The Noun Phrase (or noun group)
most common models for noun phrases
3. Determiner + noun
4. Determiner + modifier + noun
5. Determiner + noun
6. Determiner + modifier + noun +
3. The apples
4. The biggest apples
5. The apples
in this box
6. The biggest apples in this box
Other models are
"rules" govern the use of the noun group in English.
Most noun phrases consist of at least two elements
Unless a noun is used in a generalising sense (see articles), a noun
group consists of at least the following elements: a determiner
is one of the following:
- an article
(the, a, an, some, any),
- a quantifier
(no, few, a few, many, etc.),
- a possessive
(my, your, whose, the
- a demonstrative
(this, that, these, those),
- a numeral
(one, two, three
- or a question
(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.)
Many noun phrases also include "modifiers"
A noun group can also contain one or more modifiers.
A modifier is an adjective,
phrase, a secondary
noun, a prepositional
phrase or a relative
The principal noun in a noun group is called the head
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
- Prepositional phrases and relative
the head noun, as in:
class or the
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,
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 phrases correctly in a sentence, see Word order in English .
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