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Section 12.5

Phrases

A phrase is a group of words that work together to express a unified meaning butthat lack a subject, a predicate, or both. Each phrase contains one centralelement whose meaning may be built upon or modified by the other elements in thephrase. The central element determines the type of phrase: nouns are used to build noun phrases, verbs are used to build verb phrases, adjectives are used to build adjective phrases, and soon.

A noun phrase consists of the central noun or pronoun and all its modifiers, including determiners, adjectives, and adjective clauses.


Half of the world's population of nearly six billion people preparetheir food and heat their homes with coal and the traditional biomass fuels ofdung, crop residues, wood and charcoal. [The phrase in bold type is thenoun phrase.]

--Daniel Kammen, "Cookstoves for the Developing World," ScientificAmerican (modified)


A verb phrase consists of the central verb, any auxiliary verbs, any modifiers of the verb, and any direct objects or indirectobjects.


The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European laboratory for particlephysics near Geneva, will probably be built in the first few years of the21st century. [The phrase in bold type is the verb phrase.]

--"Low-Energy Ways to Observe High-Energy Phenomena," ScientificAmerican


An adjective phrase consists of the central adjective and any modifiers, including other adjectivesor adverbs.


Beverage cans have emerged as the most important market foraluminum.

--William Hostold and John Duncan, "The Aluminum Beverage Can,"Scientific American (modified)


A prepositional phrase consists of the prepositionand the noun phrase that follows.


Astrophysicists of the early 20th century, not knowing about nuclearprocesses, computed that a sun powered by chemical burning or gravitationalshrinking could shine only for a few million years.

--"The Earth's Elements," Scientific American


Because phrases are used to express unified meanings, they should not becarelessly split or separated by other phrases or parts of other phrases.

See also Appositive Phrases and Participial Phrases.

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