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Grammatical Forms of English Adjective Phrases

Grammatical Forms of English Adjective Phrases

An adjective phrase is a phrase in which an adjective functions as the head of the phrase plus any modifiers and complements. The four grammatical forms that appear within the internal structure of English adjective phrases are:

  • Adverb phrases
  • Prepositional phrases
  • Verb phrases
  • Noun clauses

The following sections define each of the four grammatical forms that form the internal structure of adjective phrases as well as provide examples to illustrate use.

Adverb Phrases

Adverb phrases are the first grammatical form that appear within adjective phrases in the English language. Notational grammars define adverbs as “words that describes verbs and adjectives.” An adverb phrase is a phrase in which an adverb functions as the head plus any other adverbs functioning as adverb phrase modifiers. Adverb phrases perform the grammatical function of adjective phrase modifier within adjective phrases. For example, the following italicized adverb phrases function as adjective phrase modifiers within adjective phrases:

  • somewhat grumpy
  • smartly chic
  • rather annoyingly loud
  • quite shockingly pink

Adverb phrases always precede the adjective within an adjective phrase.

Prepositional Phrases

Prepositional phrases are the second grammatical form that appear within adjective phrases in the English language. Notational grammars define prepositions as “words that indicate relationships between words.” A prepositional phrase is a phrase formed by a preposition followed by a prepositional complement. Prepositional phrases perform the grammatical function of adjective phrase complement within adjective phrases. An adjective phrase complement is defined as a word, phrase, or clause that that completes the meaning of an adjective or adjective phrase. For example, the following italicized prepositional phrases function as adjective phrase complements within adjective phrases:

  • fond of Sesame Street
  • happy for the new parents
  • terrified of sinkholes
  • passionate about English grammar

Prepositional phrases always follow the adjective within an adjective phrase.

Verb Phrases

Verb phrases are the third grammatical form that appear within adjective phrases in the English language. Notational grammars define verbs as “words that express and action or state.” A verb phrase is a phrase formed by a verb plus any infinitive markers, particles, modifiers, or complements. Verb phrases perform the grammatical function of adjective phrase complement within adjective phrases. Only verbs in the form of infinitives can appear within adjective phrases. For example the following italicized verb phrases function as adjective phrase complements within adjective phrases:

  • anxious to attend classes
  • glad  to meet you
  • stupid to buy a counterfeit purse
  • certain to have won

Verb phrases also follow the adjective within an adjective phrase.

Noun Clauses

Noun clauses are the fourth grammatical form that appear within adjective phrases in the English language. Noun clauses are defined as subordinate clauses that consist of a subordinating conjunction following by a clause and that perform nominal functions. Noun clauses perform the grammatical function of adjective phrase complement within adjective phrases. Only finite, or conjugated, that- and Ø-clauses can function as adjective phrase complements. For example:

  • aware that the shipment would be late
  • surprised that my dog likes oranges
  • sorry you failed the exam
  • certain my baby was a boy

Adjectives that often take noun clauses as complements include afraid, angry, aware, certain, clear, convinced, disappointed, glad, happy, pleased, positive, sad, sorry, surprised, sure, upset, and worried. Noun clauses also always follow the adjective within an adjective phrase.

Combining Grammatical Forms

The four grammatical forms that can appear within adjective phrases can also appear in combination with other grammatical forms within a single adjective phrase. For example, the following eight constructions are some of the possible combinations of grammatical forms within adjective phrases in English:

  • Adjective
  • Adverb Phrase-Adjective
  • Adjective-Prepositional Phrase
  • Adjective-Verb Phrase
  • Adjective-Noun Clause
  • Adverb Phrase-Adjective-Prepositional Phrase
  • Adverb Phrase-Adjective-Verb Phrase
  • Adverb Phrase-Adjective-Noun Clause

For example:

  • Adverb Phrase | Adjective | Prepositional Phrase
    terribly | depressed | about the economy
  • Adverb Phrase | Adjective | Verb Phrase
    quite | happy | to fold the laundry
  • Adverb Phrase | Adjective | Noun Clause
    somewhat | displeased | that the weatherman was wrong about the forecast again

The four grammatical forms that form the internal structure of adjective phrases in English include adverb phrases, prepositional phrases, verb phrases, and noun clauses.

Summary

Adjective phrases in English grammar are phrases in which an adjective functions as the head of the phrase. Adjective phrases perform adjectival grammatical functions.

Adjective phrase is a grammatical form.

The four grammatical functions performed by adjective phrases are noun phrase modifier, subject complement, and object complement..

The four grammatical forms that may appear in adjective phrases are the adverb phrase, prepositional phrase, verb phrase, and noun clause.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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