PhrasesTypes of Phrases
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What is a Phrase?

Phrases appear in a group of words that are chunked together as a grammatical unit being part of a clause or a sentence.

A phrase does not convey a complete sense and thought. Because it has neither a subject nor a verb. In contrast, it’s smaller than a clause. But there are the main types of Phrases in English, enlisted below:

No.Types of PhrasesExamples
1.Noun Phrasean honest boy
2.Verb Phrasewould like
3.Adjective Phrasesmall birds
4.Adverb Phrasevery fast
5.Prepositional Phrasein the field
6. Gerund Phrasespicking the apples
7. Infinitive Phraseto jump
8.Participle Phrasessitting in the corner
9.Appositive PhraseQuaid, the founder of Pak
Types of Phrases
Phrases Examples
Phrases Examples

Real Examples of Phrases in Sentences

  • The lamp is lying at the table.
  • In the fields, my cows are grazing.
  • The passengers are waiting for the rail.
  • Your officer will visit during this month.
  • Maham makes breakfast early in the morning.

So, look at these different Phrases:

  • at the table
  • In the fields
  • for the rail
  • during this month
  • early in the morning
  • my friend from Paris
  • to jump over the wall
  • jumping over the wall
Phrases Examples
Examples of Phrases

These are groups of words that stand together as a single grammatical unit. So, these words are function as different types of phrases.

Different Functions of Phrases

Functions of Phrases
Functions of Phrases

For example:

I am looking for a famous book to make me laugh. =That describes a book, its functioning as= an adjective.

She is going to Paris to buy a book.

 =To buy a book= that tells us the reason=why she is going to Paris. So, it is functioning like= an adverb.

I am looking for a scary book.

That is functioning as= a noun.

I am looking for a book.

Here, = “am looking” that group of words is functioning like= a verb.

Now, these are the common grammatical units but actually, phrases can function as other ones too. For example:

Types of Phrases with Examples

Types of Phrases with Examples
Types of Phrases

Noun Phrase

A noun phrase is a group of words in which a noun functions as a headword with a modifier e.g., premodifiers and sometimes postmodifiers. For Example:

  • I like these two books.
  • Many people love these apple trees. 🍎
  • A lot of problems will finish one day.
  • The young boy bought that bicycle.
  • Thousands of birds like to eat green fruit.
  • My friend from Paris writes books about ghosts.


Pre modifier: (a word that is placed before the head of the phrase). Postmodifier: (a word that is placed after the head of the phrase). For example:

The phrase “my friend from Paris” is functioning as= a Pre modifier of this noun phrase and “books about ghosts” is functioning as= a post-modifier. But they are groups of words with a noun as a headword, so, they are Noun Phrases.

Adjective Phrase

An adjective phrase is a kind of phrase in which an adjective functions as the head. In other words, the phrase is headed by an adjective to describe the nouns.

  • Please pass me the red plate.
  • He has extremely evil eyes.
  • A monkey is smarter than other animals.
  • The audience was extremely delighted to see the hero.
  • I am rather fond of writing letters.
  • I met a lady with blue eyes.
  • This glass door is of pink color.


“The red plate”, this phrase is functioning like= an adjective. Because it describes the plate telling us which plate we could have said.

So, = extremely evil in this example= evil is actually =an adjective. So, an adjective phrase functions as an adjective that is headed by an adjective.

Adverb Phrase

An adverbial phrase is a group of two or more words headed by an adverb. Because it modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb, For Example:

  • She sings with passion. (How)
  • We lived a happy life in those days. (When)
  • She makes us always happy.☺(How often)
  • My friend is sleeping under the shade. (Where)
  • We bought this home before the summer vacation. (When)
  • A Leopard can run very faster than an Olympic cyclist. (How much)


The phrase, “with passion”, tells us =how she sings, it’s functioning as an adverb of manner.

“Very faster than an Olympic cyclist” This phrase is functioning as an adverb of frequency; it is describing the verb=run.

Prepositional Phrase

Prepositional phrases are headed by a preposition showing the links between subjects and verbs by describing nouns and verbs.

  • The plate is on the table.
  • We’re happy to see you in time.
  • They are standing in the corner.
  • The thief 🕵 is running 🏃 after us.
  • Why are you staying with the strangers?

Gerund Phrase

A gerund phrase is a phrase headed by a gerund (a word with =ing form but behaves as a noun e.g., Smoking is prohibited here.) For example:

  • Collecting old bottles is my hobby.
  • Writing books is my passion.
  • Throwing garbage is not allowed here.
  • In my childhood, I liked eating sweets.
  • I loved to see the flying kites.
  • These eye-catching moments will never return.

“Collecting old bottles is an example of a = gerund, it behaves as a noun if you ask what my hobby is.

Infinitive Phrase

It is a group of words that takes the infinitive = to + verb and behaves like a noun jointly. For example:

  • I like to collect old bottles.
  • Her profession is to repair the phones.
  • To jump over the wall is dangerous.
  • It’s not easy to keep everyone happy.
  • I asked him to create a beautiful design.
  • To obtain everybody’s trust is the best rule of life.

These phrases are headed by =the infinitives, given below.

Note: The gerund phrase and the infinitive phrase shown here are both noun phrases.

Participle Phrase

A participial phrase is a group of words that appears to be a verb but is an adjective that modifies a noun in the same sentence. But this kind of phrase may “boost up” a noun by adding more information about what it’s doing or how it appears.

  • The dog sitting in the corner looks like snoopy.
  • Slowly walking on foot, she got late.
  • The worker got tired working all the day.
  • Fond of eating more than need, he got fat.
  • I’m not interested in growing my hair.
  • No problem is solved with just making complains.

The group of words, “sitting in the corner” is a phrase headed by a participle. Because it is describing the dog. So, it is an adjective phrase. Because the participle= sitting is a type of an adjective.

Appositive Phrase

An Appositive is a noun phrase that renames or redescribes things by giving more details and information about a subject. Because it provides more explanation enriching the sentence to clarify its meaning.

  • Quaid-e-Azam, the founder of Pakistan, was a lawyer.
  • The lion, king of the jungle, is an animal with attitude.
  • Karim, the expert hunter, couldn’t hunt a deer.
  • My classmate, Ahmad, is a wise boy.
  • The city of palaces, Kasur, is not a very old city.
  • Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII, was a queen of England.

Difference between Phrases and Clauses

A clause just like a phrase is also a group of words but it contains its’s subject and a verb.  And, it functions as one part of speech or one grammatical unit.

Difference between Phrase and Clause
Difference between a Phrase and a Clause
  • My friend Zaim, writes books about ghosts from Paris.
  • That is an= adjectival phrase describing=, my friend.

But, look at this:

  • My friend who lives in Paris writes books about ghosts.
  • =who lives in Paris= is also describing= my friend but this group of words has a subject and a verb. So, that’s what makes it a clause. So, this is an adjective clause.

A clause contains a subject and verb, unlike a phrase. So, this is the main difference between a phrase and a clause.

Common Mistakes with Phrases

The first one is a noun phrase and the second is an adjectival phrase. But in this whole noun phrase= “a box of letters” the head noun in the box which is singular= of letters is just an= adjective it doesn’t determine the verb.

Common Mistakes in Phrases
Common Mistakes in Phrases

He fed the sharks in the cage.

Now, this is ambiguous so I’m going to mark it as wrong. =The sharks in the cage, that looks like a noun phrase. But that would be an unusual scenario so context would tell us that that was wrong.

Knowing the context will make it clear, For example:

He fed the sharks in the cage so the sharks would not be hungry.  

Here, =” the sharks” is a noun phrase, =in the cage would be an adverbial phrase, and it tells us where he fed the sharks. Because adverbs modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb to tell us how, when, where, why, how much, or how many. So, in this example, it’s telling us where. So, in the cage is a phrase functioning as an adverb. Because when you have a phrase functioning like an adverb or an adjective and it’s fronted it is usual to offset it with a comma.

By Waqas Sharif

Mr. Waqas Sharif is an English Language Teaching (ELT) Professional, Trainer, and Course Instructor at a Public Sector Institute. He has more than ten years of Eng Language Teaching experience at the Graduate and Postgraduate level. His main interest is found in facilitating his students globally He wishes them to develop academic skills like Reading, Writing, and Communication mastery along with Basics of Functional Grammar, English Language, and Linguistics.

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