Topic: Phrase

These resources look at how words group together into regular units called phrases. Each type of phrase is organised around a particular type of Head word; for example, the Head of a noun phrase is a noun.

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:

Ambiguity and headlines

Newspaper headlines often compress sequences of actions into very compact structures. Sometimes the meaning becomes ambiguous as a result.

Ambiguity and headlines: Activity

Police chase driver in hospital

Violinist linked to Japan Airlines crash blossoms

BT ducks break-up with price cuts

Reagan wins on budget, but more lies ahead

Juvenile court to try shooting defendant

Aspect and tense

Look at the highlighted verb phrase in each example, then decide which combination of tense and aspect is used.

Building verb phrases

In this resource we’ll look at how verb phrases can be built up by putting auxiliary verbs and main verbs together.

Building verb phrases: Activity

In this activity, use the interactive whiteboard to build verb phrases. Can you use all the words and make every verb phrase grammatical?

Encourage your students to explore the meaning of the verb phrases they construct: how does the use of modal verbs affect the meaning of the main verb, for example? What about the tense?

Drag words next to each other and they will 'snap' together. Double-click to 'unsnap'.

Clauses

Clauses are considered to be very important units in the study of language. But what is a clause? What makes it different from a word, a phrase, or a sentence? Why are clauses so important?

A clause is a powerful structure because it can express a whole situation. Here’s an example:

Determiners

Determiners form a class of words that occur in the left-most position inside noun phrases. They thus precede nouns, as well as any adjectives that may be present.

The most common determiners are the and a/an (these are also called the definite aticle and indefinite article).

Here are some more determiners:

Determiners: Advanced

The following is taken from Bas Aarts's Grammarianism blog.

In a recent blog post on terminology I mentioned the word class of determiners, and said that they are a relatively new word class.

By 'relatively new' I mean 'early twentieth century'. The National Curriculum Glossary definition, determiner, is very brief, here I'll expand on it.

English Grammar for Teachers

This short 3 minute film, produced by UCL Life Learning, introduces the English Grammar for Teachers course for school teachers.

For more information about the course and to book a place, go to the English Grammar for Teachers page on the UCL Life Learning website.

Expanded noun phrase competition

Creating longer (expanded) noun phrases

Noun phrases can be of any length, from one word to very many words. This activity is a team competition where students' goal is to score as many points as they can by creating longer and longer noun phrases. As they do this, they will implicitly rely on their knowledge of grammar, and they will begin to see a range of different ways to expand noun phrases.

Form and function: Activity 1

Analysing the way that form and function are related

In the exercise you'll be asked to identify the function and the form of the highlighted words.

Identify the grammatical function

Identify the grammatical function of the highlighted words in the following sentences.

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 type of phrase

Identify the type of phrase (noun phrase, preposition phrase, etc.) in each of the examples. Although we have included verb phrases as an option, remember that the National Curriculum calls these clauses.

 

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.

 

Noun phrase generator

Try this noun phrase generator in class. Your students will enjoy creating weird and funny noun phrases using the interactive whiteboard.

Goals

  • Create some new noun phrases.
  • Examine what can and can't happen in noun phrases.
  • Evaluate example noun phrases, looking at why they do or don't work.

Lesson Plan

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

Noun phrase generator: Activity

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

Noun phrases

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

Passives with 'get'

Goals

  • Identify the difference between a get-passive and a standard passive.
  • Describe some of the differences between get-passives and standard passives in terms of grammar, semantics, and pragmatics.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will look at passives.

First, let's briefly review our understanding of actives, and of passives and get-passives. 

Passives with 'get': Activity

Uncle Ahmed was bitten by the snake.
Uncle Ahmed got bitten by the snake.

A large house was demolished on Westmoreland Hill.
A large house got demolished on Westmoreland Hill.

These temples were abandoned in medieval times.
These temples got abandoned in medieval times.

Perfect or progressive aspect?

Decide whether the highlighted verb phrase is perfect aspect or progressive aspect?

Phrasal verbs

What is a phrasal verb? Phrasal verbs consist of a combination of a verb and another word, which we’ll call a preposition. Some examples are come over, look (something) up. The first word in a verb-preposition combination can be just about any verb. The verbs that most commonly appear in such combinations are listed below:

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