Phrase: Definition & Types


In the English Language, a phrase is simply a union of two or more than two words that also functions as a noun, that does not have any finite verb or a subject.

It does not contain any clause elements like subject, verb, and object of a preposition and a noun, pronoun, verb, or adverb.

What is a Phrase?

Phrases can act as a part of speech as the words of a phrase act together as a single grammatical unit to function in a sentence, but it does not stand alone as a sentence.

The length of the phrase can be at least two words. It combines to make some clauses and sentences.

Types of Phrases:

Generally, there are eight types of phrases,

  1. Noun Phrase
  2. Verb Phrase
  3. Prepositional Phrase
  4. Gerund Phrase
  5. Infinitive Phrase
  6. Participle Phrase
  7. Appositive Phrase and
  8. Absolute Phrase.

Out of which there are three types of Verbal Phrases:

  1. Gerund Phrase
  2. Infinitive Phrase and
  3. Participle Phrase.

Noun Phrase:

A phrase is called a noun phrase where it consists of a noun (head noun) or a pronoun along with its modifiers.

Nouns like people, places, things, animals, or ideas come in a sentence with a single modifier or more modifiers.

We can understand by the help of examples,

  • The teacher is coming to the classroom.
    • Here, “the teacher” and “to the classroom” are noun phrases, where “the” and “to the” are modifiers, and “teacher” and “classroom” are head nouns respectively.
  • This was a movie as old as time.
  • Her husband is a public servant.
  • Split some water on the flowerpots.
  • I always wanted to buy a car.

Verb Phrase:

A verb phrase is a combination of verbs (main verb and helping verbs) that may be in numbers that are together working in a sentence.

It also contains its modifiers and adverbs, which are used to change the meaning of the verb phrase.


  • Was running behind.
  • Has caught.
  • Had gone.
  • Will have forgotten.
Examples of verb phrases with the sentence:
  • We had not played any games since yesterday.

Here, “had not played” is a verb phrase where “had” is a modifier and “played” is the main verb.

  • The car is blowing away very far away in the tornado. 
  • She has left her puppy on the road.
  • The cloth will have been flying high in the sky. 
  • I have been coming to your wedding anniversary.

Prepositional Phrase:

The prepositional phrase is a combination of words that contain words like a preposition; the rest part called the object of a sentence includes a noun or a pronoun.

This phrase begins with a prepositional word, and the word can also perform functions like a noun, adjective, or adverb respectively.

An adjective can also be used in between the preposition and the object in prepositional phrases and then it modifies a noun or a pronoun of a sentence.


  • The computer is placed on the table.
    • Here, “on the table” is a prepositional phrase that starts with a prepositional word “on”, and rest is the object of a sentence.
  • We are about to reach our destination.
  • The man is running against the train.
  • The train was left before its time
  • He is swimming below the surface.

Gerund Phrase:

The gerund phrase is a type of verbal phrase or a noun phrase that begins with a gerund (functions as a noun).

It contains a gerund, modifiers, and the object of a sentence.

Simply, we can say that a gerund is a verbal word that ends with -ing (the present participle), and acts as a subject, object, a noun, or a complement too in a sentence.


  • Crawling down the stairs is dangerous.
    • Here, “Crawling down the stairs” is a gerund phrase where, “crawling” is a gerund that functions as a noun, and “down the stairs” is an object.
  • Shining of the sun is like a pearl up from the ocean.
  • Falling from the bicycle makes him injured.
  • Unboxing the gift wrapper quickly without damaging it is also an art.
  • Playing cards on the train is a real fun while travelling.

Infinitive Phrase:

An infinitive phrase is a phrase of the noun which starts with an infinitive verb and also consist


An infinitive phrase is a type of verbal phrase.


  • To crawl in the whole room.
    • Here, “to crawl” is an infinitive verb in an infinitive phrase and rest is a modifier or an object.
  • To work in the middle of something.
  • To donate some charity is a good thing. (subject)
  • They have decided to go for a long drive at night. (direct object)
  • She took leave to complete her assignments at home.

Participle Phrase:

A participle phrase is a type of verbal phrase that begins with a verb and that verb is either in past participle form or in a present participle form along with a modifier.


  • Traveling on the bus.
  • Something is fishy.
  • Stood on a chair.
Examples of Participle phrases with the sentence:
  • Washed nicely, the entire room is shining.
    • Here, “washed nicely” is a participle phrase where washed is a participle in past participle form and nicely is a modifier.
  • The frog, hidden over all summer, finally came up in the rainy season.
  • We keep moving forward till we reach our destination.
  • Around a couple of minutes, the police chasing the thief were out of sight from the highway.
  • The coach is coaching continuously the same move to their students.

Appositive Phrase:

An Appositive phrase is a better option to provide any additional data in any sentence.

It is a phrase that changes the name of a noun or a pronoun and defines it in another way.

This phrase contains one or more than one word in it.


  • My favorite bike, Harley Davidson, has an awesome sound.
    • Here, “my favorite bike” is an Appositive phrase that gives additive details of the bike of the speaker/subject.
  • He owned a supercar car, an Austin Martin, which is very costly.
  • Our major project, a renewable energy resource machine, has successfully registered.
  • My girlfriend, the soulmate of my life, is going to be my wife very soon.
  • His grandfather, Sir Don Bradman, is a well-known industrialist in Asia.

Absolute Phrase:

An absolute phrase is a phrase where the subject is present, but there is an absence of the verb, and hence this phrase is not stand alone.

An absolute phrase contains a subject and a modifier (most probably a participle), but the absence of a verb in it.

An absolute phrase is very difficult to recognize from any sentence.

Sometimes, it requires adding conjunction and rebuilding the participle to the finite verb.


  • The bike slipped down, most of the people frightened away.
    • Here, “the bike slipping down” is an absolute phrase.
  • The race finished, my friend came first.
  • Let us enjoy the movie. The movie started finally.
  • Each student, their faces relieved, and looking happy, enjoyed after the exams.
  • The book inside the bag, he reached in the library.