August 2

Building Blocks of English IV: Phrases

The main distinguishing feature of phrases is that they lack a subject-verb combination.  They can certainly contain nouns and/or verb forms, but they are not joined as they are in a clause.

Phrases can be used as nouns, adjectives and adverbs.

A prepositional phrase contains a preposition.  In the morning is a prepositional phrase.

A gerund phrase uses a verb as a noun (which is called a gerund).  Walking alone is a gerund phrase.

An infinitive phrase uses the infinitive form of a verb.  To go downtown is an infinitive phrase.

Depending upon how you use these different phrases, they can become nouns, adjectives or adverbs.

He exercises everyday in the morning–an adverb usage.

In the morning is the best time to exercise–noun usage (although leaving the in off this is better English–this is just an example!).

Coffee in the morning is a real waker-upper–adjective usage.

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Posted August 2, 2007 by Gary McCarty in category "Grammar Sucks


  1. By Rex on

    Can you say ‘Two coffees, please’ when you order at the coffee shop ? I usually say ‘Two coffee, please’ when I order two cups of coffee. Thanks.

  2. By grammarblogger on

    I would say “two coffees” since “two” requires a plural noun.


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