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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




Yeah, here relative clause meaning adjective clause right.

Could you please reply to this question?

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

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?

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

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

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

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?