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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Writers Workshop: Writer Resources

Grammar Handbook: Nouns and Verb Phrases

Noun Phrases

A noun phrase is made up of a noun and all its modifiers. It can function in a sentence as a subject, an object, or a complement. Some noun phrases begin with an infinitive (to go) or a gerund (going); this type of noun phrase is always singular:

To sail the seven seas was her lifelong dream. (subject)
Dieters prefer green salad. (object)
A ham sandwich is a popular lunch. (complement)

Verb Phrases

A verb phrase consists of a main verb plus one or more helping verbs, its complements, objects, or other modifiers, and functions syntactically as a verb.

Some common helping verbs are:

Helping verbs add meaning to other verbs. Some helping verbs change the time expressed by the key verb. Others, such as "should" and "might," are used to indicate obligation, possibility, ability, or permission: