or prepositions. Examples include ‘is running’, ‘has been eating’, and ‘does not want’.

Adjective Phrases

An adjective phrase is a phrase whose head word is an adjective. The phrase is built around the adjective, which acts as the main word, with other words supplementing it. Examples of adjective phrases are ‘very quick’, ‘extremely cold’, and ‘quite interesting’.

Adverb Phrases

Adverb phrases, like adjective phrases, are phrases where the main word is an adverb. They provide more information about how an action is done. Examples include ‘very slowly’, ‘always’, and ‘never again’.

Prepositional Phrases

Prepositional phrases start with a preposition and end with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase. They express a variety of meanings, serving to show the relationship of their object to other words in the sentence. Examples of prepositional phrases include ‘on the table’, ‘under the bed’, and ‘within the house’.

Conjunctional Phrases

Conjunctional phrases are set phrases that may function as conjunctions. They often contain more than one word and are used to link words and phrases of equal rank. Examples include ‘as far as’, ‘as well as’, and ‘in order to’.

Interjectional Phrases

Interjectional phrases are phrases that hold no grammatical value; they include within the sentence more for a direct expression of emotion or a sudden burst of feeling. Examples of interjectional phrases are ‘Oh my God!’, ‘What on Earth’, and ‘Good grief’.

How to Identify a Phrase

A key factor in identifying a phrase is to bear in mind that a phrase will not have a subject and a predicate. It will not convey a complete meaning by itself.

Tips for Identifying a Phrase

  • Look for a group of words that stand in together as a noun, a verb, an adjective, or an adverb.
  • Remember that phrases are not complete thoughts. They can’t stand alone as a sentence.
  • If you remove a phrase from a sentence, it will still be grammatical.

An Important Exception

Verb phrases are an exception where a phrase can contain a subject when it is functioning as a reduced form of a clause. For example, ‘She likes dancing’ is derived from ‘She likes to dance’.


Understanding phrases and their roles in a sentence can greatly improve your grammatical accuracy. They help in giving more meaning to a simple sentence, allowing for richer expression in language use. By practicing identifying phrases, you will eventually be able to detect and use them effortlessly in your own writing and conversation.

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