Grammar Phrases Help
Introduction to Phrases
A phrase is a group of two or more words that makes sense, but not complete sense, because it does not have both a subject and a verb. The group of words that make up a phrase—and there are many kinds of phrases—is used as a single part of speech.
The prepositional phrase is the most common type of phrase. In a sentence, a prepositional phrase can play the role of an adjective, in which case it is called an adjective phrase, or an adverb, in which case, it is an adverb phrase. There are also verbal phrases (based on verbs) that can be participial phrases, gerund phrases, or infinitive phrases, and can function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. Lastly, appositive phrases explain or give more detail about the word or words they modify.
Adjective and Adverb Phrases
A prepositional phrase, which begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or pronoun, can function like an adjective or adverb in a sentence. Like an adjective, an adjective phrase answers what kind? or which one? about the noun or pronoun it modifies. Unlike an adjective, which typically precedes the noun it modifies, the adjective phrase generally comes after the noun.
A group of friends from work are meeting tonight for dinner.
Here, the prepositional phrase from work acts like an adjective. We know it is an adjective phrase because it modifies the noun group and answers the question which one? about the group.
Adverb phrases modify verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. An adverb phrase answers where? when? how? or to what extent? about the word it modifies, and usually provides more detail than a typical adverb.
We will meet at our favorite restaurant at six o'clock.
Here, the prepositional phrases at our favorite restaurant and at six o'clock act like adverbs, modifying the verb meet and answering the questions where? and when? about the meeting.
Tip: Remember, a phrase is just a group words. It may be a subject or a predicate, but it cannot be both. Therefore, it cannot stand alone as a sentence.
The three types of verbal phrases are participial phrases—which act like adjectives—and gerund phrases and infinitive phrases—which act like nouns.
Participial phrases begin with a participle—a present tense (-ing) verb or a past tense (-ed, -en, -t, or -n) verb. These phrases act like adjectives, describing or giving more detail about nouns or pronouns.
Looking hot and tired, the gardener sat in the shade of a nearby tree.
Shaken by the unexpected accident, Harry called 911 for assistance.
The present participle looking (look + ing) modifies the noun gardener. The words hot and tired complete the participial phrase. The phrase Shaken by the unexpected accident follows the same configuration, except it is in past participle (shake + n) form.
Infinitive phrases begin with the word to plus a verb. These phrases act like nouns, adjectives, or adverbs, depending on their function in the sentence.
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