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Adjective Phrase

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English

Adjective phrases always consist of an adjective alongside other elements which can modify or complement the sentence. Although these can potentially become complex, in practice they are often straightforward to spot.

They're a useful writing technique when you need to convey a lot in a few words, making them a commonly used literary tool in English.

What is an Adjective Phrase?

An adjective phrase is a group of words composed of an adjective that modifies a noun or a pronoun in a sentence. This means that an adjective phrase functions in a sentence as an adjective.

How can I identify an adjective phrase?

To identify an adjective phrase you must locate a group of words within a sentence that describes a noun or pronoun. This can be tricky to do if the phrase is in a long and complicated sentence. To make it simple we are going to break it down step by step.

  1. Find the adjective in the sentence. This word should describe a noun or pronoun.

  • 'The burger looks very appetizing .' In this example, the adjective appetizing describes the noun 'burger'.
  1. See if the adjective is the only word describing the noun, or if it's describing the noun in combination with other words.

  2. If the adjective functions by itself, then it's described as the head of the adjective phrase.

  3. If multiple words are describing the noun then these can be adverbs, prepositions, or other adjectives.

  • 'He had an incredibly long, powerful and muscular throwing arm which helped him win the gold medal for javelin. ' The words in bold are all adjectives that come together to make an adjective phrase.

Words that act alongside the head adjective are known as premodifiers and postmodifiers. The premodifier will always be an adverb phrase. The post modifier can be an adverb phrase or a preposition.

The pre-modifier

The pre-modifier is usually a simple adjective or adverb phrase that is positioned before the head adjective.

The pre-modifier is usually a simple adjective or adverb phrase that is positioned before the head adjective.

An example would be: "He has short black hair."

The head adjective is black , and the pre-modifier is short .

The post-modifier

The post-modifier can be an adverb or prepositional phrase that is positioned after the head adjective.

An example would be: "He wanted the football on the top shelf."

The post-modifier can be an adverb or prepositional phrase that is positioned after the head adjective.

An example would be: "He wanted the football on the top shelf."

The noun is football, and the adjective phrase describing the location is on the top shelf.

Examples in everyday language

"Bill is strong"

This is a typical adjective phrase that consists of a single adjective acting as the headword, which is strong.

"Bill is very strong"

This adjective phrase differs by the use of a qualifier in the phrase 'very strong'. The qualifier is supplemented with the head adjective to act as an intensifier since it makes the adjective stronger.

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

This adjective phrase differs by the use of a qualifier in the phrase 'very strong'. The qualifier is supplemented with the head adjective to act as an intensifier since it makes the adjective stronger.

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

This adjective phrase is even more complex and elaborate. It still qualifies as an adjective phrase because the part “ even stronger than all the boys in his class” can be replaced with the adjective 'strong'.

The head adjective ' happy ' can appear in different parts of a sentence.

  • I am happy to see you. (beginning)

  • I am super happy to see you. (middle)

  • I am super happy. (end)

This is a good example of word placement and how it can affect sentence structure.

The function of adjective phrases

Adjective phrases can be broken down into having two main functions, which are attributive or predicative adjectives.

An attributive adjective usually appears before the noun. This is an attributive example:

  • "The use of digital data management has become [a progressively useful tool]."

The head of the noun phrase in the brackets has the noun ' tool ' and the adjective phrase ' progressively useful ' acts as a modifier.

A predicative adjective usually comes after the noun. These typically follow verbs such as be and become. The following example uses an adjective phrase as a predicative:

  • "The new data management system has proven to be progressively useful ."

The adjective phrase ' progressively useful ' follows the verb ' be ' and appears after the noun ' system' .

One thing that is consistent in attributive and predicative phrases is that the adjective phrase always modifies a noun phrase.

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

There can be very little difference between noun and adjective phrases which can make it difficult to tell them apart.

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

There can be very little difference between noun and adjective phrases. This can make it difficult to tell them apart.

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 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 acts as an adjective.
  • An adjective phrase modifies a noun or a pronoun.
  • The head adjective can be affected by a premodifier or a postmodifier.
  • Adjective phrases can be predicative or attributive.

Adjective Phrase

A group of words that function as an adjective in a sentence.

Look for a group of words used to describe a noun or pronoun.

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

The head word is usually the key adjective on which the modifying words act.

Adjective phrases can be used to modify nouns or pronouns.

They allow you to convey more information with fewer words, thus creating a sense of depth without having superfluous words.

Final Adjective Phrase Quiz

Question

What are adjective phrases?

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Answer

A group of words that function as an adjective in a sentence.

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Question

How can you identify an adjective phrase?


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Answer

Find a group of words used to describe a noun or pronoun.

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Question

Which of the following is an adjective phrase?


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Answer

We are expecting rainy days.

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Question

Find the words in the sentence that are adjective phrases: "The rich, sweet cake made me satisfied."

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Answer

Rich, sweet.

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Question

Find the words in the sentence that are adjective phrases: "It was an exciting and thrilling journey".


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Answer

Exciting, thrilling.

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Question

Find the words in the sentence that are adjective phrases: "The aggressive and cold manner he displayed made me scared."


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Answer

Aggressive, cold.

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Question

Find the words in the sentence that are adjective phrases: "The hotel had small but luxurious rooms".


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Answer

Small, luxurious.

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Question

Find the words in the sentence that are adjective phrases. "The tired and exhausted worker took a long break."


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Answer

Tired, exhausted.

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Question

True or false: An adjective phrase can appear anywhere in a sentence.


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Answer

False. An adjective phrase can only appear before or after a noun.

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Question

True or false: The head adjective in an adjective phrase modifies a noun.


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Answer

True.

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