20 Oct 2014

Noun Phrase

A noun phrase comprises a noun (or sometimes pronoun: we, someone, no one) and any associated modifiers which distinguish it; modifiers can come before or after a noun; there may be one or many different modifiers which can stand together (contiguous) or the noun phrase may be broken (discontinuous ) where the second part is delayed.

Usually, after the definition of a noun phrase there are given examples of modifiers which themselves are parts of a sentence - but - as I am going to talk about all grammar structures one by one, I will be adding information about that in next posts.

Here let's discuss words which may come before a noun: articles, possessive pronouns, possessive nouns, adjectives and participles and nouns.

  • Articles: a child, the child 
  • Possessive pronouns: my child, their child
  • Possessive nouns: the Smith's child, teacher's child
  • Adjectives: tall child, ill child
  • Participles: the smiling child, a running child, a well-behaved child
  • Nouns: book cover, student body.

Participles are formed from verbs and can come in two types: present (gerund, -ing form) and past (from regular verbs mostly ending with -ed); participles, which is important, can play three different roles in a sentence. They may be components in compound verbs (is smiling) or act as adjectives (smiling boy) or nouns (reading: Reading books is my hobby).

In compound nouns a preceding noun acts as an adjective - modifying a main noun.  When there are too many nouns  in one string (called stacked or packed noun phrase) a reader may have a problem with understanding the phrase, like in: 'uniform resource locator protocol problem', therefore is better to avoid such structures or at least to separate them: the problem with the protocol of …

A noun phrase can take a form of a vocative (nouns of address) and is separated by comma.
My dear, ….
You, put it down.
Call the ambulance, somebody!

May I ask you, Sir, ….

It is worth reminding that technically a word, a phrase or a clause which modifies a noun can act as an adjective, that is why maybe it is better to talk about modifiers as a part of a sentence. In modern linguistics adjectives are separated from determiners (seven, only, much, many, articles and more) which in some dictionaries are still treated as adjectives. It is highly recommended to check out in a dictionary what part of speech and sentence represents our word. 
A few examples on how to make a noun phrase more interesting, playing with a word 'car'.

A car,
Peter's old, French automobile
My father's brand-new, red, Japanese sport car
That dirty, seven-year-old whitish limousine
The slowest East India asphalt road eater
Most desirable and enviable, Peter's first generation racket car

Any other ideas?