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.

Numbers:

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.

 

Section: 

Comments

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)."

Thanks,
Marwa

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,
Kirk
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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi

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.

Hello lisa,

Noun phrases can be simple, e.g. 'the old bus' (determiner + adjective + noun) and can also include more elements such as prepositional phrases, e.g. 'the old bus near the church'; prepositional phrases also usually include a noun phrase (e.g. in this case, 'the church'). You might find a sentence parser useful – just pop in the sentence and look at the Constituent Tree near the bottom of the page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I want to ask
How important is this material to English practice?
Because I choose this to be my project for organizing some materials and questioning the readers in our college. I mean for English Second Language Learner like me who has beenbeen in college, ain't that too easy?

Hello Aprillia,

Some people find it useful to study grammar in the way it's explained on these pages, whereas others don't find it so useful. In any case, learning in different, complementary ways is a good idea for everyone. I'm afraid I don't understand your project well enough to really tell you much else. If you have any other specific questions, please feel free to ask them.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team 

Hi,
I am confused this sentence "Amazon filed a long note to its investors this afternoon reviewing the state of its current businesses.". Can I view "a long note to its investors this afternoon reviewing the state of its current business" as one Noun phrase? If yes, I don't know why it use "reviewing" instead of "to review", because I think it should be infinitive to give a purpose of "a long note".

Hi davidxie,

You are correct that the whole phrase is a noun phrase acting as the object of 'filed'.

The participle 'reviewing' here tells us the function of the note - what the note was 'doing' or, in other words, what it was for. If we use an infinitive then it tells us something different. It would then tell us why the note was filed. Compare these examples:

I sent a letter describing the problem. [the letter contains a description]

I sent a letter to describe the problem. [the reason I sent the letter was to describe the problem]

It is a subtle distinction, but it can be important - as in your example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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