Noun phrases

Level: intermediate

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

People like to have money.
I am tired.

Premodifiers

But noun phrases can also include:

  • determiners:        Those houses are very expensive.
  • quantifiers:          I've lived in a lot of houses.
  • numbers:            My brother owns two houses.
  • adjectives:          I love old houses.      

These parts of the noun phrase are called premodifiers because they go before the noun.

We use premodifiers in this order:

determiners and quantifiers > numbers > adjectives + NOUNS

For example:

Determiners and quantifiers Numbers Adjectives NOUNS
The six   children
Our   young children
  Six young children
These six young children
Some   young children
All those six young children
Their many   young children
Premodifiers 1

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Premodifiers 2

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Premodifiers 3

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Postmodifiers

Other parts of a noun phrase go after the noun. These are called postmodifiers.

Postmodifiers can be:

  • prepositional phrases:

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

the man standing over there
the boy talking to Angela

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

  • that clauses. These are very common after 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.

I've got no decent shoes to wear.

These are very common after indefinite pronouns and adverbs:

You should take something to read.
I need somewhere to sleep.

 

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

Postmodifiers

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Premodifiers and postmodifiers

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Average: 3.8 (91 votes)

Submitted by Mussorie on Tue, 27/04/2021 - 14:16

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Hi, Could you please clarify my doubt in this sentence regarding the noun clause attachment to the adjective clause "that? Whether it is correct, if not, please explain to me. 1.He must contemplate his abilities that why he has failed the test.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Tue, 27/04/2021 - 15:40

In reply to by Mussorie

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Hello Mussorie,

I'm afraid that sentence is not correct. Maybe 'He must contemplate his abilities, which are why he failed the test'?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Test

In our reply, is the clause which are why he failed the test an adjective clause?

Hello Mussorie,

That's a relative clause referring to 'abilities'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Yeah, here relative clause meaning adjective clause right.

Hello Mussorie,

First of all, my apologies for not understanding that you were asking for a reply. Punctuation is important for communicating meaning, perhaps especially when speaking with teachers!

Yes, you could call that an adjective clause.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Akram Goenka on Tue, 06/04/2021 - 11:48

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Hi, I have two questions: 1. Does any clause of a sentence headed by a noun need to give precise information in order to be a noun phrase? 2. If 2 nouns put together with a premodifier or postmodifier in a sentence, does that become a noun phrase? E.g: I went to the stationery shop last week. "the stationery shop last week" is that a noun phrase? if yes, why exactly?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 07/04/2021 - 07:31

In reply to by Akram Goenka

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Hi Akram Goenka,

Adverbial phrases are only considered part of the noun phrase when they modify it in some way. In your example, 'last week' modifies the verb, not the noun, and so is not part of the noun phrase. 

 

This is a question which deals with the subject of linguistics rather than langauge learning, and so is outside of our focus on this site. I think you'll find other sites better for this kind of analysis. For example, Stack Exchange has a good linguistics section:

https://english.stackexchange.com/

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Sat, 03/04/2021 - 16:45

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Confused or Confusing as adjectives Are the given two sentences correct? 1.He has been confused. 2.The behaviour of the cat has been confusing. In the above sentences, are the words confused and confusing behaving as adjectives?

Hello Mussorie,

Both sentences are grammatical. In the first sentence confused appears to be an adjective, though it could be part of a passive construction; it's not possible to tell without knowing the context.

In the second sentence confusing also appears to be an adjective, though it could be part of a present perfect continuous verb phrase. Again, without knowing the context we can't be sure.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Sat, 03/04/2021 - 06:06

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What is the difference between 1.I don't know how they have given their tests. 2.I don't know how they would have given their tests. Please explain them in detail.

Hello Mussorie,

In sentence 1, the tests were given. You do not know how.

In sentence 2, it is not clear if the tests were actually given. The speaker is talking about a hypothetical situation; they do not know if the tests were given.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Sat, 20/03/2021 - 11:55

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What is the difference between the two sentences? 1. It is tough last year. 2. It has been tough last year. And could you please explain two sentences in detail?

Hello Mussorie,

I'm afraid that neither of those sentences is grammatically correct. In general, we don't use the present simple ('is') or the present perfect ('has been') with a time expression such as 'last year', which refers to a time period that has no connection with the present.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok, so could you explain the difference between the two sentences without time expression.

Hello Mussorie,

You can read about the difference between the present simple and the present perfect on our Present simple and Present perfect pages. If you have any further questions about this, please ask us on one of those pages.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Fri, 05/03/2021 - 14:47

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Hello the Team, Yesterday,I read a sentence on news "...took a weeks-long voyage by passenger ship." Why does it say " a weeks-long voyage"? I am confused with the word "weeks". Shouldn't it be "week"? It has to be a singular noun, doesn't it? And if it's alright to use "weeks", then what is the difference between " a week-long voyage" and " a weeks-long voyage"? Thanks for answering my questions.

Hello Risa warysha,

The plural form is an error, as you say. The correct form would be 'a two-week long voyage'.

 

I don't know the source of the sentence, but it may be simply a typo, or it may be an error caused by inaccurate language.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Mon, 01/03/2021 - 14:26

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Hi teachers, I want to know one more thing about adjectival prepositional phrases. Can we say "a restaurant next to the house" = 'a restaurant is next to the house' If we can, could you please explain why? Thanks a lot!

Submitted by Misbahuddinktk on Mon, 01/03/2021 - 11:49

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I was reading a grammer book A sentence....He give me a glass of water. And another sentence..He brought a glass of water....the first sentence was adjective phrase while the second one was placed in noun phrase..i couldn't understand why as both sentences seems same to me...

Hello Misbahuddinktk,

I'm afraid we can't explain why grammar books say what they do, and in any case it's not clear to me what words the book identified as an adjective phrase and what words it identified as a noun phrase.

We're happy to try to help you understand the grammar here, but we need to understand what precisely the question is.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by abalHasan on Sun, 14/02/2021 - 10:50

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Hello, I was asked to indicate the function of noun phrases (in inverted commas) either as subject, object, subject complement or object complement. "The high chief" was invited to the ceremony. "The clown" looks very annoying I need answers please.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sun, 14/02/2021 - 14:12

In reply to by abalHasan

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Hello abalHasan,

The first phrase is a subject of a passive verb and the second one is the subject complement of the link verb 'look'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yigido on Mon, 14/12/2020 - 14:30

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Hi team, When I was reading English book,I saw this sentence.''Walk on the train tracks at your peril.''I was wondered and I searched.It usually uses without verb, but sometimes with a verb like ''You can use it, but it’s at your own risk.''When can we use without a verb?It is a rule?I haven't known yet.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 14/12/2020 - 15:06

In reply to by Yigido

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Hello Yigido,

I'd need to see the full context to be sure, but it sounds as if someone is saying you can do that, but it's not a good idea because it's dangerous. Here, the word 'walk' seems to be an imperative verb.

The imperative is the form used to give commands or make requests and is sometimes used on signs to warn people (as appears to be the case here).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by knownman on Fri, 16/10/2020 - 17:10

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Hi, the Team, There is the below sentence under the title Postmodifiers on this page. The sentence is 'She got the idea that people didn't like her.' In this sentence, wouldn't it be 'it' instead of 'her' Thanks for the answer. Take care.

Hello knownman,

It depends on what you mean. In this case, 'her' probably refers to the subject 'she', but it could refer to some other woman or girl. But you could use 'it' to refer to some object or behaviour, or 'them' to refer to another group of people or objects.

The postmodifier phrase beginning with 'that' doesn't have to refer back to the subject -- it can refer to anything or anyone.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team