If you want to understand what a verb phrase is, you need to understand verbs and phrases first. Phrases will be explained, as well as sentence structure, and examples will be offered for all of them.
Defining a Verb Phrase
A verb phrase can be the predicate of a sentence or a clause. In this case, there will usually be a helping verb in addition to the verb. Here are some examples of a verb phrase as a predicate:
- The author is writing a new book.
- I must make an “A” in this class.
- The dog might eat the cake.
- He was walking to work today.
- We grew apart after high school.
A verb phrase can also be a phrase that functions as an adverb or adjective that has a verb and its complements, objects, or modifiers. Some examples are:
- Running on the wet floor, she slipped and broke her arm.
- Fill up the gas tank to help it run better.
- To bake a cake, you need flour and sugar.
- Finally, I have saved enough to buy a car.
Defining a Sentence
A sentence is a group of words that has a subject and a predicate, which is a verb or verb phrase. It expresses a complete thought; so therefore, it is called an independent clause.
- The subject is the star of the sentence, what or who the sentence is about. It can be a noun or a pronoun.
- The predicate is the action, or what the subject is doing. It can also tell the subject’s state of being. It contains a verb, verb phrase, or linking verb. Simple sentence examples are: Sally ran. Jose slept.
Most verbs show action, like run, taste, fly, jump, crawl, or hit. Verbs link a word to the subject and are called linking verbs. These do not refer to an action, they express a state of being. For example: am, are, was, were, has been, etc. Other linking verbs are: seem, appear, become, taste, stay, and feel.
Some verbs can pull double duty, and be active or linking depending on their use. Here is an example:
- Active - Would you like to stay the night? Linking - I want you to stay sweet forever.
- Active - I can taste the salt in this. Linking - This tastes gross.
Defining a Phrase
A phrase is a group of words that have a function in a sentence, but do not have a subject and verb. If it had a subject and a verb, it would be a clause.
Phrases can function in the sentence like nouns, adverbs, or adjectives.
Four of the main kinds of phrases are infinitive, participle, prepositional, and gerund. Here are definitions and examples.
- Infinitive: These phrases start with an infinitive plus a simple form of a verb. They can act like a noun, adjective, or adverb. Here is an example: She wanted to show off her new dress. The whole phrase is what she wanted, so it is acting like a noun.
- Participle - This phrase will act as an adjective and begins with a participle. A participle is an adjective that has been made from a verb, like talked or swimming. Here’s an example: We have to replace the window broken by the hail. The phrase modifies the noun “window”, so it is functioning like an adjective.
- Prepositional - These phrases start with a preposition and have an object of that preposition. They function as adjectives or adverbs. Example: The plane will fly over the clouds. The phrase tells where the plane will fly, so it is acting like an adverb.
- Gerund - These phrases act like a noun and start with a verb ending with an “ing”. They can be subjects or objects. An example is: Lying to the IRS is never a good idea. The phrase acts as the subject in this sentence.
For more examples see Verb Phrase Examples.