What's a Phraseor

What's a Phraseor

What's a Phrase

If you were to ask the average person to give you a simple definition of what a word means, what would they say?


A prototypical phrase is a group of words forming a unit and consisting of a head or "nucleus" together with other words or word groups clustering around it. If the head of the phrase is a noun, we speak of a noun phrase (NP) (e.g. all those beautiful houses built in the sixties). If the head is a verb, the phrase is a verb phrase (VP). In the following sentence, the VP is in italics and the verb head is in bold:

The term "cream cakes from the bakery" has its own embedded phrase ("from the bakery"). This is a prepositional phrase describing the "cream cakes." So, it's possible to have a phrase within a phrase. It's common in fact. There's more. The words "was eating cream cakes from the bakery during the week" is also classified a phrase. It's called a verb phrase. (A verb phrase consists of a verb and all its modifiers. Those modifiers could also be phrases, as they are in this example.) (Source: www.grammar-monster.com)


(Here, the modifier "of eating jellybeans" is a prepositional phrase functioning as an adjective describing "way." The prepositional phrase itself contains the gerund phrase (see below) "eating jellybeans." So this simple noun phrase has an embedded phrase that itself has an embedded phrase. As you can see, the term "phrase" has a broad scope. Remember that a phrase is any group of words that function as a single unit.)

1. Phrase, expression, idiom, locution all refer to grammatically related groups of words. A phrase is a sequence of two or more words that make up a grammatical construction, usually lacking a finite verb and hence not a complete clause or sentence: shady lane (a noun phrase); at the bottom (a prepositional phrase); very slowly (an adverbial phrase). In general use, phrase refers to any frequently repeated or memorable group of words, usually of less than sentence length or complexity: a case of feast or famine—to use the well-known phrase. Expression is the most general of these words and may refer to a word, a phrase, or even a sentence: prose filled with old-fashioned expressions. An idiom is a phrase or larger unit of expression that is peculiar to a single language or a variety of a language and whose meaning, often figurative, cannot easily be understood by combining the usual meanings of its individual parts, as to go for broke. Locution is a somewhat formal term for a word, a phrase, or an expression considered as peculiar to or characteristic of a regional or social dialect or considered as a sample of language rather than as a meaning-bearing item: a unique set of locutions heard only in the mountainous regions of the South. (Source: www.dictionary.com)


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