Phrase: Definition, Types & Examples

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Phrase: Definition, Types & Examples

What is Phrase?

Phrases and clauses are the most important elements of English grammar. Phrase and clause cover everything a sentence has. Clauses are the center of sentences and phrases strengthen the sentences to become meaningful. If the clauses are the pillars of a building, the phrases are the bricks. A phrase usually is always present within a clause, but a phrase cannot have a clause in it. 

The basic difference between a clause and a phrase is that a clause must have a finite verb and a phrase must not.

A phrase, therefore, is a group of words which has no finite verb in it and acts to complete the sentence for making it meaningful.

“A phrase is a small group of words that form a meaningful unit within a clause.” -Oxford Dictionary
“In linguistic analysis, a phrase is a group of words (or possibly a single word) that functions as a constituent in the syntax of a sentence, a single unit within the grammatical hierarchy.” - Osborne, Timothy, Michael Putnam, and Thomas Gross (2011)

Phrase Examples


Types of Phrases

The phrases are generally of several types.

Noun Phrase

It is usually assembled centering a single noun and works as a subject, an object or a complement in the sentence.


  • I like to swing the bat hard when I am at the crease. (An object)
  • Reading novels is a good habit. (A subject)
  • The probability of happening that match is not much. (A subject)
  • We are sorry for her departure.

Adjective Phrase

It is comprised of an adjective and works as a single adjective in the sentence.


  • Alex is a well-behaved man.
  • He is a man of friendly nature.
  • Julie is a woman of gorgeous style.
  • She leads a very interesting life.
  • A lot of people do not sleep at night.

Adverbial Phrase

It modifies the verb or the adjective and works as an adverb in the sentence.


  • The horse runs at a good speed.
  • I was in a hurry then.
  • I ran as fast as possible.
  • He works very slowly.

Prepositional Phrase

It always begins with a preposition and connects nouns.


  • He sacrificed his life for the sake of his country.
  • In the end, we all have to die.
  • He is on the way.
  • By working aimlessly, you will not get success.
  • In spite of working hard, he was insulted by his boss.

Note: Prepositional phrases include all other types of phrases.

Conjunctional Phrase

A conjunctional phrase works as a conjunction in the sentence.


  • As soon as you got in, he went out.
  • We have to work hard so that we can win the next match.
  • I will attend the ceremony provided that you come.
  • John started working early in order that he could finish early.

Interjectional Phrase

Interjections that have more than one word are called interjectional phrases.


  • What a pity! He is dead.
  • What a pleasure! I won the first prize.
  • Oh please! Don’t say that again. 

Absolute Phrase 

The phrases containing Noun or Pronoun accompanied by a participle and necessary modifiers if any are stated as Absolute Phrases. They modify indefinite classes and are also called Nominative Phrases.


  • Weather permitting, I will join the party.
  • God willing, he’ll pass the test this time.
  • The hot Summer sun having set, we left for the movie

Appositive Phrase 

An appositive is a Noun or Pronoun often accompanied by modifiers that sit beside another Noun or Pronoun to describe it. An Appositive Phrase is a set of words containing an Appositive and it follows or precedes the Noun or Pronoun it identifies or explains.


  • My school friend, Brooks always bunked classes.
  • His colleague, Mr. Robinson likes his tea.
  • Jeremy, the police officer on duty, wrote the speeding ticket. 

Participle Phrase 

It is made of a participle, its modifier(s) and/or the objects that complete the sense of the sentence.


  • Walking fast, I keep looking left and right.
  • Climbing the stairs, she waved at us.
  • I looked back, starting the engine

Gerund Phrase 

These contain a Gerund, its modifier(s) and the other necessary elements. They function as Nouns just like Gerunds themselves and that means they can be Subjects and Objects of the sentences.


  • Eating plenty of grapes in one sitting is a bad idea.
  • Doing the dishes gives me cold allergies.
  • I hate hurrying right before the deadline

Infinitive Phrase 

These are comprised of infinitive verbs (To + base verb)along with their modifiers and/or complements.


  • We love to cook together.
  • He likes to solve math problems too much.
  • Rina walks fast to be there on time.


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