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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




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

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

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.

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