Phrases

a purple pen noun phrase
been watching verb phrase
red, round balls adjective phrase
spoke loudly adverb phrase
out the door prepositional phrase

When there is more than one word forming a meaningful unit within a clause, this is known as a phrase. The English language has five main types of phrases. Read on to learn more.

Noun Phrase

When a group of words is built around a single noun, this is known as a noun phrase. Take a look at the following examples:

  • Don’t go near the water.
  • Whose purple pen is this?
  • She refilled the stapler.

Verb Phrase

When a phrase contains a main verb and an auxiliary verb, this is known as a verb phrase. Take a look at the following examples:

  • How long have you been waiting?.
  • I will need to walk my dog.
  • My family and I have been on vacation.

Adjective Phrase

When a group of words is built around a single adjective, this is known as an adjective phrase. It can also be a group of words. Take a look at the following examples:

  • He was soaked by the cold rain.
  • We wandered into the dark cave.
  • The black wolf spooked us.

Adverb Phrase

When a group of words are built around a single adverb, this is known as an adverb phrase. It can also be a group of words. Take a look at the following examples:

  • We go to the park often.
  • He ran around the race track quickly.
  • The soldiers fought bravely.

Prepositional Phrase

When a group of words consists of a preposition followed by its object (usually a noun phrase), this is known as a prepositional phrase. Take a look at the following examples:

  • We travelled around the world.
  • She found a shell near the ocean.
  • Alice looked through the looking glass.

Study the table below. It shows all phrase types in one sentence:

She has been reading the old tattered book for two weeks.
NP VP PrepP AdvP
NP
AdjP

Remember that the word “phrase” describes any short grouping of words, such as “raining cats and dogs” and “to tell the truth”.

What is a Sentence?

Subject Predicate
This is a sentence.

A sentence has two parts:

  1. a subject (what the sentence is about)
  2. a predicate (what is said about the subject)

Look at the following table:

sentence
subject predicate
verb
She writes books.

This sentence is short. Sometimes sentences are short and at other times they are longer. There must always be a subject and a predicate. Study the following table:

sentence
subject predicate
verb
Rebecca writes books for a living.

The predicate must always contain a verb. The predicate is only a verb in some sentences:

sentence
subject predicate
verb
Stars twinkle.

At the minimum, a sentence must have a subject and a verb. There is only one type of sentence that is the exception: the imperative sentence. Usually, when someone gives a command, they do not use a subject. They do not say a subject because the subject is always the same. The subject is: you. This is the basis of an imperative sentence. Take a look at the following chart:

sentence
subject predicate
verb
Quit!
Don’t come back!
You come here!
Everybody come here!

 

A sentence should always express a complete thought. Study the following table:

complete thought?
sentence She read a book. YES
Please stop that.
Do you want to go to the park?
not a sentence A hot coffee cup NO
Underneath the car

A sentence always begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark, such as a period, question mark, or an exclamation point. Read the following examples:

  • Let’s go swimming.
  • Is this where you live?
  • Be quiet!

Even though it may look easy to define a sentence, this is not true. People who study grammar do not all agree on what a sentence is. Because this is an introductory lesson, the sentences in this lesson are simplistic. Sentences can be quite complex, but we will cover that in a later lesson.

Sentence Structure

There Are Four Types Of Sentences:
Simple
Compound
Complex
Compound-Complex

 

In the “What is a Sentence?” section, we saw the basic rules of forming a sentence. Now we dig a little deeper and look at the four types of sentences and sentence structure.

Simple Sentence

A sentence that is made up of only one independent clause is known as a simple sentence. (An independent clause contains a subject, verb and expresses a complete thought)

Independent Clause

 

  • I want to dance.
  • My brother wants to play football.
  • The horse jumps over the fence.
  • Anna lights a candle.

Compound Sentence

When a sentence has two or more independent clauses joined by either a conjunction or semicolon, this is known as a compound sentence. Either clause could form a sentence if used alone.

Independent Clause Coordinating Conjunction Independent Clause

 

  • I like dancing, but my brother likes football.
  • The trees blew in the wind; a tornado was coming.
  • The horse jumps over the fence, and the rider falls off its back.

Take a look at the coordinating conjunctions. There are seven.

  • and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so

Complex Sentence

When a sentence is made up of an independent clause and a dependent clause, this is known as a complex sentence. A dependent clause contains a subject, verb, subordinating conjunction or a pronoun, but it does not express a complete thought.

Independent Clause Subordinating Conjunction Dependent Clause

 

  • She failed the exam although she studied.
  • We exercise until we are tired.
  • My coffee was bitter before I added creamer.
  • Everyone laughed after the comedian told a joke.

Take a look at some common subordinating conjunctions:

  • after, although, as, because, before, how, if, once, since, than, that, though, till, until, when, where, whether, while

Take a look at the five basic relative pronouns:

  • that, which, who, whom, whose

Compound-Complex Sentence

When you have a sentence with at least two independent clauses and more than one dependent clause, this is called a compound-complex sentence.

Independent Clause Subordinating Clause Dependent Clause Coordinating Conjunction Independent Clause

 

  • Stephanie forgot Maryann’s birthday, but when she finally remembered, she bought her a cake.
  • I do not like thriller novels although I like other types of novels, but my brother loves them.

Another name for a dependent clause is a subordinate clause.

While the above examples are basic sentences, there are more complex sentences. In these examples, a dependent clause may come before an independent one.

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