Adjective Phrase

Phrases are an essential part of the English language and are the building blocks of all sentences. There are five main types of phrases in English: noun phrases, adjective phrases, verb phrases, adverb phrases, and prepositional phrases. Today we will be looking at adjective phrases

Adjective Phrase Adjective Phrase

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Table of contents

    This article will introduce adjective phrases and explain how to identify them. It will then discuss the structure of adjective phrases, including the use of modifiers and provide plenty of examples.

    What is an Adjective Phrase?

    Typically, an adjective phrase is a group of words containing an adjective that describes a noun or a pronoun in a sentence - this means that an adjective phrase functions as an adjective in a sentence. Adjective phrases are a useful writing technique when you need to convey a lot in a few words, making them a commonly used literary tool in English.

    Adjective phrases always consist of an adjective which is usually accompanied by other words that can add more information - we call these extra words modifiers. Adjective phrases can also be singular adjectives on their own.

    Identifying adjective phrases

    To identify an adjective phrase, you should locate a group of words within a sentence that describes a noun or pronoun. This can be tricky if the adjective phrase is hidden within a long and complicated sentence. To make it simple, we will break it down step by step.

    Step 1. Find the adjective in the sentence. This is a word that describes a noun or pronoun.

    E.g. 'The burger looks very appetising.' In this example, the adjective appetising describes the noun burger.

    Step 2. See if the adjective is the only word describing the noun or if the description includes other surrounding words. If the description includes more than one word, then it's an adjective phrase.

    E.g. 'The burger looks very appetising.' In this example, the adjective phrase is very appetising.

    Step 3. Identify the 'head adjective' (main adjective). If the adjective can function by itself, it's described as the head of the adjective phrase.

    E.g. 'The burger looks very appetising.' In this example, appetising still works as an adjective without the modifier very; therefore, it is the head adjective.

    Step 4. Identify the modifiers. The words that work alongside the head adjective in an adjective phrase are called modifiers; these can be adverbs, prepositions, or other adjectives. Words that go before the head adjective are called premodifiers, and words that go after are called postmodifiers.

    Adjective phrase Image of hamburgers StudySmarterFig 1. Adjective phrases can help us describe the burger

    Structure of adjective phrases

    The formation of adjective phrases typically involves the use of modifiers. Modifiers are words or phrases used alongside the main adjective, such as adverbs, prepositions, and comparative and superlative adjectives, to add more detail to the description of the noun. Adjective phrases can go before or after the noun. If they go before the noun, they are considered premodifiers, and if they go after, they are postmodifiers.

    Adjective phrases as premodifiers

    Premodifiers are usually a simple adjective or adverb phrase that is positioned before the head adjective.

    He has short black hair.

    Here, the adjective phrase 'short black' is a premodifier for the noun 'hair'.

    Adjective phrases as postmodifiers

    Adjective phrases as postmodifiers are often adverbs or prepositional phrases positioned after the noun.

    He wanted the football on the top shelf.

    The adjective phrase 'on the top shelf' is a postmodifier as it comes after the noun. The preposition 'on' has been used to describe the position of the noun (the football).

    Types of adjective phrases

    Adjective phrases typically contain an adjective and its modifiers (words that give extra detail). These modifiers are usually adverbs, prepositions, comparative and superlative adjectives, or additional adjectives. Let's look at some examples of adjective phrases containing different types of modifiers.

    Adjective phrases with multiple adjectives

    Adjective phrases can simply be a list of adjectives.

    She had long, silky, flowing black hair.

    Adjective phrases with comparative and superlative adjectives

    Comparative adjectives compare one thing to another, whereas superlative adjectives show the upper or lower limit of an adjective.

    The birch tree is taller than the ash tree.

    The birch tree is the tallest tree in this forest.

    Adjective phrases with prepositions

    Adjective phrases with prepositions give us more information regarding where a noun is. They can also tell us when something is happening.

    The cup is on the shelf.

    The party is at 8 pm.

    Adjective phrases with adverbs

    Typically speaking, adverbs modify verbs; however, they can also be used to add more detail or intensity to an adjective.

    Her eyes are shockingly blue.

    Adjective phrase Image of a blue eye StudySmarterFig 2. The adverb 'shockingly' intensifies the adjective 'blue'

    Examples of adjective phrases

    Let's take a look at some examples of adjective phrase examples. We will use the same base sentence and expand upon it to show you how adjective phrases are used to add extra information to a noun.

    "Bill is strong"

    This is a simple adjective phrase that consists of a single adjective, 'strong'.

    "Bill is very strong"

    This adjective phrase includes the qualifier 'very'. The qualifier supplements the head adjective (strong), acting as an intensifier since it makes the adjective stronger.

    "Bill is even stronger than all of the boys in his class."

    This adjective phrase contains the comparative adjective 'stronger'. It gives us even more information about Bill by comparing him to the other boys in the class.

    The difference between a noun phrase and an adjective phrase

    It can often be difficult to identify the difference between a noun phrase and an adjective phrase. So, let's take a look at the key differences.

    The definitive difference between them is that a noun phrase acts as a noun while an adjective phrase acts as an adjective. This difference is important when we try to determine the function of each phrase.

    A noun phrase functions as the subject or object of a sentence, while an adjective phrase acts by modifying a noun.

    The key to identifying a noun or adjective phrase is to remember that a noun phrase can appear anywhere in a sentence, while an adjective phrase can only appear before or after a noun.

    Take a look at the following two sentences. Which one contains an adjective phrase?

    1. He was scared of the black cat.

    2. I found a tiny little kitten.

    The correct answer is sentence number two. In number one, the black cat is the noun phrase that comes after the adjective scared. In number two the adjective phrase tiny little is used to describe the noun kitten.

    Adjective Phrase - Key takeaways

    • An adjective phrase is typically a group of words that acts as an adjective.
    • An adjective phrase describes or modifies a noun or a pronoun.
    • Adjective phrases can go before or after a noun acting as a premodifier or a postmodifier.
    • There are different types of adjective phrases such as Adjective phrases with multiple adjectives, adjective phrases with comparative and superlative adjectives, adjective phrases with prepositions, and adjective phrases with adverbs.
    • An example of an adjective phrase is, 'I have a cute, fluffy, yet naughty cat.'
    Frequently Asked Questions about Adjective Phrase

    What is an adjective phrase?

    An adjective phrase is a group of words that function as an adjective in a sentence.

    How do you identify an adjective phrase?

    To identify an adjective phrase, look for a group of words used to describe a noun or pronoun.

    What is the difference between an adjective phrase and a noun phrase?

    A noun phrase can appear anywhere in a sentence whereas an adjective phrase can only appear before or after a noun phrase.

    What is meant by the 'head' of an adjective phrase?

    The 'head adjective' is usually the main adjective that modifying words act upon.

    What can an adjective phrase modify?

    Adjective phrases can be used to modify nouns or pronouns.

    Why are adjective phrases useful?

    Adjective phrases are useful as they allow you to convey more information with fewer words, thus creating a sense of depth without having too many unnecessary words.

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