How to Write English Sentences using Noun Phrases

Introduction to Phrases

Phrases tend to be larger than individual words and are usually considered as expansions of an individual word. Phrases are smaller than clauses or sentences as they do not have subjects and predicates or subjects and verbs.

Phrase classifications are generally based on the headword, phrase function or construction of the phrase. We refer to the central element in a phrase as the head of the phrase. If the head is a noun then the phrase is usually called a noun phrase.

There is some overlap when describing phrases based on the either headword or function. The headword can usually stand alone as a one-word phrase. The headword is the only part that cannot be omitted from a phrase.

Phrases can modify or be incorporated into other phrases or a string of phrases. Phrases can be effectively used to show complex relationships between objects or abstracts.


For most writing purposes noun phrases can be treated as single grammatical units performing the work of a noun in the sentence. Noun phrases may serve as subjects, direct objects, indirect objects, complements or objects of prepositions.

A noun phrase is a phrase whose head is a noun or a pronoun accompanied by modifiers. Noun headword pre-modifiers include determiners, articles, demonstratives, numerals, possessives and quantifiers. The noun headword post-modifiers can be complements, other phrases or relative clauses.

Noun Phrases Examples:

The hockey coach is happy. (Noun phrase as subject.)

My best friend's father drove us. (Noun phrase as possessive.)

We saw a very small dog. (Noun phrase as a direct object)

Shirley gave the tall girl the file. (Noun phrase as an indirect object)

He wants to become a goalie. (Noun phrase as a complement)

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