English Grammar Phrases


What are English grammar phrases?

In grammar, a phrase is a group of words without a finite verb.

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But what is a finite verb?


Quick Tips:


Finite: I sing, she sings, we sang

Not-finite: to sing, singing, sung


When something is finite it means it has a clear limit.

A finite verb is a verb that has a particular tenseperson and number.

Example:
  • In the sentence "She has a dog," the verb has shows a tense (simple present), a person (third person) and a number (singular).

    So has is a finite verb.

    "She has a birthday cake."

    "She has a birthday cake."

  • In the sentence "You both were late," the verb were shows a tense (simple past), a person (second person) and a number (plural).

    So were is a finite verb.

    "You two were at a formal event."

    "You were at a formal event."
A non-finite verb is a verb that does not have a particular tenseperson and number.

Example:
  • In the sentence "I like to sing," the verb to sing doesn't show a tense, person or number.

    So to sing is a non-finite verb.

    "He always wanted to sing."

    "He always wanted to sing."

  • In the sentence "They started singing," the verb singing doesn't show a tense, person or number.

    So singing is a non-finite verb.

    "One of them dislikes singing."

    "One of them dislikes singing."
Here are some more examples of finite verbs and non-finite verbs:
Non-finite verbs Finite verbs
to be, being, been am, is, are, was, were
to go, going, gone go, goes, went
to give, giving, given give, gives, gave
to take, taking, taken take, takes, took


So now that we know what a finite verb is, let's get back to the explanation on English grammar phrases:

In grammar, a phrase is a group of words without a finite verb.

For example, "the big hat," "before noon," "very fast" or "to take a break."

These are all groups of words without a finite verb. Therefore, they are all phrases.

On the other hand, "She runs very fast," is not a phrase. It is a complete sentence, because it has a finite verb.

Examples of English grammar phrases:
  • A big room

  • The blue jacket

  • Finding a job

  • Having fun

  • To help others

  • Behind the curtain

  • Next week

  • Being excited
"He never stops being excited."

"He never stops being excited."

English grammar phrases act like parts of speech. In other words, they can act as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and so forth.

For example, you could say, "I met Joan."

In this sentence the word Joan is a noun.

You could replace Joan with a group of words (a phrase) and say, "I met your sister."

Your sister is a phrase (a group of words without a finite verb) and it functions as a noun in the sentence.

So we call it a noun phrase.

English grammar phrases act like parts of a sentence as well. In other words, they can act as the subject, predicate, direct or indirect object, and so forth.

For example, you could say, "She saw Ralph."

In this sentence the word Ralph is the direct object.

You could replace Ralph with a group of words (a phrase) and say, "She saw the poor little cat."

The poor little cat is a phrase (a group of words without a finite verb) and it functions as the direct object in the sentence.

"She saw the poor little cat."

"She saw the poor little cat."

Types of phrases in English grammar

English Noun Phrases

English Verb Phrases

English Adjective Phrases

English Adverb Phrases

English Prepositional Phrases

English Appositives

More types of phrases are coming soon . . .

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