Noun Phrases

Often a noun phrase is just a noun or a pronoun:

People like to have money.
I am tired.
It is getting late.

or a determiner and a noun …:

Our friends have bought a house in the village.
Those houses are very expensive.

… perhaps with an adjective:

Our closest friends have just bought a new house in the village.

Sometimes the noun phrase begins with a quantifier:

All those children go to school here.
Both of my younger brothers are married
Some people spend a lot of money.


Quantifiers come before determiners, but numbers come after determiners:

My four children go to school here. (All my children go to school here.)
Those two suitcases are mine. (Both those suitcases are mine)

So the noun phrase is built up in this way:

Noun: people; money
Determiner + noun: the village, a house, our friends; those houses
Quantifier + noun: some people; a lot of money
Determiner + adjective + noun: our closest friends; a new house.
Quantifier + determiner + noun: all those children;
Quantifier + determiner + adjective + noun: both of my younger brothers

The noun phrase can be quite complicated:

a loaf of nice fresh brown bread
the eight-year-old boy who attempted to rob a sweet shop with a pistol
that attractive young woman in the blue dress sitting over there in the corner

Match noun phrases to patterns

Some words and phrases come after the noun. These are called postmodifiers. A noun phrase can be postmodified in several ways. Here are some examples:

• with a prepositional phrase:

a man with a gun
the boy in the blue shirt
the house on the corner

• with an –ing phrase:

the man standing over there
the boy talking to Angela

• with a relative clause:

the man we met yesterday
the house that Jack built
the woman who discovered radium
an eight-year-old boy who attempted to rob a sweet shop

• with a that clause.
This is very common with reporting or summarising nouns like idea, fact, belief, suggestion:

He’s still very fit, in spite of the fact that he’s over eighty.
She got the idea that people didn’t like her.
There was a suggestion that the children should be sent home.

• with a to-infinitive.
This is very common after indefinite pronouns and adverbs:

You should take something to read.
I need somewhere to sleep.
I’ve got no decent shoes to wear.

There may be more than one postmodifier:

an eight-year old boy with a gun who tried to rob a sweet shop
that girl over there in a green dress drinking a coke


Match types of postmodifiers to phrases


There are four complex noun phrases in this section:

The accident happened at around 3pm on Wednesday. A man climbing nearby who saw the accident said “It was the most amazing rescue I have ever seen.” 42-year-old Joe Candler saw Miss Johnson’s fall along with his partner Fay Hamilton.

The rescue is the latest in a series of incidents on High Peak. In January last year two men walking on the peak were killed in a fall when high winds blew them off the mountain.





I came up with three sentences which I rewrote and transformed the main noun phrase into a noun clause. I want to know if creating a noun clause delivers any punch to the meaning. I think it does. Here are the three sentences I pulled out of the ether:

-An entomologist recently doubted any particularly damaging effect of global warming on American bees.

-The coach admitted a failure to practice led to us losing the game.

-Your idea to rebuild the old observatory is something we should take seriously.

So here are the three sentences with a noun clause:

-An entomologist recently doubted that global warming has any particularly damaging effect on American bees.

-The coach admitted that a failure to practice led to us losing the game.

-Your idea that the old observatory be rebuilt is something we should take seriously.

Do you think that using a noun clause adds any focus to the sentence? I think it does.

where can I get the lessons of formal way of speaking?

Hello Metin,

We have some general advice on how to improve your speaking using online materials on our Frequently asked questions page. What kinds of situations are you thinking of? There are different levels of formality, so, for example, the kind of language you'd use speaking to a government official is a bit different from the kind you'd use speaking in a business or academic context, for example.

The sections of LearnEnglish that have the most formal language are Writing for a Purpose (which, however, isn't very oriented towards speaking) and perhaps some parts of You're Hired, which is the story of a company and its search for new employee, which includes some interviews.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,
I am thinking about academic carreer.

Hello Metin,

OK, thanks, that's helpful. Writing for a Purpose is oriented towards academic writing and has a few videos which could be useful for you to see how those academics speak. Also, the vocabulary and idioms that are used in academic writing are also often used in academic speaking, so I'd suggest browsing the section a bit and working on your vocabulary there. If you're not sure how to study vocabulary, there's some advice on our Frequently asked questions page that could be useful for you.

I'd also recommend you check out TED talks. These are not academic talks, but many of the speakers are academics speaking about their research in a way that is easy to understand. I think they'd be great models for you, but if after watching a few you'd like other suggestions, please let us know.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,

I would to know whether we should add plural "s" in "at age 70–74" to be "at ages 70–74" or both forms are correct in the following sentence:
"In all age groups, males were more likely than females to receive a positive result at the subsequent screen (except at age 70–74)."


Hello marwa,

In general, you could probably use either form. I'd say 'ages 70 to 74' when speaking, but if you're speaking about different age ranges (which it sounds like you are), then you could refer to the 'age 70–74' age range or age bracket and that strikes me as fine. If you're writing an article that is to be published, I'd ask what style guide the publisher wants you to use, as it may specify which form you should use here. You could also look at similar studies in your discipline to see how they do it. Our Writing for a Purpose section might be useful in this regard.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I'm still struggling to fully grasp the concept of noun phrases especially when identifying the head of a noun phrase. I'm studying to be a teacher and one of the students said "I believe that animals should be kept in cages to keep them safe." Here is where I'm confused, would the head of the phrase be the "I" or the "animals"?

Hello missmac,

I'd suggest that you check more linguistics-oriented online sources or ask your teacher about this kind of thing. While we do get into basic sentence structure here, more advanced sentence parsing goes beyond our real purpose, which is to help users get the most out of our site. By the way, as a teacher in training, you might also want to take a look at TeachingEnglish. I'm not sure they'll handle this kind of question, but you might find other useful resources there.

Good luck!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team


Could I please have some advice with this sentence?

The old bus near the church had broken down.

Is the noun phrase here 'the old bus' or is it 'the old bus near the church'? Or is this not a noun phrase but a prepositonal phrase instead?

Thank you for your assistance.