Noun Phrase

Noun Phrase

 Noun Phrases 

What is a noun phrase? 

 noun phrase is either a single noun or pronoun or a group of words containing a noun or a pronoun that function together as a noun or pronoun, as the subject or object of a verb.

A noun phrase is a phrase that has a noun as its head.


 In linguistics, the head is the word that determines the syntactic type of the phrase of which it is a member, or analogously the stem that determines the semantic category of a compound of which it is a component. The other elements modify the head.


John was late.

('John' is the noun phrase functioning as the subject of the verb.)

The people that I saw coming in the building at nine o'clock have just left.

('The people ... nine o'clock' is a lengthy noun phrase, but it functions as the subject of the main verb 'have just left'.)

 Two simple "rules" govern the use of the noun group in English 

 1.The essential parts of a noun group 

Unless a noun is used in a generalising sense, a noun group consists or at least the following elements: 

a determiner

・an article (the, a, an, some, any)
・a quantifier (no, few, a few, many, etc.)
・a possessive (my, your, whose, the man's, etc.)
・a demonstrative (this, that, these, those), a numeral (one, two, three etc.)
・a question word (which, whose, how many, etc.)
・numerals (two, five, etc.)

※In English, determiners are usually placed before the noun

 2.Other parts of a noun group 

A noun group can also contain one or more modifiers

a That-clause (the claim that the earth is round)

a modifier
1. a pre-modifiers

・an adjective (red, brown, interesting, bad, good, ugly etc.)
・an adjectival phrase(The nice, pretty, intelligent girl, very strong etc.)
・a secondary noun (the university student)

2.a post-modifier ・a prepositional phrase (the man with long hair)
・a relative clause. (the house where I live)

※The principal noun in a noun group is called the head noun.

※A premodifier is a modifier placed before the head (the modified component)

※ A postmodifier is a modifier placed after the head


land mines (pre-modifier)
・mines in wartime (post-modifier)


・Adjectives are placed before the head noun:

as in the Great Gatsby

・Adjective phrases usually come before the head noun: as in:

black-and-white striped vest
a rather tight-fitting dress

・Secondary nouns behave exactly like adjectives, and come before the head noun:

beer glass,
the police inspector,
London bus

・Prepositional phrases and relative clauses follow the head noun, as in:

the students in our class
the girl who gave me her phone-number.

※Put all this together, and we get a complex noun group

・The nice old-fashioned police inspector with white hair, who was drinking his beer,was Mr. Morse.

 Some common exceptions 

 Sometimes an adjective or an adjectival phrase will follow the noun, or appear to do so. There are three cases that need to be noted:

1.A very few adjectives always follow the nounconcerned (in the sense of "being talked about"), and involved (in the sense of "participating", or "being present") are the two common ones.

・There's been an outbreak of flu, but there are only fifteen people concerned
・ After the fight, the police arrested the men involved.

2.Other participial adjectives (such as leftremainingmissing) appear to be used as adjectives that follow the noun; in reality, they are elliptical forms of a relative clause that has become reduced to a single word.

・Oh look ! there is only one chocolate left !!
・We can't go yet !! There are still three people missing.

3.Adjectives follow the noun when the adjectives themselves are post-modified (defined) by a following phrase.

・There was a crowd bigger than last year.