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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haovivu128 提交于 周五, 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

Md.Habibullah 提交于 周五, 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

haovivu128 提交于 周二, 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

Nevı 提交于 周二, 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

Mussorie 提交于 周三, 28/04/2021 - 07:10

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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.

 

Peter

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:

https://english.stackexchange.com/

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Mussorie 提交于 周二, 27/04/2021 - 14:16

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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.

Kirk 提交于 周二, 27/04/2021 - 15:40

Mussorie 回复

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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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Test

In our reply, is the clause which are why he failed the test an adjective clause?

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Akram Goenka 提交于 周二, 06/04/2021 - 11:48

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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?

Peter M. 提交于 周三, 07/04/2021 - 07:31

Akram Goenka 回复

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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:

https://english.stackexchange.com/

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Mussorie 提交于 周六, 03/04/2021 - 16:45

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Mussorie 提交于 周六, 03/04/2021 - 06:06

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Mussorie 提交于 周六, 20/03/2021 - 11:55

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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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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

Hello Mussorie,

You can read about the difference between the present simple and the present perfect on our Present simple and Present perfect pages. If you have any further questions about this, please ask us on one of those pages.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Risa warysha 提交于 周五, 05/03/2021 - 14:47

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Hello the Team, Yesterday,I read a sentence on news "...took a weeks-long voyage by passenger ship." Why does it say " a weeks-long voyage"? I am confused with the word "weeks". Shouldn't it be "week"? It has to be a singular noun, doesn't it? And if it's alright to use "weeks", then what is the difference between " a week-long voyage" and " a weeks-long voyage"? Thanks for answering my questions.

Hello Risa warysha,

The plural form is an error, as you say. The correct form would be 'a two-week long voyage'.

 

I don't know the source of the sentence, but it may be simply a typo, or it may be an error caused by inaccurate language.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Nevı 提交于 周一, 01/03/2021 - 14:26

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Hi teachers, I want to know one more thing about adjectival prepositional phrases. Can we say "a restaurant next to the house" = 'a restaurant is next to the house' If we can, could you please explain why? Thanks a lot!

Misbahuddinktk 提交于 周一, 01/03/2021 - 11:49

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I was reading a grammer book A sentence....He give me a glass of water. And another sentence..He brought a glass of water....the first sentence was adjective phrase while the second one was placed in noun phrase..i couldn't understand why as both sentences seems same to me...

Hello Misbahuddinktk,

I'm afraid we can't explain why grammar books say what they do, and in any case it's not clear to me what words the book identified as an adjective phrase and what words it identified as a noun phrase.

We're happy to try to help you understand the grammar here, but we need to understand what precisely the question is.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

abalHasan 提交于 周日, 14/02/2021 - 10:50

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Hello, I was asked to indicate the function of noun phrases (in inverted commas) either as subject, object, subject complement or object complement. "The high chief" was invited to the ceremony. "The clown" looks very annoying I need answers please.

Hello abalHasan,

The first phrase is a subject of a passive verb and the second one is the subject complement of the link verb 'look'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Yigido 提交于 周一, 14/12/2020 - 14:30

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Hi team, When I was reading English book,I saw this sentence.''Walk on the train tracks at your peril.''I was wondered and I searched.It usually uses without verb, but sometimes with a verb like ''You can use it, but it’s at your own risk.''When can we use without a verb?It is a rule?I haven't known yet.

Hello Yigido,

I'd need to see the full context to be sure, but it sounds as if someone is saying you can do that, but it's not a good idea because it's dangerous. Here, the word 'walk' seems to be an imperative verb.

The imperative is the form used to give commands or make requests and is sometimes used on signs to warn people (as appears to be the case here).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

knownman 提交于 周五, 16/10/2020 - 17:10

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Hi, the Team, There is the below sentence under the title Postmodifiers on this page. The sentence is 'She got the idea that people didn't like her.' In this sentence, wouldn't it be 'it' instead of 'her' Thanks for the answer. Take care.

Hello knownman,

It depends on what you mean. In this case, 'her' probably refers to the subject 'she', but it could refer to some other woman or girl. But you could use 'it' to refer to some object or behaviour, or 'them' to refer to another group of people or objects.

The postmodifier phrase beginning with 'that' doesn't have to refer back to the subject -- it can refer to anything or anyone.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team