Noun phrases

Learn about the structure of noun phrases and do the exercises to practise using them.

Level: intermediate

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

People like to have money.
I am tired.


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


Premodifiers 2


Premodifiers 3



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



Premodifiers and postmodifiers



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Submitted by User_1 on Sat, 29/04/2023 - 16:08


About noun phrases in all their structures explained above.
So, in general, are they used to describe in detail and add specific information to the name they refer to?
Is their main aim to boost the written text?
Thanks for your help.

Hello User_1,

I'm not sure I'd describe noun phrases in that way. Noun phrases can have many functions and often they are essential parts of the sentence (as subjects and objects in particular), without which the sentence would not make any sense. I think your description fits modifiers (part of the noun phrase) rather than noun phrases per se, as modifiers (pre- and post-) add more information to the noun they are describing.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gracy on Mon, 17/04/2023 - 00:18


Hello teachers,

In this sentence: Lawyer and politician Kapil Sibal said there had been "two murders" in Uttar Pradesh - "one, of Atiq and brother Ashraf and two, of Rule of Law".
Are “of Atiq” and “ of Rule of Law” noun phrases?
Do we necessarily need to put “of” after “ one” and “two”?


Hello Gracy,

In writing, I'd say 'of' is necessary here.

It would also be advisable in speaking, especially in a formal context (such as this appears to be), though if pronounced with a certain intonation and pauses, it's possible to omit it.

I'm afraid I'm not an expert on sentence parsing, but I'd say those are parts of noun phrases in which the head of the phrase has been omitted through ellipsis.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by EnglishLearnerxx on Mon, 03/04/2023 - 10:43



Is this phrase a colloquial noun phrase? : 're-runs of Little Britain.'

Thank you

Hi EnglishLearnerxx,

It is a noun phrase! As for "colloquial", that's a description of the style of language (i.e., an informal and conversational style). But the words here are quite neutral in style.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by englishlearnin… on Wed, 01/03/2023 - 14:46


Could you tell me about this please?
In the sentence ‘that girl over there in a green dress drinking a Coke’
Can i say that girl in a green dress drinking a coke over there or that girl drinking a coke over there in a green dress…
If there are more than one postmodifier, is there any order to follow?

Hi englishlearningenglish,

All of those versions are correct. The order is flexible, and generally I expect the speaker would say the most important or useful descriptions first (e.g., that girl over there ... if the speaker is pointing at the girl at the same time as speaking, or that girl in a green dress ... if the green dress makes her easy to spot).


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by englishlearnin… on Thu, 05/01/2023 - 06:15


Hello i read this sentence
He puts the keys in the drawer
is in the drawer a prepositional phrase as a postmodifier( the keys in the drawer) or is there phrasal verb put in something ?
thank you

Hello englishlearningenglish,

'in the drawer' is a prepositional phrase here.

One way you can test this for yourself is to try using a prepositional phrase with a different preposition to see if it works. For example, we can also say 'He puts the keys on the table'. Since both phrases work with 'He puts the keys ...', this is a good sign that the last part of the sentence is a prepositional phrase.

Hope this makes sense.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Urizen99 on Tue, 19/04/2022 - 11:55


Good afternooon, can I ask a question:

I've read that noun clauses always take a singular verb is that true? For example:

The thing that annoys me is her attitude = What annoys me is her attitude
but if the sentence is:
The things that annoy me are her attitude and manners .... is that:
1) What annoy me are her attitude and manners
2) What annoys me are her attitude and manners
3) What annoys me is her attitude and manners

Hope you can help!
Thank you

Hello Urizen99,

You could probably hear people use any of these sentences. If I had to choose one of them for something I was writing, I'd use 2. The 'what' seems singular to me, even if it actually refers to several things, which is why I'd use the singular verb 'annoys'. 'attitude and manners' is clearly plural, and so 'are' seems best, though people often use a singular verb here, especially in informal speaking.

The strangest option is 1 because of what I said earlier about 'what' feeling singular. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call it incorrect, but I would avoid that usage.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bashbosh on Mon, 31/01/2022 - 20:52


How about if i say "government to investigate power outage during snowstorm".
"Government to investigate " is it noun phrase? And what does it mean here especially that it came in the beginning of the sentence?

Hello Bashbosh,

This looks like a news headline or title of a news article. It's very common to omit words from headlines and titles. The full form would be something like 'The government is going to investigate the power outage that occurred during the snowstorm'.

If this comes from some other context, then please let us know more about it and we can try to help you make sense of it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by haovivu128 on Fri, 10/09/2021 - 12:24

Hello Teachers again, please correct them for me. I'd like to try writing about Postmodifiers as well. Thank you in advance. 1. Those books on my desk are yours. 2. We sold out the last five flats at the end of the street. 3. The man standing in the fishing tackle shop is my grandfather. 4. The most valuable book which changed my life is "Think & Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill". 5. I've already realised the bad fact that he doesn't love you. 6. I need a new suit to wear. 7. We'd like to go somewhere to relax.

Hello haovivu128,

Those sentences are all grammatically correct. Well done!

I think we'd probably say 'sad fact' or 'unfortunate fact' rather than 'bad fact', and I'm not sure 'sold out' is the correct choice of verb, but this does not affect the grammar.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Md.Habibullah on Fri, 03/09/2021 - 11:39

"To watch a public execution"-----what kind of phrase it is? Samuel thought this was a great improvement. is this a complex sentence? is the following simple sentence correct? This was a great improvement according to Samuel.

Hi Md.Habibullah,

1. It's a to-infinitive verb phrase, including an object (a public execution). 

2. No, I don't think this is a complex sentence, although it looks a bit like one. A complex sentence has one independent clause, but Samuel thought isn't a independent clause, since thought is used here transitively, and isn't complete without an object. So, I think it's actually a simple sentence, with a subject-verb-object structure. The subject is Samuel, the verb is thought, and the object is (that) this was a great improvement ('that' is optionally omitted in your original sentence).

3. Yes, the last sentence is mostly correct - but it needs to have a comma after improvement.

I hope that helps :)


The LearnEnglish Team

After the death of the king in 1910, Tom led the funeral procession. Following the death of the king in 1910, Tom led the funeral procession. Are they both simple? "After,since" are correlative conjunction(as far as I know). Despite being correlative conjunction , how could these be simple sentences(incase simple)?

Hi Md.Habibullah,

Actually, after and following are prepositions in these sentences, because they introduce a phrase without a verb (the death of the king in 1910). As there's no verb, this is a prepositional phrase, not a clause. That's why these are simple sentences.

After (but not following) can be a conjunction too. In this case, it needs to introduce a clause, not just a phrase, e.g.:

  • After the king died in 1910, Tom led the funeral procession.

The underlined part is a clause because it contains a subject and verb (the king died), and this is a complex sentence.

I hope that helps.


The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user haovivu128

Submitted by haovivu128 on Tue, 24/08/2021 - 12:35

Hello Teachers, please correct them for me. I'd like to try writing about Premodifiers. Thank you in advance. 1. She needs to buy TEN RED APPLES in the supermarket. 2. Could my friend try on THOSE TWO SNEAKERS? 3. You left YOUR TWO NOVEL BOOKS on my desk. 4. I've just bought THE THREE LAST TICKETS at the cinema. 5. ALL FIVE LOCAL BANKS were closed yesterday. 6. BOTH MY BEST FRIENDS were absent at school in this morning. 7. Pollution is one of THE MANY SERIOUS PROBLEMS in developing countries. 8. Transfering Messi to PSG was one of THE FEW HOTTEST NEWS in the world last week.

Hi haovivu128,

Sentences 1, 5 and 7 are correct :)

In sentence 2, the noun phrase is correctly formed, but it's a bit unclear whether you mean those sneakers (i.e., one pair), or those two pairs of sneakers.

In sentence 3, just say novels. 'Novel' is a noun which already includes the meaning of 'book'.

Sentence 4 is correct. But it’s more common to say the last three tickets. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, last usually appears before the number (the same is true for first and next). 

In sentence 6, it should be absent from school. Apart from that, it's correct :)

In sentence 8, the word news should be uncountable (even though it looks like a plural countable noun), so if you want to use few, we need to say pieces of news to make it countable. Apart from that, there are a couple of ways to make this sentence, with slightly different meanings.

  • one of the few hot pieces of news = there was a lot of news last week, but not much of it was ‘hot’. This is one of the 'hot' pieces of news. Few describes hot pieces of news.
  • one of the hottest few pieces of news = this is one of the top pieces of news. (It doesn't say anything about how much news in general was 'hot' or not.) Hottest few describes pieces of news


Premodification is quite a complex area of grammar. The information on this page above is general introduction. For more explanation, you might like to have a look at these pages on determiners and premodifers from the Cambridge Dictionary. I hope they help!


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much, Jonathan. I really appreciate your time.

Hi Sir,

In the sentence: one of the hottest few pieces of news, the adj "hottest" comes before the quantifiers " few". But as learned in the lesson, adj should come after quantifiers. Could you please help explain the inconsistency with many thanks.

Hi Amy18295,

You can also put a superlative adjective (or another adjective) before "few". Here are some more examples.

  • "It was one of the worst few weeks in my life," he said.
  • "It was a terrible few weeks in my life," he said.
  • I've had the most incredible few days in New York.
  • I've had an incredible few days in New York.

This only works with "few" (not with other quantifiers).

I hope that helps.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Tue, 11/05/2021 - 12:27

Hi brilliant team, I am trying to learn noun phrases in English. Practising on my book, I saw that sentence, which wants me to rewrite it. 'The noise traffic is deafening on Station Road.' I rewrited 'The noise of traffic...' but answer key says 'The traffic noise...' I am confused a little bit because I learnt sometimes both forms are possible like 'the hotel garden' and 'the garden of hotel' I would be grateful if you could explain it to me. Thank you in advance.

Hi Nevı,

It's a good question! Apart from a few rules (e.g. partitive phrases such as a piece of paper and a bottle of water use 'of'), mostly it's a question of which forms are established and commonly used.

Sometimes, both forms are possible but their meanings differ. For example, a bottle of water refers to a bottle with water in it, or that quantity of water, while a water bottle refers to a bottle which is used for holding water (it may or may not have water in it at the moment). But, other forms have no difference in meaning (e.g. a government website = a website of the government).

In your example, noise collocates with certain other nouns, e.g. background noise, engine noise, aircraft noise, wind noise, so traffic noise is fine. But, I also think the noise of (the) traffic is fine as an answer.

If you use the 'of' phrase, note that you may need to add an article before the second noun, e.g. the garden of the hotel.

I hope that helps.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Wed, 28/04/2021 - 07:10

Could you please explain the below sentence in detail (grammatical structure)? For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there is something better-something stronger, pushing right back. I have three questions to ask. 1.the object of the preposition starting with (it says...), is it a noun clause to For? But I have a doubt here, why noun clause is not started with a code word like what and how etc.., 2.Here is the noun clause (no matter how hard the world pushes...)acting as an embedded clause to the "that clause", which is an object to the verb " say"? 3.what is the participle phrase(pushing right back) modifying in the sentence?

Hello Mussorie,

1. In this sentence for is not a preposition but a conjunction with a similar meaning to because or as.

2. Yes. No matter introduces a subordinate clause headed by a question word - in this case, 'how'.

3. 'Pushing' here forms a participle clause with the meaning something...which is pushing right back.



The LearnEnglish Team

Then, we can say 1.In the first question being asked, it is the adverb clause, right. 2.Second, The noun clause(subordinate clause) embedded in "that".Here, whether that is acting as a noun clause or a that-clause. 3.Third, when we reduce a relative clause, then it should become an adjective phrase, right. Please clarify, sir

Hello again Mussorie,

These are questions about linguistic analysis, terminology and sentence parsing, which are aspects of linguistics rather than language learning. Our site is not a linguistics site, and so these questions fall outside of our focus.

For answers to questions of this type you might try the English Language and Usage section of StackExchange. The community there is helpful:



The LearnEnglish Team

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

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


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,


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,


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,


The LearnEnglish Team

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

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


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:



The LearnEnglish Team

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

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.



The LearnEnglish Team

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

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.



The LearnEnglish Team

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

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

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