Grammar Phrases Help (page 2)
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.
To run a mile in less than six minutes was Tommy's aim this season.
The infinitive phrase to run a mile in less than six minutes is functioning as a noun because it is the complete subject of the sentence.
Tommy aims to run a mile in less than six minutes this season.
In this sentence, to run a mile in less than six minutes also functions as a noun because it is the direct object of the verb aims.
To run a mile in less than six minutes, Tommy trains hard this season.
Here, to run a mile in less than six minutes functions as an adjective because it modifies the noun Tommy.
Tommy is training this season to run a mile in less than six minutes.
Now, to run a mile in less than six minutes functions as an adverb modifying the verb training.
Gerund phrases begin with a gerund—an -ing verb acting as a noun. Gerund phrases always work like a noun in a sentence, so they can function as either subjects or objects.
Tasting chocolate for a living can be a delicious yet fattening profession.
The gerund phrase tasting chocolate for a living functions as a noun and is the complete subject of the sentence.
Debbie's profession is sampling chocolate.
The gerund phrase sampling chocolate functions as a noun and is the subject complement of the linking verb is and the subject profession.
Debbie enjoys working with chocolate.
The gerund phrase working with chocolate functions as a noun and is the direct object of the verb enjoys.
An appositive phrase renames, identifies, or gives more detail about a noun or pronoun that it follows in a sentence.
My brother, a clown by profession, works all weekend at parties and gatherings.
In this sentence, the noun brother is being further identified by the appositive phrase a clown by profession.
Tip: Since it tells more about a noun, you can omit an appositive phrase without losing the basic idea of a sentence. In the previous sentence, drop the phrase and you still know the brother works weekends at social gatherings.
Exercises for this concept can be found at Grammar Phrases Practice
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