What is a Phrase? Definition, Examples of English Phrases

Phrase definition: A phrase is a grammatical term referring to a group of words that does not include a subject and verb.

What is a Phrase? Examples, Definitions

What are phrases? A phrase is a group (or pairing) of words in English. A phrase can be long or short but it does not include the subject-verb pairing necessary to make a clause.

Some examples of phrases include:

  • after the meal (prepositional phrase)
  • the nice neighbor (noun phrase)
  • were waiting for the movie (verb phrase)

Each example of a phrase above does not contain a subject doing an action (subject-verb). Therefore, each example is merely a group of words called a phrase.

A phrase will always be more than one word.

Phrases vs. Clauses: a Hierarchy of Word Units

whats a phrase meaningA phrase is any group of words that does not contain a subject completing an action.

When a group of words contains a subject doing an action (subject-verb), it becomes a clause.

Phrases can be added to sentences to make them more complex.

Concepts can begin with a single word and develop into a compound sentence.

Example:

  • meal (word)
  • after the meal (phrase)
  • that mom prepared (clause)
  • After the meal that mom prepared I felt full. (sentence)
  • After the meal that mom prepared, I felt full because I ate too much. (complex sentence)
  • After the meal that mom prepared I felt full, but my brother was still hungry. (compound sentence)

More Phrase Examples

gramamr phrases examplesBefore we go into different types of grammatical phrases, let’s look at a few more examples of phrases.

  • In the air (prepositional phrase)
  • Beside the bed (prepositional phrase)
  • Along the road (prepositional phrase)
  • To live and breathe (infinitive phrase)
  • Looking stunning (participle phrase)

As you can see, English phrases can be just about any combination of words so long as they do not contain a subject-verb pairing.

Different Types of Phrase

What is a noun phrase? Noun phrases consist of a noun and its modifiers.

  • the nice neighbor
  • a soft, comfortable bed

What is a verb phrase? Verb phrases consist of a verb and its modifiers.

  • were waiting for the movie
  • felt a prick on his arm

what does phrase meanWhat is an adverbial phrase? Adverbial phrases are phrases that act as adverbs. They modify verbs, adverbs, or adjectives.

  • around the block (modifying where)
  • after the meal (modifying when)
  • in silence (modifying how)

What is a gerund phrase? Gerund phrases are essentially noun phrases that begin with a gerund.

  • running through the woods
  • jumping like a kangaroo

What is an infinitive phrase? Infinitive phrases begin with a verb infinitive and include any modifiers. Infinitive phrases function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

  • to run out of food
  • to visit to the countryside

What is an appositive phrase? An appositive is essentially a noun phrase but one that renames another noun in the sentence.

  • The tree, a tall redwood, was beautiful.
  • The curtains were made of lace, a beautiful and delicate fabric.

Example of phrase and define phrasesWhat is a participle phrase? A participle phrase begins with a present (-ing) or past (-ed) participle. A participle phrase includes the participle and its modifiers. Participle phrases function as adjectives.

  • The girls giggling and playing in the park never seemed to tire.
  • Fatigued and dehydrated in the desert the men traveled on.

What is a prepositional phrase? A prepositional phrase is a group of words that includes a preposition and a noun. A prepositional phrase will function as either an adjective or an adverb.

  • before church
  • under the stairs

What is an absolute phrase? An absolute phrase includes a noun and a participle and any modifiers.

  • the flag flying at half-mast
  • her hair streaked with sunlight

Summary: What are Phrases?

Define phrase: The definition of phrase is any grouping of words that does not contain a subject and a verb. A phrase is a very basic word unit in English.

  • Phrases Examples:
    • Reading a book
    • The tall basketball player