A Guide to What Adjective Phrases Modify

Most people understand what an adjective is but get confused…

Most people understand what an adjective is but get confused when discussing an adjective phrase. It gets even more challenging to grasp what adjective phrases modify and how they function. Here’s a quick guide to improving your understanding of adjectival phrases and how they complement a sentence.

What Is an Adjective Phrase?

An adjective phrase is a set of words comprising adjectives that describes a noun or pronoun in a sentence. Essentially, an adjectival phrase functions as an adjective to modify a noun by adding or enhancing the description of the noun.

You don’t need to be a grammar guru to understand what an adjective phrase is and how it works. Adjective phrases are common everyday expressions.

How Do You Identify an Adjective Phrase?

To find an adjective phrase, look for a group of words that describe a noun or pronoun within a sentence.

When one adjective isn’t enough to describe a noun, a series of adjectives might form an adjectival phrase. It can be tricky to identify an adjectival phrase if the sentence is lengthy and complicated. We’ll take you step-by-step to make it easier to understand.

  • Locate the adjective that describes a noun or pronoun in a sentence. For example, ‘The food was delicious.’ Here, the adjective deliciousis used to describe the noun food.
  • Check to see if the adjective is the only word that describes the noun or if it is in conjunction with other words.
  • If the adjective works independently in a sentence, then it is the head of the adjective phrase.

If you see numerous words describing the noun, these words must be adverbs, other adjectives, or prepositions that are part of the adjective phrase. For example, ‘Our new trainer is young, energetic, and enthusiastic.’ The words bold and italicized form an adjective phrase.

A pile of blue colored assorted-title books kept on a table
Photo by Clarissa Watson on Unsplash

Forming Adjective Phrases

There are different ways to form an adjective phrase. Learning through examples is one of the best ways to understand this. Adjective phrases can be formed by grouping multiple adjectives in a sequence.

They can also be formed by starting the phrase with a preposition or adverb intensifier. Three ways to create an adjective phrase are as follows:

1. Adjective Combined with Adverb Intensifier:You can form an adjective phrase by connecting an adverb intensifier with an adjective in a sentence.

Example: He is an incredibly talented artist. In this sentence, ‘incredibly‘ is the adverb intensifier and ‘talented‘ is an adjective.

2. Preposition-Based Adjective Phrase: A preposition or prepositional phrase can be combined with another word to describe a noun, resulting in an adjective phrase.

Example: I kept the book on the wooden table. In this sentence, ‘on the wooden table‘ is the prepositional phrase that modifies the noun ‘book.’

3. Multiple Adjectives in a Row: When one adjective isn’t enough to describe something, multiple adjectives can be combined to form an adjective phrase.

Example: She had silky, shiny, and smooth hair. In this sentence, the words in bold and italicized come together to form an adjective phrase.

Difference Between a Noun & Adjective Phrase

There is a very slight difference between a noun phrase and an adjective phrase. So, differentiating between the two can be tricky. The distinction is vital when determining the function of each phrase in a sentence.

A noun phrase serves as the subject, whereas an adjective phrase serves to modify a noun in the sentence. A noun phrase can occur anywhere in a sentence, but an adjective phrase will only precede or follow a noun.

Noun Phrase Example: She was worried about her little sister.

In the above sentence, little sister is the noun phrase that follows the adjective worried.

Adjective Phrase Example: I bought a shiny silver gown.

In the above sentence, the adjective phrase shiny silver is used to describe the noun gown.


Understanding what adjective phrases modify and how to identify them is key to enhancing your writing. This article will give a quick run-through of adjective phrases and how they function.

It further explains how they differ from noun phrases and the process of forming adjective phrases that can help to improve your English.

Frequently asked questions

What is adjective phrase in English grammar?

An adjective phrase is a phrase that contains an adjective, but there’s more to it than that. As a whole, it acts as an adjective by describing a noun.

What is a modifying phrase example?

The modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that modifies — or gives information about — another word in the same sentence. As an example, “burger” is modified by “vegetarian” in the following sentence: I am going to the Saturn Café for a vegetarian burger.

What are the functions of adjectives phrases?

Noun-based adjective phrases are one of the main functions of adjective phrases. They go with nouns and modify or add to their meanings. Hair includes brown hair, black hair, straight blonde hair, red hair. Attributive phrases are words after adjectives.

How do you identify modified by prepositional phrases?

This adjective prepositional phrase follows the noun or pronoun that it modifies. In case there are two adjective prepositional phrases together, one will follow the other. An adverb may be used for a prepositional phrase. They tell when (time), where (place), how much (degree), and why (cause).

What are types of phrases?

  • Noun Phrase. The noun phrase is any noun or pronoun that has its modifiers:.
  • Prepositional Phrase
  • Participial Phrase
  • Gerund Phrase
  • Verbal Phrases
  • Verb Phrase. A verb phrase is an instance of any number of verbs working together:.
  • Infinitive Phrase
  • Appositive Phrase

What is the structure of an adjective phrase?

Adding prepositions or prepositional phrases to a sentence is an effective way to form an adjective phrase. She is from a suburb of Boston (“from a suburban” is a prepositional phrase; it forms an adjective phrase describing “she” when combined with “Boston.”).

What do adjective phrases modify?

The adjectival phrase, or adjective phrase, is a group of words that include a modifier (change) of an adjective or pronoun. Use adjectives to describe people, places, objects, and events in an engaging and colorful way. As an example, “He had a very loud voice.”.

Which of the following is an adjective phrase?

It is an adjective phrase like “A girl smarter than me”. An adjective describes a noun in a clean manner. An adjective phrase is a phrase that contains an adjective in it. It can also be used as an adjective to describe a noun. This box is brighter than the other.

How do adjectives modify pronouns?


How do you change adjectives with adjective phrases?

What are the 5 modifiers?

Used in English are adjectives, adverbs, demonstratives, possessive determiners, prepositional phrases, degree modifiers, and intensifiers.

How do you identify a modifier in a sentence?

  • Ensure modifiers are placed as close to the words they modify as possible.
  • Modifications at the beginning of sentences must affect their subject.
  • Your modifier must modify a word or phrase in your sentence.

What are the 6 types of phrases?

  • Prepositional Phrase
  • Noun Phrase. Noun phrase co.
  • The Gerund Phrase
  • The Infinitive Phrase
  • The Participial Phrase
  • Adjective Phrase. Described as adjectives, adjective phrases can be a group of words with their modifiers containing adjectives.

What are the types of modifiers?

Adverbs and adjectives are two types of modifiers.

How do you identify an adjective phrase?

Synonyms describe nouns or pronouns within sentences as adjective phrases. A phrase with an adjective can appear at the beginning, end, or middle of its sentence. The adjective phrase can either appear before or after the noun or pronoun in the sentence.

A Guide to What Adjective Phrases Modify

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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