Noun phrase generator

Students can generate noun phrases using a quick and easy smartboard tool.

Goals

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will be generating noun phrases. 

On the first slide in the activity page, a noun phrase generator appears. There are four columns with different kinds of elements that can form part of a noun phrase. Click on a coloured column and drag up or down to explore what the generator can produce. Read across a line to see each noun phrase. Some combinations work better than others! Some don’t really work at all. Explore the generator and discuss why some combinations work and others don’t. Can you think of ways to fix the ones that don’t work.

The second slide presents a noun phrase generator that also allows you to switch the order of the words. You can do this by clicking in a column and dragging to left or right (or by clicking on the arrows at the tops of the columns). This means that you can try reordering the elements of the noun phrase in different ways. What do you notice? To test more carefully, you could start with some noun phrases that make sense in the original order (likethe noisy boy who is chasing the ducks), and then see what happens when you reorder.

Discussion Points

You will no doubt have noticed that some combinations are quite odd in terms of meaning:

It’s rather hard to picture athletes being mouldy, or being on a plate for that matter! However, you can probably use your imagination and create a strange mental image of some kind – perhaps some very tiny athletes wearing mouldy old clothes and running around on a plate.

We can compare that example with some mouldy cheese on your plate. This is a much more likely combination, as cheese is the kind of thing that can get mouldy and that is likely to be found on a plate. The difference between the two examples is a matter of meaning and what we know is likely to occur.

What about examples like the following?

Here the problems are more to do with a mismatch between determiner and noun (this monkeys, these coin). How could we fix these examples?

If we swap the determiners around, the examples are fine:

Or we could instead swap the noun ending -s around:

The problems with this monkeys and these coin are to do with singular and plural forms of nouns:

So these problems are more grammatical. They do involve an aspect of meaning (one person or thing versus more than one), but it’s a very general type of meaning that affects frequent grammatical patterns.

You can see that it’s very general by testing out many different nouns:

You might have noticed that we can have this furniture, even though we usually picture more than one thing if we think of furniture. Is this an exception to the pattern we found?

No, it’s not an exception to the grammatical pattern, because furniture is a singular form in grammatical terms. But furniture is a special kind of noun, called a non-count noun. It can’t be counted and it can’t take a plural form. We wouldn’t say one furniture, two furnitures, or three furnitures.

We can say some furniture. With ordinary count nouns, we would have to have a plural form after some, e.g. some monkeys (not *some monkey).

Can you find other examples of count nouns and non-count nouns in the slot machine examples? Try out the patterns.

You might notice that some nouns are quite flexible and can be either count or non-count nouns depending on the way they are used. An example is cake: compare I ate some cake (non-count) and I ate a cake (count).

What about the patterns of nouns and clauses that follow them?

The first example sounds right, but the second one sounds wrong. Why? How can we fix it?

This is again to do with singular and plural noun forms, but this time it involves how they fit together with the verb.

You may have found examples on Slide 2 like the following:

These sound quite jumbled. This shows that the ordering of these elements in the noun phrase is quite strict. It is hard to find any changed orders that work.

There is an occasional example where a reordering makes sense, almost by accident:

In the second example, the adjective new has been moved to the end and it happens to fit in quite well. But notice that this structure is different (the adjective now belongs inside the clause that is modifying the noun) and there is a difference in meaning. Are these pyjamas new? We don’t know. Maya bought them when they were new, but they might be old by now.

What about this example? Can you make sense of it?

Adding some punctuation would help:

This might be said in casual conversation as a shortened version of He’s noisy, that boy who is chasing the ducks! But the structure has changed now – noisy is not part of the noun phrase.

You might like to try finding some more examples of different structures that make sense. Here are a few more examples to give you ideas:

Some examples might work as unusual structures within poems. Experiment and see!

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Noun phrase generator: Activity

Use the interactive whiteboard to generate weird and wonderful noun phrases. 

the
a
an
this
these
several
some
that
those
many
each
a
an
this
those
the
some
every
the
a
unusual
green
little
angry
ancient
noisy
poisonous
friendly
delicious
cheerful
shiny
useful
new
young
smart
mouldy
special
hilarious
trendy
heavy
tourists
necklace
cheese
monkeys
coat
spider
furniture
hats
boy
cake
paper
rubbish
coin
athletes
comedian
shoe
bus
elephants
pyjamas
t-shirt
that bites people
in the garden
who were eating icecream
with beady eyes
in the attic
that I saw
on your plate
in the cupboard
who is chasing the ducks
under the table
that Maya bought
that you ignored
on the desk
with long legs
in the classroom
that I caught
who laughed at me
in the carpark
that you dropped
with curly hair

the
a
an
this
these
several
some
that
those
many
each
a
an
this
those
the
some
every
the
a
unusual
green
little
angry
ancient
noisy
poisonous
friendly
delicious
cheerful
shiny
useful
new
young
smart
mouldy
special
hilarious
trendy
heavy
tourists
necklace
cheese
monkeys
coat
spider
furniture
hats
boy
cake
paper
rubbish
coin
athletes
comedian
shoe
bus
elephants
pyjamas
t-shirt
that bites people
in the garden
who were eating icecream
with beady eyes
in the attic
that I saw
on your plate
in the cupboard
who is chasing the ducks
under the table
that Maya bought
that you ignored
on the desk
with long legs
in the classroom
that I caught
who laughed at me
in the carpark
that you dropped
with curly hair

Full Preview

This is a full preview of this page. You can view one page a day like this without registering. But if you wish to use it in your classroom, please register your details on Englicious (for free) and then log in!