An ELT Glossary : Noun phrases

A noun phrase is a part of a sentence or utterance that consists of a noun or  a pronoun, and any elements (determiners, adjectives etc) that premodify (come before) them or post-modify (come after them). All the underlined expressions in the following sentences are noun phrases :

Leave it alone!
Roses are red...
The books are over there.
The red ones are sweetest
Where's my old, grey coat?
This is a heavily pre-modified noun phrase.

Brown and Yule (1983) pointed out that heavily pre-modified noun phrases - ie nouns with several pre-modifiers piled up in front of them- are rare in spoken English, though very common in written English. In spoken English, information tends to be "chunked" and given one item at a time in order to make real-time processing easier for the listener. See here for their examples.

Noun phrases can also be post-modified, most often by a prepositional phrase (underlined):

A wide range of items
The man with a beard

or by a relative clause (underlined), often with elements ellipted (in brackets):

The person (who is) responsible


Brown G. and Yule G. (1983) Teaching the Spoken Language, Cambridge University Press

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