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The Function of Phrases
- Corinne is trying to decide whether she wants to go to medical school or to go to law school.
- Joe did not have all the ingredients the recipe called for; therefore, he decided to make something else.
- After she had learned to drive, Alice felt more independent.
- We will meet at the library at 3:30 p.m.
- Small children often insist that they can do things by themselves.
- Object of a verb
- To type quickly and accurately is Eugene’s goal.
- Object of a preposition
- The Arctic explorers were caught unawares by the spring breakup.
- Subject complement
- Frankenstein is the name of the scientist, not the monster.
- Object complement
- I consider Loki my favorite cat.
Noun phrases using verbals
- Ice fishing is a popular winter pastime.
However, since verbals are formed from verbs, they may also take direct objects and be modified by adverbs. Gerund phrases and infinitive phrases are noun phrases consisting of a verbal, its modifiers (both adjectives and adverbs) and objects:
- Running a marathon in the summer is thirsty work.
- Bridget is planning to buy a house next month.
|I was driven almost mad by the sound of my neighbour’s constant hammering.||The prepositional phrase of my neighbour’s constant hammering acts as an adjective modifying the noun sound.|
|My director locked his keys in the trunk of a borrowed car.||The prepositional phrase of a borrowed car acts as an adjective modifying the noun trunk.|
|We saw Peter dashing across the parking lot.||Here the participle phrase dashing across the parking lot acts as an adjective describing the proper noun Peter.|
|We picked up the records broken in the scuffle.||The participle phrase broken in the scuffle modifies the noun phrase the records.|
A prepositional phrase may also be an adverb phrase that functions as an adverb, as in the following:
|Joe bought some spinach when he went to the corner store.||The prepositional phrase to the corner store acts as an adverb modifying the verb went.|
|Lightning flashed brightly in the night sky.||The prepositional phrase in the night sky functions as an adverb modifying the verb flashed.|
|In early October, Giselle planted twenty tulip bulbs; unfortunately, squirrels ate the bulbs and none bloomed.||The prepositional phrase in early October acts as an adverb modifying the entire sentence.|
|We will meet at the library at 3:30 p.m.||The prepositional phrase at 3:30 p.m. acts as an adverb modifying the verb phrase will meet.|
|The dogs were sniffing about the letter carrier’s feet.||The prepositional phrase about the letter carrier’s feet acts as an adverb modifying the compound verb were sniffing.|
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© Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Ottawa
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