Phrases are a group of words that work together to communicate an element of speech. They are very important because they allow you to communicate better, through both written and spoken language. This article takes a look at phrases in a sentence and uses simple language to explain what phrases are, how they work within sentences to create a meaningful message and what different types of phrases are used in the English language.
What are phrases?
Phrases in a sentence are a group of words that act as a part of a speech but cannot stand alone in order to form a complete sentence because they do not include both a subject and a predicate. However, the words in a phrase work together in a manner that entails that they can function as a single part of speech, i.e. together the words in a phrase can form a noun, verb, adverb or adjective. Examples of phrases are:
- over the moon.
- on the roof.
- in the corner.
- under the bed.
Each of these phrases makes sense, but to make complete sense they need to be placed in a full sentence with other words:
- I am over the moon.
- There is a bird on the roof.
- He is stood in the corner.
- There is a mess under the bed.
What are the properties of phrases?
The properties of phrases in a sentence are as follows:
- Phrases are groups of words
- Phrases do not contain a finite verb (e.g. I, we, you, he, she, they, etc.)
- Phrases may contain a non-finite verb such as a participle, a gerund or an infinitive.
- Phrases are unable to convey a definite meaning, but they do communicate a disconnected idea.
- Phrases cannot stand alone. In order to be grammatically correct, they should always be part of a larger sentence.
What are the different types of phrases?
There are several different types of phrases in a sentence:
- Noun phrases: A noun phrase is made up of a noun and its accompanying modifiers (which can include other phrases). Gerund phrases, appositive phrases and infinitive phrases are all types of noun phrases.
- Verb phrases: A verb phrase can refer to an entire predicate in a sentence or can be limited to a verb or verb group.
- Adverbial phrases: There are two theories relating to adverbial phrases. Some people argue that an adverbial phrase is a group of adverbs, while others believe that an adverbial phrase is any type of phrase that acts as an adverb.
- Adjectival phases: There are two theories relating to adjectival phrases. Some people argue that an adjectival phrase is a group of adjectives, while others believe that an adjectival phrase is any type of phrase that acts as an adjective.
- Participial phrases: Participial phrases are word groups that consist of a present or past participle and any modifiers, objects, and complements.
- Prepositional phrases: Prepositional phrases begin with a preposition and can function as adjectives, adverbs or nouns.
- Absolute phrases: Absolute phrases are essentially collapsed sentences. Instead of adding more information about a noun or a verb, they modify an entire sentence.
So, when it comes to the question: what are phrases in a sentence? This article clearly reveals that they are extremely important elements of language that all writers need to be familiar with.
Phrases Cheat Sheet
It is generally accepted that there are five major types of phrases in the English language, one for each of the main parts of speech. Phrases are a group of words that act as a part of a speech but cannot stand alone in order to form a complete sentence because they do not include both a subject and a predicate.
Our free printable cheat sheet presents the five major types of phrases together with information about how to spot them and what punctuation rules you should bear in mind when using them. To download a free copy of the Five Types of Phrases cheat sheet, simply click on the image below.