Types of Phrases in the English Grammar

The most important element of English grammar is phrases and…

The most important element of English grammar is phrases and clauses. Phrases and clauses make up the entire sentence. In this article, we will show the different types of phrases in grammar.

What is a Phrase?

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In English grammar, we refer to a group of two or more words that function as a purposeful unit within a sentence or clause. A phrase is commonly referred to as a grammatical unit at the level of a word and a clause.

Generally, a phrase consists of a head (or headword) — which determines the grammatical nature of its structure — and one or more optional modifiers. The phrases may include other phrases in them, like Russian dolls!

There are a lot of different types of phrases, some of which play a technical role in your writing, while others are more descriptive. In the end, a phrase achieves all three goals: making your sentences richer by giving your words context, detail, and clarity.

Though you write and speak in phrases every single day, understanding their mechanics can be challenging. 

Phrases and clauses are not the same. Clauses contain a subject, a predicate, and can, in most cases, be a sentence on their own.

Below we’ll take a look at the differences between phrases and clauses.

Difference Between Phrases & Clauses

Clauses are a grouping of words that contain both a subject and a verb. Thus, a clause may be a complete sentence. On the other hand, a phrase can’t be a sentence as both its subject and its verb aren’t present. A phrase is a fragment of a sentence on its own.

Clauses serve as the center of sentences and phrases that reinforce the sentences. Clauses are the foundation of a building. In contrast, phrases are like bricks that fill the walls.

A clause should have a finite verb, whereas a phrase must not. A phrase is a cluster of words that does not have a finite verb in it and can’t complete the sentence by itself.

The clauses on clauses are phrases, and the clauses in sentences are clauses. It is easy to visualize these three things: phrases make up clauses, and in turn, clauses make up sentences.

Often, a phrase is understood to mean both a sentence component and a common expression. We refer to these two forms of phrases as grammatical phrases and common phrases.

A grammatical phrase is a set of words that work together as a unit. Grammatical phrases add meaning to sentences by providing details about certain parts of speech.

Most frequently, you’ll find two or more examples of grammatical phrases in the same sentence. Types of speech may be assigned their names based on their parts of speech or their role in a sentence.

Below you may find the main types of phrases in grammar.

The Types of Phrases in Grammar

Adjective Phrase

This type of phrase describes an adjective or provides additional meaning to it. Nominates and any other words that modify adjectives are included.

Gerund Phrase

The gerund is a phrase with a gerund spelled out as a noun. It is an adjectival noun that is created by adding a verb and its modifiers. The context phrase acts as a noun within a sentence.

Infinitive Phrase

What is an “infinitive” phrase? The phrase is composed of an infinitive, accompanied by “to” and the words that give it clarity. 

Adverb Phrase

Adverbs are often used to describe sentences that have an adverbial role. Nouns, adjectives, and other adjectives are modified by adjectival.

Verb Phrase

A verb phrase is a verb plus any other words that move along with the verb. These include articles, helping verbs, direct objects, indirect objects, and adverbs.

To Wrap Up

Phrases are essential to every piece of writing, from a blog post to a newspaper article, and from a book to an essay. When looking for a phrase to use in your writing, an understanding of phrase types will help you pick the appropriate option.

Frequently asked questions

What are the 7 types of phrases?

  • Participial Phrase
  • Noun Phrase
  • Absolute Phrase
  • Prepositional Phrase
  • Gerund Phrase
  • Appositive Phrase
  • Infinitive Phrase

What are the types of phrase and their examples?

Phrase TypeHeadExample
Verb PhraseVerb[play the piano]
Adjective PhraseAdjective[delighted to meet you]
Adverb PhraseAdverb[very quickly]
Prepositional PhrasePreposition[in the garden]

What is absolute phrase in English grammar?

An absolute phrase (nominative absolute) consists mainly of a noun or pronoun that belongs to a participative phrase. The whole sentence is changed, not a single noun, which differentiates from a partial phrase.

What are the features of phrase?

This definition has three characteristics: (1) it specifies only a group of words can be considered a phrase, implying that a single word cannot be considered, (2) it distinguishes phrases from clauses, and (3) it requires.

What are 5 examples of phrases?

  • I think Mary may have been waiting outside for you.
  • The chilly, wet afternoon of Friday became a noun phrase.
  • The Gerund Phrase; Having ice cream on a hot day can be a good way to cool off.
  • The roof was constructed by her.
  • In the kitchen, you will find my mom.

How do you identify different phrases?

  • Noun Phrase. Noun phrase co.
  • Adjective Phrase. The adjective phrase is a group of words that have their modifiers, which serve as an adjective in a sentence.
  • Prepositional Phrase
  • The Participial Phrase
  • The Gerund Phrase
  • The Infinitive Phrase

What are the 4 types of noun phrases?

Noun phrases can be subject, object, subject complement, or object complement in a sentence in which they appear.

What are phrasal categories?

A phrasal category represents an intermediate form between an individual lexical item and a larger form, such as ‘clause’ or’sentence’ in contemporary language theories. Hence, phrasal categories are the foundations from which larger structures such as clauses and sentences assume construction.

What are the 10 types of phrases?


What is a gerund phrase?

A gerund phrase consists of a ger und the modifier(s) and/or (pro)noun(s), or noun phrase(s). These phrases serve as direct objects, indirect objects, or complements.

What’s the most common phrase?

A blessing in disguisea good thing that seemed bad at first
A dime a dozenSomething common
Beat around the bushAvoid saying what you mean, usually because it is uncomfortable
Better late than neverBetter to arrive late than not to come at all

What are the 3 types of phrases?

Three main categories of phrases can be used: noun phrases, verb phrases, and modifying phrases.

How many types of phrases are there in English grammar?

Verbal phrases are divided into three types: participial phrases, gerund phrases, and infinitive phrases. Please find below an explanation of each.

What are the 10 phrases?

  • What was the highlight of your day (or week)?”.
  • “I trust your judgment.”.
  • I would like to hear what you think.
  • I blamed that on myself.
  • I loved how you handled that.”.
  • I cannot tell you what the performance-related component meant to us all.
  • I’m happy to see you!”.

How do you identify a phrase?

To determine if a group of words is a phrase or a clause, you can quickly locate both a subject and a verb. If you can find both, then it is a clause. If you can only locate one or both, then it is a phrase.

Types of Phrases in the English Grammar

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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