Types of Phrases

A phrase is a group of related words within a sentence that complements the overall structure of the sentence. This group of words does not include the subject and the object. Therefore, a phrase cannot stand alone as a sentence because it (as an alone part) cannot give a complete meaning. see the following example.

  • I saw a joker in the street.

A phrase can act as a noun, an adjective, a preposition or an adverb within a sentence. The function of a phrase depends upon its construction and place in a sentence. Based on its function in a sentence, the phrases are divided into various types: 1) Noun Phrase, 2) Verb Phrase, 3) Adject Phrase, 4) Adverb Phrase, 5) Gerund Phrase, 6) Infinitive Phrase, 7, Prepositional Phrase, and 8) Absolute Phrase.


A phrase that acts as a noun in a sentence is called a noun phrase. It consists of a noun and other related words (usually determiners & modifiers) which modify the noun.

The noun phrase comprises a noun as the head-word and other related words (determiners & modifiers) may come before or after the noun. The entire phrase acts as a noun in a sentence.

  Noun Phrase = noun + modifiers (or determiners)


  • They hired a huge beautiful house.     (as noun: object).
  • She bought a decent black shirt.         (as noun: object).
  • One of our close relatives never drinks coffee. (as noun: subject).
  • A woman in the window shouted for help.     (as noun: subject).

A sentence can also consist of more than one noun phrase.


  • One of our close relatives bought a beautiful red car.   (as nouns both as subject & object).


A phrase comprising a preposition and an object of the preposition (noun or pronoun) is called a prepositional phrase. It may also contain other modifiers.

e.g., near a wall, on a table, in the room, under a tree, at the door etc.

A prepositional phrase has a noun or pronoun which is called the object of the preposition.


  • The kids were laughing at the joker.
  • He is sleeping on the carpet.
  • The teacher looked at the blackboard.
  • He drives the car at a high speed.
  • He always speaks in a loud voice.


A phrase that acts like an adjective in a sentence is called an adjective phrase. Like an adjective, it modifies (gives more information about) a noun or a pronoun. It consists of adjectives, modifiers and other words modifying the noun or pronoun.


  • A kid on the roof is looking at the sky.        (modifies noun: kid).
  • The boy standing in the shop is my friend.   (modifies noun: boy).
  • She bought a beautiful brown chair.       (modifies noun: chair).
  • A lady with long hair is walking in the garden.   (modifies noun: lady).
  • She gave me a cup full of tea.            (modifies noun: cup).
  • A student from my college won the competition.     (modifies noun: student).


A phrase that acts as an adverb in a sentence is called an adverb phrase. Like an adverb, it modifies (gives more information about) a verb or other adverb in the sentence. It contains an adverb and other words (e.g., noun, preposition, modifiers) which, as a whole, acts as an adverb phrase.


  • He drives a car at a very high speed.    (modifies verb: drive).
  • He was running very fast.     (modifies verb: run).
  • She always speaks in a respectful way.     (modifies verb: speak).
  • They walked along the wall.     (modifies verb: walk).
  • She welcomed the guests in a nice way.     (modifies verb: welcome).
  • He stayed at college for a few hours.     (modifies verb: stay).
  • The kid sat beside her mother.      (modifies verb: sit).


A verb phrase is a group of main verb and helping verbs (auxiliaries) within a sentence.


  • She is writing a letter
  • He has passed the exam.
  • The students must reach on time for the lecture.
  • They have been playing football since morning.
  • He is waiting for his friend.


An infinitive phrase contains an infinitive (to + 1st form of a verb) and modifiers or other related words linked to the infinitive. An infinitive phrase acts as a noun, an adjective or adverb in a sentence.


  • I like to drive a car.     (as noun).
  • To get success in the exam is the ambition of every student.     (as noun).
  • The government made a plan to help the poor.     (as adjective modifying noun: plan).
  • She sang a song to please the audience.     (as adverb modifying verb: sing).
  • The joker danced to entertain the people.      (as adjective modifying noun: dance).


A gerund phrase is a group of a gerund (verb + ing), modifiers and other related words linked to the gerund. A gerund phrase functions as a noun in the sentence.


  • I enjoy listening to the music.     (as noun/object).
  • He started writing the report.      (as noun/object).
  • Sitting in the sun helps the body absorb vitamin D.     (as noun/subject).
  • The crying of the baby disturbed him.     (as noun/subject).


A participle phrase is a group of a present-participle (verb + ing) or a past-participle (2nd form of verb), modifiers and other linked words. A participle phrase is punctuated with a comma or commas. It always acts as an adjective (modifying a noun) in a sentence.


  • The students, raising their hands, need an extra page.     (modifies noun: students).
  • She got a mail, stating about her exam.     (modifies noun: mail).
  • The chair, made of plastic, looks very beautiful.     (modifies noun: chair).


An absolute phrase is also called a nominative phrase. It consists of a noun or a pronoun, a participle and linked modifiers. It modifies (adds information to) the sentence. It looks like a clause but lacks a true finite verb. It is separated by a comma in a sentence.


  • She is looking very much happy, her face expressing a shine of happiness.
  • She, having books in her hand, was going to college.
  • The wrestler, having anger in his eyes, looked at the opponent wrestler.