Most people know what an adjective is, but when it comes to describing an adjective phrase, they get confused. Some think that this type of phrase is just a group of words that has an adjective in it. Although this may be true, this is not an effective phrase. This type of phrase is actually a group of words that serves to describe a noun or pronoun in a sentence, thus functioning as an adjective. You do not have to be an English teacher or grammar buff to understand what an adjective phrase is or how it works: in fact, we use these phrases all of the time in writing and in spoken English without thinking about them.
Many people wonder how to pick out adjective phrases within sentences. The trick to identifying one in a sentence is to look at the first word of the group of words. If the first word is an adverb or preposition, there is a good chance that the phrase is an adjective phrase. Ask yourself, what is this phrase modifying? Is it describing the noun? If the group of words does in fact modify the noun or subject of the clause or sentence, then the phrase is in fact an adjective phrase.
An adjective phrase is formed out of either an intensifier and an adjective, or alternatively, a string of adjectives. In the first case, an example might be “very beautiful” in the sentence, “The very beautiful woman walked down the street.”
Many people are surprised to learn that adjective phrases do not just modify nouns: they can also modify pronouns. Look at the following two examples: “He is from Boston” and “Tom is from Boston” both have an adjective phrase, namely, “from Boston.”
It does not matter if the noun is a pronoun or not: the adjective phrase still functions in the same way. If you are looking for a more complex way to modify a noun than just using a simple adjective, try using this type of phrase. Use several adjectives in a row, use a phrase with a preposition, or a phrase starting with an adverb to modify the noun at hand.
Sometimes one adjective doesn't seem to be descriptive enough. In this case a string of adjectives can come together as an adjective phrase in order to describe a noun.
For example in the sentence, “Sally is a nice girl,” there is one adjective, namely, nice. However, in the sentence, “Sally is a nice, intelligent, beautiful, and kind girl,” an adjectival phrase is employed in order to come together to paint a much more interesting picture of Sally.
The best way to understand this type of phrase and how it functions is to examine some examples of these phrases in action. Let’s take a look at an example with an adjective: “The beautiful house” and “The house that is so beautiful” mean the same thing, but the former has an adjective, whereas the latter has an adjectival phrase.
Another example is, “the angry dog” and “the dog that seems very angry.” The latter example uses the phrase “that seems very angry” to modify the subject, which is the noun “dog.” Thus, the latter example has an adjectival phrase.
Some adjective phrases modify nouns or noun phrases. Following are some sentences with the phrases underlined:
Other adjective phrases modify the predicate of the sentence. Here are some examples:
Adjective phrases can also modify objects and will follow the word they are modifying. Examples are:
A well-chosen adjective phrase will give a sentence more color and personality. For more examples, see Adjective Phrase Examples.