Phrases in a Sentence

Phrases in a Sentence

Phrases form combinations of words used in an oral and written language to communicate more effectively and deliver certain messages better. The following article provides information on phrases and their usage in a sentence. Moreover, it explains what types of phrases exist and how they work in the English language.

Meaning of Phrases

Phrases can be characterized as a specific group of words, which perform the function of a part of speech. However, they cannot be used separately as a sentence, as they have neither subject, not a predicate. Nevertheless, the combination of words in a phrase can function as a single part of speech. For example, phrases can represent a noun, adjective, adverb, etc.


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The following combinations of words can be characterized as phrases:

  • On the table;
  • Above the ground;
  • Under the chair.

As it was mentioned above, these phrases carry some meaning but cannot serve as a separate sentence. They can form a complete sentence only in combination with other parts of speech. For example: The vase is on the table. The cat is under the chair. The ball flew above the ground.

Properties of Phrases

The properties of phrases include the following:

  • Phrases are formed by a combination of words.
  • Finite verbs are never parts of the phrases;
  • Phrases may include non-finite verbs (gerunds, infinitive, etc).
  • Separately used phrases are deprived of meaning.
  • In order to form a grammatically correct sentence, the phrases should be used with other parts of speech.

Types of Phrases

Type of phrases include:

  • Noun phrases
  • Such phrases are made of a noun and additional words/modifiers. They include appositive, infinite and gerund phrases.

  • Verb phrases
  • They can be either limited to a single verb or verb group or act as a predicate.

  • Adjectival phrases
  • There is a discussion regarding what kind of phrases can be called adjectival. One group of people supports the position that any phrases containing adjectives can be adjectival. At the same time, the other group claims that every phrase regardless of words that constitute it can be called adjectival if it performs the role of the adjective in a sentence.

  • Adverbial phrases
  • The situation with adverbial phrases is similar to the case with adjectival ones. While one group of people states that adverbial phrase is a phrase that performs the function of an adverb in a sentence, the other group of individuals argues that adverbial phrase is formed by a group of adverbs.

  • Prepositional phrases
  • This type of phrases can function in a sentence as, for example, a noun or an adverb. They usually start with a preposition.

  • Participial phrases
  • These phrases are composed of participle (either present or past) and a supportive modifier.

  • Absolute phrases
  • They perform the function of collapsed sentences and can influence the meaning of a text.

Phrases form an extremely important part of any sentence and have to be paid close attention to. The wrong usage of phrases can even change the meaning of a sentence.

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