What is a Noun Phrase? – Noun Phrases Function, Uses and Examples

Table of contents

  • What is a Noun Phrase?
  • Examples of the noun phrase
  • Noun phrase functions and use
  • Noun phrase as a subject
  • Noun phrase as a direct object
  • Noun phrase as a indirect object
  • Noun phrase as a complement
  • Noun phrase as an object of the preposition
Noun Phrases

What is a Noun Phrase?

There is no doubt that the noun is one of the parts of speech in English grammar. The part of speech is the classes in which words are placed based on their function in sentences. The noun is one of the essential parts of speech that is used as an identifier, such as the name of a person, places, animals and things e.g. Lynda, Lion, Lagos, Lamp etc. the noun phrase is also an essential part of the noun phrase.

Noun phrase does the work of a noun in a sentence, and a phrase is a group of words that forms part of a sentence that can’t stand on its own. The phrase is without a finite verb and does not have a subject-verb division. Nouns are simply known as the naming parts of sentences and function as the main word in a noun phrase.

 In the noun phrase (which can be shortened to NP), the noun or pronoun is the main word or head word as in: a woman, the trumpet, the first with black eyes. Always have it in mind that nun phrases do not have verbs. Look at the noun phrases in these sentences that are written in bold below:

  • The sad dog is barking.
  • The house on the creek.
  • I love planting vegetables.
  • She enjoyed reading the novel.
  • The sheep is bleating.
  • Aunt Mary’s puppy got lost yesterday.
  • There were 100 people at the birthday party.
  • The secret house that is haunted.
  • My friends are Americans.

Most times, the noun phrases make use of determiners/ modifiers and/or complement. A determiner is a word that is used before an adjective that describes a noun in a noun phrase. It can even perform the functions of adjectives or pronouns in a noun phrase such as: the, a, he, her, his, that/those, this/these, each, both, every, all, any, plenty, few, half, many, same, several, some, whole, such, numerals (one, first), another, my, mine, our/ours, little, Lynda’s e.g. a car, the big tree, his new house, her handbag, etc. They usually occur along with modifiers in a noun phrase.

A modifier is a group of words that gives us information on another word in a noun phrase. Modifiers can be adjectives, adverbs, or even phrases. The modifiers add more information to the head word in a noun phrase.

These can be noun modifiers (the brilliant by, the fat woman), adjective modifiers (he is very happy, this is quite unfortunate), verb modifiers (the girl ate quickly, the student spoke freely), adverb modifiers (the robbery was carried out extremely quietly, the man left just now) in a noun phrase.

Noun phrases with pre-modifiers: in a noun phrase, you will find the pre-modifier before the noun or pronoun in a sentence. They can be nouns, adjectives or even a participle e.g. large house, a small town etc.

Noun phrase with post modifier: you can locate post modifiers after the modified words, such as a relative pronoun or a preposition and sometimes adjective.

Noun Phrases Function and Uses:

 It should be noted that most sentences contain a noun phrase. The classes and structure of noun phrase is reflected in the different function it performs as follows;

Noun phrase as the subject

The subject is what is being talked about in a sentence. A noun phrase functions as the subject, that is, the most important thing being discussed in the sentence.

1.   The woman left a few minutes ago.
2.   The fountain of water has dried up.
3.   The old man is dead.
4.   The pretty young girl won the miss universe beauty contest.

Noun phrase as the direct object

The object is the recipient in a sentence. In a noun phrase, the object can either be the direct or indirect object. The direct object appears immediately after the verb in a sentence.

1. He slapped that beautiful girl.
2. Jordan has broken the plate.
3. The lecturer taught the students before giving them a test.

Noun phrase as indirect object

The indirect object is between the direct object and the verb in a sentence.

1. She brought the woman some food.
2. He gave the orphans expensive presents.
3. Katie gave the hungry girl sweet vanilla chocolate.

Noun phrase as a complement

The complement links a verb in a sentence which adds more information. Linking verbs acts as the connector of the subject to the other parts of the sentence. Examples of linking verbs are: was, been, are, look, feel, turn, become, is, seem, were, will have been and so many more can be used in a noun phrase.

1. I am a lecturer.
2. The woman is a legal practitioner.

Noun phrase as an object of the preposition

This is when the headword connects with a preposition in a sentence, that is, the noun comes before the preposition.

1. The lecturer was proud of your outstanding performance.
2. The king spoke with a ray of hope.
3. The author gave the book to my niece.

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