Phrase: Definition, Types & Examples

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Phrase: Definition, Types & Examples

Phrase and clause 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 agrammatical hierarchy.” - Osborne, Timothy, Michael Putnam, and Thomas Gross (2011)

Types of Phrases

The phrases are generally of six types.

Noun Phrase

noun phrase 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

An adjective phrase 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

An adverbial phrase 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

A prepositional phrase 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 words are called the interjectional phrases.


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


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