Types of Phrases
Allison hoped to play Beethoven’s Fifth for her recital performance.

Types of Phrases

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Standard English has several different types of phrases. Among them are the noun phrase, the prepositional phrase, the absolute phrase, the infinitive phrase and the participial phrase. What is a phrase? A phrase is a group of words that express a single idea. An example of a phrase is: “Six and one have dozen ways or another.”

The idea expressed is that it doesn’t matter which way you do something because in the end, you’ll get the same results.

Noun Phrase: A noun phrase includes a noun and a modifier. The modifier could be an adjective or any one of a number of other phrases.

Examples of noun phrases include: red shirt, angry man and velvet seat. In these three examples, shirt, man and seat are the nouns while red, angry and velvet are adjectives. When you look at the noun and the adjective together, you have a “noun phrase.”

Prepositional Phrase: A prepositional phrase include a preposition, a noun or a pronoun that acts as the object of the preposition. The prepositional phrase tells where and/or when something occurs. An example of a prepositional phrase would be: “He followed the stranger outside of the pool hall.” In this sentence “he” is the pronoun and the “stranger” is the object. The word “outside” is the preposition and then, outside of where? “Outside of the pool hall” which is the prepositional phrase.

Absolute Phrase: An absolute phrase is a group of words that contain a noun or a pronoun and a participle, along with a modifier. Absolute phrases do not connect directly to or modify any specific words contained in the rest of a sentence. Rather, absolute phrases modify the entire sentence by adding additional information. An example of an absolute phrase is: The game nearly finished, the Patriots would emerge as the winner! Here we can see that “the game nearly finished” modifies “the Patriots would emerge as the winner.” It also contains a noun, i.e., the “game” and a participle with a modifier “nearly finished.”

Infinitive Phrase: An infinitive phrase contains the root of a verb, for example: to play or to hide. An example of an infinitive phrase is: “To go to the movies, he had to clean up his room.” “To go” is the root of the verb go and “to go to the movies” is an infinitive phrase.

Participial Phrase: Participial phrases always act as adjectives and include verbs ending in “ing.” An example of a participial phrase is: “The kitchen floor, having been mopped clean, sparkled brightly.” “Having been mopped clean” is the participial phrase since the verb ends in “ing.”

For each sentence below, determine if the underlined portion is a noun phrase, a prepositional phrase, an absolute phrase, an infinitive phrase or a participial phrase.

1.
Amber turned, reaching for the burning candle, and then proceeded down the winding stairway to the cellar.
Noun phrase
Participial phrase
absolute phrase
Infinitive phrase
A phrase that always acts as an adjective and contains a verb ending in “ing” is a participial phrase. In this sentence the underlined portion, “reaching for the burning candle” has the verb ending in “ing.” This tells us that Answer (b) is the correct phrase.
2.
Mr. Tuttle wanted the players to wear their navy uniforms for band practice.
Infinitive phrase
Noun phrase
Participial phrase
Absolute phrase
When a phrase includes a noun and a modifier, the noun and modifier together are known as a “noun phrase.” In this sentence the underlined portion is “navy uniforms.” “Uniforms” is the noun and “navy” is the adjective. Combined they are a noun phrase making Answer (b) the correct phrase.
3.
We wanted to leave for the airport before 8 a.m.
Absolute phrase
Participial phrase
Infinitive phrase
Noun phrase
When a phrase contains the root usage of a verb it is known as an infinitive phrase. In this sentence, the underlined portion “to leave for the airport” contains the root usage of the verb “leave,” i.e., “to leave.” Answer (c) is the correct phrase.
4.
Allison hoped to play Beethoven’s Fifth for her recital performance.
Prepositional phrase
Absolute phrase
Noun phrase
Infinitive phrase
When a phrase contains the root usage of a verb it is known as an infinitive phrase. In this sentence, the underlined portion “to play Beethoven’s Fifth” contains the root usage of the verb “play,” i.e., “to play.” Answer (d) is the correct phrase.
5.
Summer vacations, occurring between June and August, come as a welcome break for both teachers and students.
Participial phrase
Absolute phrase
Infinitive phrase
Prepositional phrase
A phrase that always acts as an adjective and contains a verb ending in “ing” is a participial phrase. In this sentence the underlined portion, “occurring between June and August” as the verb ending in “ing.” This tells us that Answer (a) is the correct phrase.
6.
They were all directed to the ugly cabin in the back.
Noun phrase
Absolute phrase
Prepositional phrase
Infinitive phrase
When a phrase includes a noun and a modifier, the noun and modifier together are known as a “noun phrase.” In this sentence the underlined portion is “ugly cabin.” “Cabin” is the noun and “ugly” is the adjective. Combined they are a noun phrase making Answer (a) the correct phrase.
7.
With unquestioning courage, the soldiers moved into position.
Absolute phrase
Participial phrase
Prepositional phrase
Infinitive phrase
When a phrase is not connected directly to or modifies any specific words contained in the rest of a sentence, it is known as an absolute phrase. An absolute phrase modifies the entire sentence by adding additional information. In this sentence, the portion underlined adds additional information to the main sentence, i.e., “The soldiers moved into position.” “With unquestioning courage” is an absolute phrase showing that Answer (a) is the correct phrase.
8.
She went to the skating arena by the old movie theater.
Absolute phrase
Infinitive phrase
Participial phrase
Prepositional phrase
In this sentence “she” is the pronoun and the “skating arena” is the object. The word “by” is the preposition. A prepositional phrase will tell you either when or where. Here it tells us where: “by the old movie theater.” Answer (d) is the correct phrase.
9.
He had to purchase the concert tickets on the internet.
Absolute phrase
Infinitive phrase
Prepositional phrase
Participial phrase
In this sentence “he” is the pronoun and the “concert tickets” is the object. The word “on” is the preposition. A prepositional phrase will tell you either when or where. Here it tells us where: “on the internet.” Answer (c) is the correct phrase.
10.
The hour nearing midnight, Cinderella had to leave the ball.
Infinitive phrase
Participial phrase
Prepositional phrase
Absolute phrase
When a phrase is not connected directly to or modifies any specific words contained in the rest of a sentence, it is known as an absolute phrase. An absolute phrase modifies the entire sentence by adding additional information. In this sentence, the portion underlined adds additional information to the main sentence, i.e., “Cinderella had to leave the ball.” “The hour nearing midnight” is an absolute phrase showing that Answer (d) is the correct phrase.
Author:  Christine G. Broome

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