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Noun phrases

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




"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

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

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

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