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.

Perfect or progressive aspect?

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

Y6 GPaS Test: Identify the preposition phrase

Find the preposition phrase in a range of examples

Identify the preposition phrase in each of the following examples. Click on the words that comprise the phrase to select or deselect them.

Y6 GPaS Test: Modal verbs, adverbs, and uncertainty

Read each of the following examples carefully. Which kind of word indicates uncertainty? An adverb or a modal verb?

Y6 GPaS Test: Preposition phrases, adverb phrases, and time

In each of the following examples, indicate whether time is expressed using a preposition phrase or an adverb phrase:

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:


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 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:

Noun phrases

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

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:

Phrasal verbs: New phrasal verbs

There are many phrasal verbs that you won’t find in any dictionary. This is because we commonly create new phrasal verbs based on the meanings of existing phrasal verbs. Usually, new phrasal verbs are either transparent or aspectual – new idiomatic phrasal verbs would usually be too difficult for listeners to decode. Perhaps you’ve heard examples like the following:

Phrasal verbs: Three categories

Non-native speakers are often told that their only option is to memorise each phrasal verb individually. Is it really necessary to do all that work? No. Not only is it unnecessary, it’s inefficient. And it’s inefficient for three reasons:


phrase consists of one or more words that belong together. It takes one of the major word class elements (noun, adjective, etc.) as its Head.

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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