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Phrases

  • A phrase is a group of two or more related words having no subject and predicate and making no complete sense standing on its own.
  • The phrase can be grouped into seven categories:
    • Noun,
    • Gerund,
    • Infinitive,
    • Participial,
    • Prepositional,
    • Verb phrase, and
    • Absolute verb
Noun Phrase
  • The noun phrase consists of a noun as the headword and its modifiers or qualifiers; as such, it does the function of a single noun word in a sentence
  • The president, The president-elect
    • Here, the article ‘the’ is a modifier in both sentences while ‘elect’ is a qualifier
  • Apart from articles ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘the’, which traditionally introduce the presence of a noun, the common modifier of nouns are the adjectives.
  • The pattern article + adjective + noun is rather familiar.
    • For example:
      • The tall building
      • An old institution
  • NOTE: A noun phrase can function in a single noun position.
    • For example:
      • The student has swept the room.
        • Here, the student is a noun phrase and the subject of the sentence,
        • has swept is the verb phrase and the action of the sentence
        • the room is another noun phrase, but this time, the object of the action, or the receiver of the action of the subject.
  • Thus, noun phrases function mostly as the subject or object of the sentence.
  • Sometimes, however, they function as the predicative complement.
    • Thus in, “The man was our student.” The man is the subject of the sentence and our student completes the sense of the verb of the sentence and so is the complement.
    • In other words, the verb to be: become, feel, seems, looked, appeared results to a complement rather than an object.
Gerund Phrase
  • The gerund phrase functions as a noun in a sentence and consists of a gerund and its modifiers or complements.
  • For example:
    • Forcing the condemned to walk the plank blind-folded was the usual way of execution in the olden days.
    • John hates dancing to disco sounds
  • In the first example, the gerund phrase functions as the subject, and in the second, as the object
Infinitive Phrase
  • The infinitive phrase consists of an infinitive and its modifiers or complement.
  • The infinitive phrase functions as a noun in a sentence.
  • For example:
    • To absent oneself from class is considered a big offence in the secondary school (Subject)
    • His life ambition is to become a doctor (complement)
    • John pretends to be innocent (object)
Prepositional Phrase
  • The prepositional phrase performs the function of an adverb in a sentence.
  • Usually, it begins with a preposition (hence prepositional phrase) and ends with a noun or pronoun.
  • For example:
    • The book is on the table (Adverb)
    • The parcel under the desk is yours (Adjective)
Verb Phrase
  • The verb phrase consists of a main verb and its auxiliary or helping verb.
  • It mainly restricts or qualifies the general meaning of the verb
  • For example:
    • Monica will be here in a few minutes
    • The man should have been charged to court
  • NOTE: While ‘will be’ and ‘should have been charged’ are examples of a verb phrase, the whole construction that forms the predicate of each sentence determines;  ‘will be there in a few minutes’ and ‘should have been charged to court’ are verbal phrases
Participial Phrase
  • The participial phrase consists of a participle (present ending in ‘ing’ and past-ending in ‘ed’, ‘t’, ‘en’, etc.) as head, and its modifiers or complement.
  • It functions as an adjective in a sentence
  • For example:
    • Dodging the missile Ekene threw at his friend, James was knocked down by an oncoming vehicle.
    • Having been chosen as one of the councilors in the last local government elections, Chukwu decided to live close to the local government headquarters.
    • Beaten by the rain, the students ran in different directions
    • Having acted in error, the secretary apologized to the committee
    • Assured of handsome rewards, the children worked hard on their assignment
Adverbial Phrase
  • An adverbial phrase is used to modify a verb, adverb, or adjective.
  • The adverbial phrases answer the questions how, when, where, how often, to what extent, etc.

Types of Adverbial Phrase

  1. Adverbial Phrase of Time: This kind of adverbial phrase is used to state when or at what time an event or action was performed. It answers the question, WHEN?
    1. The armed robbers were caught yesterday
    2. The children celebrated their party last night
  2. Adverbial Phrase of Manner: This is the kind of adverbial phrase that is used to tell how an action was performed. It answers the question, HOW?
    1. She went home horribly
    2. The children performed excellently
    3. The boy solved the question with ease
  3. Adverbial Phrase of Place: This kind of adverbial phrase states the place or where an event or action took place. It answers the question, WHERE?
    1. The children fought in the church
    2. The old man fainted in front of the bank
  4. Adverbial Phrase of Frequency: This phrase is used to say or state how often an action was performed. It answers the question, HOW OFTEN?
    1. We go to church every Sunday
    2. The children cry always
  5. Adverbial Phrase of Degree: This is the phrase that expresses the degree of the action performed. It answers the question, TO WHAT EXTENT?
    1. The tea is too hot
    2. The young woman is very beautiful
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