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
Average: 3.8 (140 votes)

Submitted by lukenguyentt on Sun, 26/05/2024 - 17:31

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Hi Sir,

About postmodifiers, I also see the following sentence:

Let's use the words provided below to complete the exercise.

Which case of postmodifiers is the phrase"provided below"?

Hi lukenguyentt,

This is called a reduced relative clause. It's a reduced form of "the words which/that are provided below". When the relative clause is in the passive, you can reduce it by omitting the relative pronoun and the auxiliary verb "be".

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Sokhomkim on Sun, 24/12/2023 - 03:10

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Hello, Sir!
I wanted to know if the two sentences are the same meaning.
1. I learn languages because I want to communicate with people from other countries.
2. I learn languages because I want to communicate with who are from other countries. (It is a noun clause which replaces "people from other countries", right?)
Thank you in advance.
Best Wishes!

Hi Sokhomkim,

Sentence 2 sounds unusual. As a relative pronoun, "who" needs to refer to an already-mentioned noun, so you could say "... communicate with people who are from other countries", but not sentence 2 as it's missing a noun that "who" refers to. 

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thank you so much, Sir.
I was wondering if I can use "who are from other countries" as a noun clause used as the object of preposition. T
- We are talking about who will win the next election. (noun clause used as the object of preposition)
- We are talking about a candidate who
will win the next election. (Relative clause)
Are the two sentences correct and the same meaning?
Thank you for your time.
Best Wishes!

Hi Sokhomkim,

The two sentences are correct, but their meanings are a bit different. The first one is about choosing or deciding "which person will win". The second one is about one particular candidate that seems certain to win, and there is no sense of choosing or deciding "which one" in this sentence since it is about one candidate.

Going back to your original sentences, it isn't quite right to say "communicate with who are from other countries" because there also isn't a sense of choosing or deciding "which one" here. Instead, it is describing a certain type of person that you wish to communicate with, so a relative pronoun "who" is best.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by ashiecajlenreese on Tue, 28/11/2023 - 09:12

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good day, sir. i'd like to ask u a question

when do we use -ing phrases? I mean, these two sentences for example. could u please explain?

the boy talks to the audiences excitedly
the boy talking to the audiences excitedly

Hello ashiecajlenreese,

There are too many ways to use '-ing' phrases for me to explain them all here.

How exactly the phrase 'the boy talking to the audiences excitedly' is used depends on how it fits into the sentence or larger context it is a part of. For example, it could be the reduced form of the relative clause 'the boy who is talking to the audiences excitedly'.

It's difficult to say more without knowing more about how the phrase is used. If you found this phrase in a text and want to ask about again, please include the sentences before and after it.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Fri, 25/08/2023 - 08:50

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Hi teachers
I have several questions related to the following sentence.
Two-thirds of the city was ruined.
Could you please explain whether:
1. "Two-thirds" or "two thirds" is correct and there is any difference between both spellings
2. I should use "the city" or "city" and there is any difference when I use or do not use "the"
3. the verb should be singular or plural form.
Thank you very much, teachers

Hi Risa warysha,

Sure! I'll try to help.

1. There is some variation in usage. Some guides recommend always using "two-thirds" with a hyphen. Some guides recommend only using a hyphen when "two-thirds" is used as an adjective (e.g. The party won a two-thirds majority in the election), and omitting the hyphen if it's used as a noun (e.g. Two thirds of the voters voted for them).

2. It should be "the city". "The" is needed because it refers to a specific city.

3. It depends on the concept of "two thirds". If the speaker thinks of a "third" as a countable thing, then a plural verb is used (e.g. I cut the cake into thirds, and two thirds have already been eaten). On the other hand, the speaker may think of "two thirds" as an uncountable amount (e.g. Two thirds of the cake has been eaten). In this case, a singular verb is used. This seems to be the concept in your example about the city.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Sir, could you please help me with another.

I read a sentence "Where is that five pounds I lent you?"

Why does that use "that" for "five pounds"? Can we change it into "those five pounds"?

Hello Risa warysha,

In this case, the speaker is probably thinking of the five pounds as a single item (a loan), and so says 'that' instead of 'those'.

But, as you suggest, the correct form in standard English is 'those five pounds'.

In informal speaking or writing, we sometimes use non-standard forms.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by salar on Mon, 31/07/2023 - 16:09

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Hello
What kind of grammar are used in below sentences? What is the grammatical role of ''of'' in these sentences?
1. The teaching of English
2. The development of scientific theories
3. The emergence of ISIS over the years in Iraq and Syria

Hello salar,

As you'll see from any dictionary entry, 'of' has many functions. For example:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/of

 

In your example, 'of' introduces complements of nouns. Cambridge Grammar has a very clear explanation with examples:

Of commonly introduces prepositional phrases which are complements of nouns, creating the pattern: noun + of + noun. This pattern is very common, especially to indicate different parts, pieces, amounts and groups:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/of

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Mon, 17/07/2023 - 13:50

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Hallo teachers,
I found a sentence in one website n I don't think it uses correct grammar. Could you please explain why this sentence is using verb "is"?
"The quality and variety of what children see, hear and participate in is crucial for developing their understanding..."

Doesn't it have to use "are" because, I think, the subject is "quality and variety"?

Thank you in advance, teachers

Hi Risa warysha,

Good question! Actually, it is correct if "quality and variety" are considered to be one thing together, combined. To take a simpler example, it's correct to say Fish and chips is a popular dish because "fish and chips" combine to make a single thing (that dish). It's possible to think of "quality and variety" combining in the same way.

It would also be correct to use "are", if we consider "quality and variety" to be two separable things instead.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

It does, sir.
But is it up to the writer to consider the nouns as subject combined? Or is there any grammar rule that explains particular nouns considered as combined subject?

Hi Risa warysha,

This isn't about grammar. It's about concepts. "Quality and variety" can be considered to be two aspects of a single thing (i.e. children's experience), in the same way that "fish and chips" are two parts of a single dish. So, yes, it does depend on the speaker/writer's view, but that view will also be influenced by other people's speaking and writing. Other people may also consider "quality and variety" combined, for example.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Dr strange on Thu, 22/06/2023 - 00:24

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Hello everyone.

Can a noun phrase stand in a sentence without a pre modifier?

For example: Last night, i ate meal that was contaminated by germs.

The group of words after the verb "ate" is a noun phrase or not?

Please explain and guide me.
Thank you.

Hello Dr strange,

Yes, a noun phrase can have no pre-modifier. In your example an article is needed (I ate a meal...) but if you change the sentence a little then you can easily have a noun phrase without a pre-modifier:

In the evenings I often eat meals which have no meat in them.

We still have a long noun phrase as object containing a post-modifying relative clause, but no pre-modifier.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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Hello,
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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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”?

Thanks.

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,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

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

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Hi,

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.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

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

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Hello
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).

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

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

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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
or
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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user haovivu128

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

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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"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 :)

Jonathan

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.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user haovivu128

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

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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!

Jonathan

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.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team