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
A 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.
- 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
Before 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 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.
What 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