Glossary: Head


A grammatical function label which refers to the principal word in a phrase. For example, a noun phrase has a noun as its Head, an adjective phrase has an adjective as its Head, an adverb phrase has an adverb as its Head, and so on.

See phrase.

Identify the adjective phrase Head

Find the Head word (the most pivotal word) of each highlighted phrase

In each example an adjective phrase is marked in square brackets. Identify the Head word of each phrase by clicking on it.

Identify the noun phrase Head

Find the Head word (the most pivotal word) of each highlighted phrase

Identify the Head in each of the following bracketed noun phrases.

Identify the verb phrase Head

Identify the Head in each of the following bracketed verb phrases. Click on the word (or words) that comprise the Head of each verb phrase to select or deselect them.

Remember that the National Curriculum refers to verb phrases as clauses.


Adjective phrases

An adjective phrase is a phrase whose Head word is an adjective. As with other phrases adjective phrases can consist of only one word (the Head) or of more than one word.

Note that the National Curriculum stipulates that phrases should have at least two words, though it concedes in the Glossary entry for noun phrases that "Some grammarians recognise one-word phrases."

Here are some examples of adjective phrases in sentences. The phrases are marked in square brackets and the Head is highlighted.

Adverb phrases

An adverb phrase is a phrase with an adverb as the Head word. The Head adverb can occur alone or with modifiers, i.e. other words which expand the phrase, for example:

Noun phrases

Noun phrases are phrases which have as their Head word a noun or pronoun.

Preposition phrases

A preposition phrase has a preposition as its Head word, usually followed by a noun phrase. Here are some examples of preposition phrases, showing a preposition + noun phrase sequence:

  • in + boxes
  • in + the boxes
  • in + the big boxes under the table

The noun phrase can be a single word or a string of words, as the examples show.

Here are some examples of prepositional phrases in sentences:

Verb phrases

The National Curriculum does not recognise verb phrases as such. Instead, the notion of clause is defined as "a special type of phrase whose head is a verb".

Here at Englicious we use the term 'verb phrase' in a slightly different way. For us verb phrases are phrases whose Head word is a verb, called the main verb (sometimes also called a lexical verb).

A verb phrase includes a single main verb, either:


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