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.



can you tell me the difference of wanna and want to, because I had mad "wanna" in writing exercise and I get wrong...

Hello Andri Riza Othman,

The correct/standard form is 'want to'. 'Wanna' is a non-standard form which reflects the way 'want to' is pronounced. It is quite common in informal writing and in songs, for example, but is not the correct way to spell this.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, can you tell me when we use "talk to" and "talk with", I find it a little bit confusing.

Hi lisa-chriki,

In most contexts there is no difference and either can be used. In some contexts there may be a small difference in that the phrase 'talk with' can imply a conversation between people, whereas 'talk to' may be a less equal conversation, where one person is informing another about something.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk

Thank you for your help.I tried to clarify to Gako why we used in the sentence he mentioned the continuous tense "walking" and not the simple past "walked" Hope I am right.

In January last year two men walking on the peak were killed in a fall when high winds blew them off the mountain".I think we would rather say:In January last year two men, who were walking on the peak, were killed in a fall ..
..., and because the incident happened while they were walking, that is why the continuous tense was used instead of the simple past tense. Hope I am right

Hello lisa-chriki,

'two men walking on the peak' is a reduced relative clause, i.e. a reduced form of 'two men who were walking on the peak'. And yes, a continuous verb form indicates an action that was in progress.

I'm not sure if I've answered your question – if not, please ask us again!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! I teach English at the Senior High. I have often had some difficulties distinguishing 'A prepositional phrase' from some 'adjectival phrases'. For instance, the construction 'under the tree' in the following 'The students under the tree are awesome.' in my opinion, is a prepositional phrase but because it may also function as an adjectival phrase because it post-modifiers the noun head word 'students', I am torn between seeing it as an adjectival or prepositional phrase. Am I right in telling my students to regard such a construction as more of an adjectival phrase because of the post-modification function it performs? Would be glad to read from you.

Hi Akorwa,

This kind of question is not really our focus here on LearnEnglish, where we help learners with English rather than teachers with their lessons. We have a sister-site which is aimed at teachers: Teaching English which may be helpful.

The phrase here is a prepositional phrase, not an adjective phrase. Your confusion stems, I think, from the fact that a prepositional phrase can function as an adverb or an adjective in the sentence, but it still remains a prepositional phrase irrespective of its function.

The function can be identified from the information which it gives us. If it tells us more about a noun (answering the question 'which one'), then it has an adjectival function. If it tells us about manner, place or time (answering the questions 'how', 'where' or 'when') then it has an adverbial function. Here, the prepositional phrase answers the question 'where', which means that it is functioning as an adverb.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you. You can read more about prepositional phrases here.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

You said it is functioning as an adverb. Please which verb or adjective it modifies? Does it mean that a prepositional phrase following a subject can be an adverb? Is the position of a prepositional phrase doesn't determines it function? Is it the answer it gives that determines it role? Thank you for your efforts