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Verb phrase, Adjective phrase, Adverb phrase, Prepositional phrase, Phrases with phrases


10.5 Verb Phrase (VP)

In a VERB PHRASE (VP), the Head is always a verb. The pre-Head string, if any, will be a `negative' word such as not [1] or never [2], or an adverb phrase [3]:

[1] [VP not compose an aria]
[2] [VP never compose an aria]
[3] Paul [VP deliberately broke the window]

Many verb Heads must be followed by a post-Head string:

My son [VP made a cake] -- (compare: *My son made)
We [VP keep pigeons] -- (compare: *We keep)
I [VP recommend the fish] -- (compare: *I recommend)

Verbs which require a post-Head string are called TRANSITIVE verbs. The post-Head string, in these examples, is called the DIRECT OBJECT.

In contrast, some verbs are never followed by a direct object:

Susan [VP smiled]
The professor [VP yawned]

These are known as INTRANSITIVE VERBS.

However, most verbs in English can be both transitive and intransitive, so it is perhaps more accurate to refer to transitive and intransitive uses of a verb. The following examples show the two uses of the same verb:

Intransitive: David smokes
Transitive: David smokes cigars

We will return to the structure of verb phrases in a later section.

10.6 Adjective Phrase (AP)

In an ADJECTIVE PHRASE (AP), the Head word is an adjective. Here are some examples:

Susan is [AP clever]
The doctor is [AP very late]
My sister is [AP fond of animals]

The pre-Head string in an AP is most commonly an adverb phrase such as very or extremely. Adjective Heads may be followed by a post-Head string:

[AP happy to meet you]
[AP ready to go]
[AP afraid of the dark]

A small number of adjective Heads must be followed by a post-Head string. The adjective Head fond is one of these. Compare:

My sister is [AP fond of animals]
*My sister is [fond]

10.7 Adverb Phrase (AdvP)

In an ADVERB PHRASE, the Head word is an adverb. Most commonly, the pre-Head string is another adverb phrase:

He graduated [AdvP very recently]
She left [AdvP quite suddenly]

In AdvPs, there is usually no post-Head string, but here's a rare example:

[AdvP Unfortunately for him], his wife came home early

10.8 Prepositional Phrase (PP)

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES usually consist of a Head -- a preposition -- and a post-Head string only. Here are some examples:

[PP through the window]
[PP over the bar]
[PP across the line]
[PP after midnight]

This makes PPs easy to recognise -- they nearly always begin with a preposition (the Head). A pre-Head string is rarely present, but here are some examples:

[PP straight through the window]
[PP right over the bar]
[PP just after midnight]

10.9 Phrases within Phrases

We will conclude this introduction to phrases by looking briefly at phrases within phrases. Consider the NP:

[NP small children]

It consists of a Head children and a pre-Head string small. Now small is an adjective, so it is the Head of its own adjective phrase. We know this because it could be expanded to form a longer string:

very small children

Here, the adjective Head small has its own pre-Head string very:

[AP very small]

So in small children, we have an AP small embedded with the NP small children. We represent this as follows:

[NP [AP small] children]

All but the simplest phrases will contain smaller phrases within them. Here's another example:

[PP across the road]

Here, the Head is across, and the post-Head string is the road. Now we know that the road is itself an NP -- its Head is road, and it has a pre-Head string the. So we have an NP within the PP:

[PP across [NP the road]]

When you examine phrases, remember to look out for other phrases within them.


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