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The confused man was lost in the maze.
The wet dog made a mess on the carpet.
It was a story older than time itself.
The sunny morning turned into a cold, dreary afternoon.

The underlined groups of words in the above sentences are known as phrases.

Phrases function as meaningful grammatical units in a sentence or a clause. Unlike clauses (which are also groups of words), phrases cannot express a complete thought for the lack of a subject and a verb. Some kinds of phrases are essential to the structure of a clause; others simply provide extra information.

8 Types of Phrases

Phrases can be grouped into eight different types. Let’s take a closer look at each of them and see how they are used in sentences.

1. Noun Phrase

A noun phrase consists of a noun/pronoun and its modifiers. A noun phrase functions as a noun and thus can be used as a subject, an object, or a complement within a sentence. Modifiers can be placed before or after the noun/pronoun.

He was reading yesterday’s newspaper.
The school children climbed onto the bus.
An old and rusty car inhabited the garage.
The bus sped down the long and winding road.

2. Verb Phrase

A verb phrase consists of a verb and its modifiers. The verb can function as a main verb or an auxiliary (helping) verb, with the helping verb invariably followed by the main verb.

We were waiting for the rain to stop.
He was upset when the tea didn’t boil.
You might not enjoy the trip.
She was eager to cook dinner.

3. Prepositional Phrase

A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition, its object, and any words that modify the object. Prepositional phrases generally modify a noun or a verb.

The river meandered through the field.
In the summer, the river is at the bottom of the garden.
Despite complaints, the tenants refused to turn down the music.
She was caught between a rock and a hard place.

4. Participial Phrase

A participial phrase consists of a participle and the modifier and/or nouns, pronouns, or noun phrases that act as direct objects, indirect objects, or complements of the state or action expressed by the participle.

He is eager to start working on the new task, having completed the previous one yesterday.
Knowing what I know now, I wish I had never come here.
Painted a bright yellow, the house looked pretty and cheerful.
Rachel heard her friends giggling at the silly joke.

5. Gerund Phrase

A gerund phrase consists of a gerund and the modifier, as well as the pronouns/noun phrases that act as the direct object, indirect object, or complement of the state or action expressed by the gerund. The gerund phrase acts as the subject of the sentence.

Getting a promotion is motivating.
Shopping online is easy.
Pulling an all-nighter isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Crossing the street can be dangerous sometimes.

6. Infinitive Phrase

An infinitive phrase consists of an infinitive and the modifier, pronoun, or noun that functions as the actor, direct object, or complement of the state or action expressed by the infinitive.

To make an omelet, you need eggs.
He tried to climb the ladder, but he was too scared.
The company agreed to give everyone a bonus.
I’m going to France to study the language.

7. Appositive Phrase

An appositive phrase is a noun or a noun phrase that renames the noun next to it in order to provide more information about the earlier noun.

My best friend, Joe, never studies for tests.
The king of the jungle, the lion, is a beautiful creature.
Rowdy is the best word to describe my dogs, Brady and Zuzu.
My kindergarten teacher, Ms. Cox, was the most popular teacher in the school.

8. Absolute Phrase

An absolute phrase modifies the main clause in a sentence, and may follow, precede, or interrupt it. An absolute phrase consists of a noun and its modifiers (possibly including a participle or participial phrase.)

Weather permitting, we shall meet on the golf course tomorrow.
The moon having risen, the garden was bathed in a white radiance.
The guests having left at last, the family went to bed.
If God wills, we shall fulfill our dreams.

Phrases are an important component of any sentence. Thus, students ought to understand their different types to use them appropriately in their writing.

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Phrases are groups of words that cannot express a complete thought.
Phrases are groups of words that cannot express a complete thought.