Finding Fundamental Phrases
A phrase is a group of words that acts as a particular part of speech or part of a sentence but doesn't have a verb and its subject. The most common type of phrase is the prepositional phrase.
A prepositional phrase is a group of words that begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or pronoun (the object of the preposition). Here are a few examples:
during the terrible storm
after Tom and Norma's dinner
In a sentence, prepositional phrases act as adjectives (they describe nouns or pronouns; they also answer the question which one? or what kind of?) or adverbs (they describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs; they also answer the question when? where? how? why? to what extent? or under what condition?).
Adjective phrase: Several friends from my job are getting together tonight.
From my job is a prepositional phrase that acts as an adjective. It's an adjective phrase because it modifies or describes the noun friends. If you look at it in another way, from my job is an adjective phrase because it answers the question which ones? An adjective phrase is almost always placed right after the word or words it modifies.
Adjective phrase: Tom and Debbie will meet at Wolf's Restaurant later tonight.
At Wolf's Restaurant is a prepositional phrase that acts as an adverb. It's an adverb phrase because it modifies or describes the verb meet. If you look at it in another way, at Wolf's Restaurant is an adverb phrase because it answers the question where?
Another type of phrase is the participial phrase, which is composed of a participle and any words that modify it or are related to it. A participle, you remember, is a word formed from a verb plus an ending. A participle acts as an adjective; that is, it describes a noun or pronoun in your sentence. Present participles always end in -ing; past participles usually end in -d or –ed, but English has many exceptions. For example:
Fleeing from the sudden storm, picnickers Leslie and Dino sought refuge in the shelter house at the park.
Fleeing is a present participle; it has a verb flee plus -ing, and it describes the noun picnickers. Fleeing and the words that go with it — from the sudden storm — make up the participial phrase.
A third type of phrase is the gerund phrase, which is a gerund and any words that modify it or are related to it in your sentence. Remember that a gerund is a word that is formed from a verb plus -ing. Since a gerund acts as a noun, it can be a subject or an object. Look at this sentence:
Singing the night away helped Charles and Catherine forget their troubles.
Singing is a gerund; it's composed of the verb sing plus -ing. In this sentence, it acts as the subject. Singing and the words that go with it — the night away — make up the gerund phrase.
A fourth type of phrase is the infinitive phrase, which is an infinitive and any words that modify it. An infinitive, you know, is to plus a verb. An infinitive can act as several parts of speech — a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. For example:
“To go home right now is my only wish,” sighed the tired mother.
To go is an infinitive; it's composed of to plus the verb go. In this sentence, it acts as the subject of the sentence. The infinitive To go and the word that goes with it — home — make up the infinitive phrase.
The final type of phrase is an appositive phrase, which is an appositive and any words that modify it or are related to it. An appositive is a noun (usually) or pronoun (rarely) that gives details or identifies another noun or pronoun. Here's an example:
My favorite book, a dog-eared copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, has accompanied me on many vacations.
Copy is an appositive that refers to book. In this sentence, copy and the words that go with it — a dog-eared —make up the appositive phrase: a dog-eared copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.