• Andrew

Grammar Bites | Noun Phrase Modifiers (YouTube Script)


The noun phrase is probably the most modifiable part of any sentence. You can take my word for it, but it sure would be nice to find a noun somewhere around here. Oh look, there’s one. How convenient and purely by chance.

Well, as we know by now, a noun phrase consists at least of a single noun like our little friend here. It’s also very common for nouns to come with determiners attached. These words, as we’ve discussed before, just tell us which noun out of a whole collection of nouns we’re talking about, this ice cream, not that one, for example. Determiners don’t have to be in direct contact with the noun, though: there’s plenty of room for modifiers in between.

As if on cue, here’s one now, finding its way in between the noun and determiner. Any word that gives us more information about a noun is a modifier. Traditionally, we think of these words as adjectives, but even words we normally think of as nouns can work as modifiers. So yes, in a different context, banana could be a noun—but here it’s doing the work of a modifiers.

Of course, there’s plenty of room for more traditional modifiers, the ones we call adjectives. There’s no limit to them. In fact, you can even find modifiers modifying modifiers—isn’t that fun?

But now our noun phrase is looking a little skewed to the left. Let’s round it out on the other side. Like with verb phrases, the kinds of modifiers that come after the noun are usually different and more complex when compared to the modifiers that come before.

Here’s a prepositional phrase that tells us more about where our noun is.

We could also add an appositive, which is just a different way of referring to the noun, a substitute, if you will, for the main noun.

Of course, there’s room for participial phrases, too. These happen when verbs start playing the modifying game.

Relative and complement clauses can also join in the fun, though complement clauses are pickier about which nouns they’ll attach to. These modifiers deserve their own video, though, so stay tuned.

Okay, let’s take a quick breath and take stock of where we are. That’s a pretty full-to-the-brim noun phrase. Surely there’s no way to modify this ice cream any further, is there?

That’s right, good memory—if we happen to have a linking verb in the sentence, we can also add a subject complement to the mix, one of those modifiers that comes after the verb but that still modifies the noun in the subject phrase.

Did I miss anything? Probably. Is this the most graceful sentence in the world? Definitely not. But is it enough to get you started on writing noun phrases that have more character? Yes.

Actually, that relative clause thing was a good idea. I think we’ll talk about those next.