A. Prepositional phrase
B. Infinitive phrase
C. Gerund phrase
D. Present participial phrase
E. Past participial phrase
F. Noun (appositive) phrase
A. Prepositional phrases act as adjectives and adverbs. In other words, they are modifiers. Every prepositional phrase starts with a preposition and ends with an object of a preposition. (There are a few exceptions to that rule, of course, but we won’t bother you with them here.) Following are some sample prepositional phrases: under the table, in my closet, beyond the fence, at our house, around the corner, because of my procrastination, after dinner. Obviously, we could go on and on with thousands of sample phrases. The big difficulty students have with prepositional phrases is that they do not recognize prepositions. If you have that difficulty, we recommend that you find a list of prepositions—they are available online or in any grammar book—and memorize them. No fun, to be sure, but ultimately worthwhile.
B. Infinitive phrases are easy to identify: simply put the word “to” in front of any verb, and you have an infinitive. To run, to jump, to yell, to study, to speculate, to appreciate—all are infinitives. Throw in some other words and you have an infinitive phrase. Infinitive phrases can be used as nouns, adjectives or adverbs. Following are some sample sentences containing infinitive phrases.
C. Gerunds are formed by adding “ing” to any verb. Gerund phrases are always used as nouns. Following are some sample sentence containing gerunds.
D. Present participles are formed exactly like gerunds, that is, by adding “ing” to any verb. How, then, can one distinguish a present participial phrase from a gerund phrase? They look exactly alike, but the present participial phrase is only used as an adjective. Some samples:
E. The past participle of a verb is one of its three principle parts. Past participial phrases formed from that principle part are always used as adjectives. Following are some sample sentences containing past participial phrases:
F. A noun phrase is also called an appositive phrase. (An appositive is a noun set beside another noun or pronoun that renames the first noun or pronoun. Zophar, a student, wanted to study philosophy. “Student” renames–is a synonym for–Zophar; “student” is an appositive.) A noun phrase is formed by an appositive and any words associated with the appositive.