What Are Noun Phrases? (with Examples)

What Are Noun Phrases? (with Examples)

A noun phrase is a phrase that plays the role of a noun. The head word in a noun phrase will be a noun or a pronoun. In the examples below, the whole noun phrase is shaded and the head word is in bold.
  • I like singing in the bath.
  • I know the back streets.
  • I've met the last remaining chief.
Compare the three examples above to these:
  • I like it.
  • I know them.
  • I've met him.
In these three examples, the words in bold are all pronouns. The ability to replace the noun phrases in the first three examples with a pronoun proves that the shaded texts are functioning as nouns, making them noun phrases.

Like any noun, a noun phrase can be a subject, an object, or a complement.

Examples of Noun Phrases

Noun phrases are extremely common. A noun with any sort of modifier (including just a number or an article) is a noun phrase. Here are some examples of noun phrases:
  • The best defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off. (Anon)
  • (In this example, there is a noun phrase within a noun phrase. The noun phrase the atom bomb is the object of the preposition against. The prepositional phrase against the atom bomb modifies defense.)
  • I don't have a bank account, because I don't know my mother's maiden name. (Paula Poundstone)
  • (In this example, both noun phrases are direct objects.)
  • The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it. (Dudley Moore, 1935-2002)
  • (In this example, the first noun phrase is the subject, and the second is a subject complement.)
  • Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. (Albert Einstein, 1879-1955)

See Also

What is a phrase? What is a clause? What are nouns? What are noun clauses? What is the subject of a sentence? What is an object? What is a complement? What is a direct object? What is the object of a preposition? Glossary of grammatical terms