A phrase is a small group of words that forms a meaningful unit within a clause. There are several different types, as follows:

Noun phrase

A noun phrase is built around a single noun, for example:

A vase of roses stood on the table.

She was reading a book about the emancipation of women.

Verb phrase

A verb phrase is the verbal part of a clause, for example:

She had been living in London.

I will be going to college next year.

Adjective phrase

An adjective phrase is built around an adjective, for example:

He’s led a very interesting life.

It's really cold today.

Adverbial phrase

An adverbial phrase is built round an adverb by adding words before and/or after it, for example:

The economy recovered very slowly.

They wanted to leave the country as fast as possible.

Prepositional phrase

In a prepositional phrase the preposition always comes at the beginning, for example:

I longed to live near the sea.

The dog was hiding under the kitchen table.

Of course, we also use the word phrase to refer to a short group of words that have a particular meaning when they are used together, such as rain cats and dogs, play for time, or a square meal. This type of phrase is often referred to as an idiom.


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Grammar and usage