Phrases

prepositional phrase

  • a preposition, a noun or pronoun, and any modifiers.
    on ending a sentence with a preposition
    "What did you bring that book that I don't like to be read to out of up for?" -attributed to E.B. White)

participial phrase

  • present or past participles plus modifiers and complements
  • act as adjectives
  • If they come at the beginning of a sentence, they are usually set off by commas.
  • If they come in the middle of a sentence, they are set off by a comma.  If they act as interrupters, they have commas on both sides.
  • examples:
    • The clock, broken since August, was thrown in the trash.
    • Loving his job in sales, my husband hates the thought of retiring.
    • Working on my project, I developed writer's block.

infinitive phrase

  • the infinitive plus modifiers and  complements.
  • can act as adjective, adverb, or noun.
    • To start the car, he needed the key.

noun phrase (& vocatives)

  • a noun with modifiers. 
    • packed noun phrases:  nuclear abolition regulations, a market analysis survey, ground zero operations
      A temptation in technical writing, but tough to understand. 
  • vocatives: a direct address:   Miranda, finish your oatmeal.  Set off by commas.  Don't, however, be tempted to set off all names, willy-nilly.  Miranda was eating her oatmeal.

gerund phrase

  • gerunds (verbals ending in -ing that act like nouns) plus modifiers and complements.
    Speaking loudly is not effective when communicating with the deaf.
  • Act as nouns.
  • May contain infinitives. e.g. Jogging in a thunderstorm is not a good idea.

absolute phrase

  • a noun or pronoun + a participle + any modifiers.
    • The time for the exam nearly finished, Sam abruptly decided to answer different questions altogether.
    • Greta walked to class, books tucked under her arm.
    • The children put the cake in the oven, their faces smiling.
    • She kept close to the wall in the dark, her cell phone clutched in her hand.
    • When the participle is a form of  to be, it is sometimes left out.
      The time [being] up, the instructor collected the exams.
  • can act like a prepositional phrase, an adjective phrase, or a noun phrase.

appositive phrase

  • re-naming or amplification of the noun it immediately follows.
    • Uncle Harold, a scoundrel of the first water, absconded with my grandmother's diamonds.
    • George Bush, the worst president ever, is going to be the downfall of our country.
  • infinitive phrases, etc. can act as appositives.
    • Her goal, to become valedictorian, is finally within reach.
  • Hint: Remember that apposite is the opposite of opposite.  An appositive is the same as the noun it follows.