Noun phrase competition

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.

Students will work in teams of three to four people, and will be given a set of words from different word classes to create noun phrases. Words from different classes will score different numbers of points (explained in more detail below).

You will need:

  • copies of the two-page NP competition word-list document (attached at the bottom of this page)
  • scissors to cut the word-list pages into separate words
  • desk space to spread out your noun phrases

There are two versions of the competition document:

  • An introductory version: each word is colour-coded for word class and has a score mark.
  • An advanced version, with no colour coding or score marks: to calculate the scores, you will need to work out the word classes yourself.

Each noun phrase scores points for (a) each word it contains, according to its word class (as in the table below), and (b) additional points for the total number of words in the phrase.

word class points
noun 5
adjective 1
adverb 2
relative pronoun 5
verb 3
determiner 2
preposition 2
no. of words 1 per word

So, for example, if you came up with a difficult question, you would score 2+1+5 = 8 points for the words (determiner+adjective+noun), plus another 3 points for the number of words, totalling 11 points.

However, if you came up with the interactions within the process, which included questions of power (!) you would score:

  • 2+5+2+2+5+5+3+5+2+5 = 36 points for the words
  • plus another 10 points for the number of words
  • giving a total of 46 points.

So it is worth trying to make as many long noun phrases as possible!


  1. The class divides into teams of three or four people each.
  2. Each team receives a copy of the same word-list document.
  3. Team members cut the lists into separate words.
  4. Against a time limit set by the teacher, each team assembles some noun phrases, aiming for as high a score as possible.
  5. When the time is up, teams count up their scores.
  6. Each team should check the score of another team to ensure fairness!
  7. The team with the most points is the winner.

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