phrase or noun
is a group of words composed of a main noun and all the other words
that define it - determiners, adjectives, secondary nouns and possibly
defining clauses or phrases.
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"rules" govern the use of the noun group in English.
The essential parts of a noun group
Unless a noun is used in a generalising sense (see articles), a noun
group consists or at least the following elements: a determiner
is one of the following: an article
(the, a, an, some, any),
(no, few, a few, many, etc.),
(my, your, whose, the
man's, etc.), a demonstrative
(this, that, these, those),
a numeral (one, two, three
etc.) or a question word
(which, whose, how many,
in some very rare cases, a
noun can only be preceded by ONE
man, some women, a few dogs, your horse, the man's horse* , that car,
whose money, how many bottles?
(In this example, the
man's horse* there appear to be two
determiners before horse,
but in fact there is only one: the determiner before horse
is the man,
and the article the is the determiner of the word man.)
Other parts of a noun group.
A noun group can also contain one or more modifiers; a
modifier is an adjective, an adjectival
phrase, a secondary
noun, a prepositional
phrase or a relative
The principal noun in a noun group is called the head noun.
Put all this together, and we get a complex
noun group, such as:
- Adjectives are placed before the
head noun: as in the Great Gatsby
► How to place adjectives in the
- Adjective phrases usually come before the
head noun: as in:
a black-and-white striped
a rather tight-fitting
- Secondary nouns behave exactly
like adjectives, and come before the
inspector, a London
- Prepositional phrases and relative
the head noun, as in:
students in our
class or the
girl who gave me her
The nice old-fashioned police inspector with white hair,
was drinking his beer, was Mr. Morse.
Some common exceptions
Sometimes an adjective or an adjectival phrase will follow the noun, or
appear to do so. There are three cases that need to be noted:
- A very few adjectives always follow
(in the sense of "being talked about"), and involved
(in the sense of "participating", or "being present") are the two
- Other participial adjectives (such
left, remaining, missing) appear to be used as adjectives
the noun; in reality, they are elliptical forms of a relative clause
that has become reduced to a single word.
- Adjectives follow the noun when the
adjectives themselves are post-modified (defined) by a following phrase.
There's been an outbreak of flu, but
there are only fifteen people concerned
After the fight, the police arrested
the men involved.
Oh look ! there is only one chocolate left
We can't go yet !! There are still
three people missing.
There was a crowd bigger than last
To place noun groups correctly in a sentence, see Word order in English .
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