Noun Phrase

A noun phrase is a group of words made up of a noun and words to describe that noun. Below, we’ll learn more about noun phrases, explore noun phrase examples, look at expanded noun phrases, and discuss how to teach children about them and why we use them.

What is a noun phrase?

A noun phrase is a small group of words containing a noun and modifying words for that noun. The term acts like the subject or object of the sentence.

As a reminder, a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. Therefore, the noun phrase will contain a noun and words that describe or modify the noun.

Simple modifiers, like a number or an article, turn the group of words into a noun phrase.

What is a phrase?

Before getting deeper into noun phrases, we must understand what an expression is, so here’s a quick refresher.

phrase is a group of words that form a part of a sentence. For example: “in the night” or “within the bustling crowd.”

You can add to phrases to create a complete sentence, but a phrase alone doesn’t constitute a sentence.

There are several common phrases used in the English language. They include verb phrases, adjective phrases, prepositional phrases, absolute phrases, adverb phrases, and noun phrases.

We’ll focus on the last type of phrase in the text below. Keep reading to find out more about noun phrases, including noun phrase examples!

Noun Phrase Examples

Examples of simple noun phrases include:

  • the house
  • my gray dog
  • the teacher
  • the clever child

You might have noticed that these aren’t complete sentences. Instead, noun phrases are part of longer sentences, such as:

  • The house was brand-new.
  • I love my gray dog.
  • The teacher cheered on the clever child.

Each sentence includes a noun and words that modify them. Sentences can also have more than one noun phrase, and noun phrases can even be embedded in other noun phrases.

You might also extend the noun phrase. It is prevalent, and children might not even realize that they use this daily. More on this is below.

What are expanded noun phrases?

You may occasionally hear the term expanded noun phrase. An expanded noun phrase tells you more about the noun found in a simple noun phrase.

To spot an expanded noun phrase, look for the following:

  • an article
  • an adjective or adjectives
  • a noun

Let’s explore how to turn a simple noun phrase into an expanded noun phrase using the following example:

I swam in the sea.

In the sentence above, the noun phrase is “the sea.” To turn it into an expanded noun phrase, we can include an adjective to modify the noun “sea.” For example:

I swam in the salty sea.

Now we have an expanded noun phrase, “the salty sea.” The article is “the,” the adjective is “salty,” and the noun is “sea.”

You can also put the expansion after the noun. In addition to adjectives, you can add other pieces of information that are still part of the noun phrase. For example:

The haunted house with big, broken windows was terrifying.

In the example above, the adjective “haunted” describes the house, and the expansion “with big, broken windows” modifies the noun “house.” Therefore, both are included in the expanded noun phrase.

Using Adjectives, Participles, and More to Modify the Noun

We’ve looked at how to extend a noun phrase. Now, look at the example sentences below and consider which part of the sentence is the noun phrase.

That new pink bike is mine.

“that new pink bike” is the noun phrase in this sentence. “Bike” is the noun, and the other words describe the bike.

The bakery on the corner sells lots of pastries.

In this sentence, there are two noun phrases. The first is “the bakery on the corner.” The “bakery” is the main noun in this phrase, and “on the corner”  describes the bakery.

The following noun phrase is “lots of pastries.” The noun of the phrase is “pastries,” and “lots of” describes the noun.

The silly dog that keeps chasing his tail belongs to my friend.

In this sentence, the adjective clause “that keeps chasing his tail” is the noun phrase modifier for “the silly dog.” The modifier follows the noun in this example. Together they make the noun phrase.

The brave man ventured through the dark and cold forest.

The noun phrases in this sentence are “the brave man” and “the dark and cold forest.” The adjectives “dark and cold” describe the noun “forest,” and “brave” describes the “man.”

The kind girl put seeds outside for the birds visiting the backyard.

In this sentence, the adjective “kind” describes the “girl,” and the participle “visiting the backyard” modifies the noun “birds.”

Why is it important to learn about expanded noun phrases?

Learning about expanded noun phrases opens up creative possibilities in children’s writing. Adding extra information to nouns makes writing more attractive and paints vivid pictures in the reader’s mind.

Expanded noun phrases draw on and encourage imagination, placing the reader and writer in the scene. It is a valuable skill that will benefit children throughout their lives. Whether they’re writing essays, stories, or job applications, they’re more likely to make a lasting impression if they capture their reader’s imagination.

Noun Phrase Functions and the Pronoun Test

As mentioned previously, the function of a noun phrase is much like that of a noun. The noun phrase acts as a complement, a subject, or an object in a sentence.

Grammar Reminder:

complement describes the subject or object of a sentence.

The subject of a sentence is the noun (person, place, thing, or idea) that is doing something or being something in the sentence.

The object of a sentence is the noun on the receiving end of the verb.

Since the noun phrase acts as a noun, one way to quickly test if it is indeed a noun phrase is to replace it with a pronoun.

A pronoun is a word that can be used in place of a noun. Let’s look at a few examples of noun phrases being turned into pronouns:

Noun Phrase Noun Phrase Replaced with Pronoun
The dog was hungry. He was hungry.

The sentence’s simple noun phrase or subject is “the dog.” The noun phrase can be replaced with the pronoun “he.”

Let’s look at another example:

Noun Phrase Noun Phrase Replaced with Pronoun
The haunted house with big broken windows was terrifying. It was terrifying.

The noun phrase in this sentence is “the haunted house with big, broken windows.” Therefore, we replace the noun phrase with the pronoun “it.”

Here’s yet another example:

Noun Phrase Noun Phrase Replaced with Pronoun
I ate the delicious chocolate cake. I ate it.

The object of the sentence, and therefore the noun phrase, is “the delicious chocolate cake.” Replace the word with a pronoun, and we get the following sentence: “I ate it.”

Finally, let’s look at a sentence with two noun phrases turned into pronouns.

Noun Phrase Noun Phrase Replaced with Pronoun
The tall girl is a good dancer. She is one.

“The tall girl” is the subject, and “a good dancer” is the subject complement. Both are noun phrases. If we replace the words with pronouns, the new sentence reads: “She is one.

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