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The Indispensable Pillar Of Writing: How To Use Phrases

phrases, noun phrases, prepositional phr by marciano guerrero
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A phrase is a group of words without a subject and a conjugated verb; some phrases may have a subject or a conjugated verb, but not both. Each phrase contains a "central" or predominant word or words which are often called the 'head of the phrase.'

Noun phrases function as subjects, direct object, indirect objects, or objects of prepositions:

My canary is sad. [My canary is a noun phrase functioning as the subject of the sentence.]

My yellow canary hits high Cs. [Noun preceded by adjective.]

Dr. Sung pulled Mrs. Kim's tooth. [The noun phrases here are proper names.]

The thief stole a computer. [Nouns preceded by definite and indefinite articles, respectively.]

Our children get along with their teachers. [Nouns preceded by possessive pronouns.]

The actor with the crooked smile won the Oscar. [Noun with prepositional phrase.]

Verb phrases include a verb and modifiers and express action or state of being.

Maggie scored the winning goal. [scored the winning goal is a verb phrase being used as a predicate.]

Your loan has been approved

The economy has tanked.

Adjectival phrases include adjectives that modify a noun or nouns:

Santa Claus wore a dazzling red outfit [dazzling red are adjectives that modify the noun outfit.]

He entered: a small, dark and spare man, in spectacles (Bronte, Villete, 65).

A dark little man he certainly was; pungent and austere (Bronte, Villete, 133).

A dim and dirty drizzle began to fall and there was a dank wind from the river and the houses and the streets became increasingly blank and glum and anonymous (Caldwell 50).

A terrible kind of awareness, sweet, evanescent, agonizing ... (Meyrink?108).

Adverbial phrases include adverbs that modify verbs, adjectives, or clauses; adverbs may occur as single words or in pairs:

She gets angry quickly and very often [quickly and very often are adverbial phrases.]

I often saw him hard-worked, yet seldom over-driven; and never irritated, confused or oppressed (Bronte, Villette, 206).

Why did I feel this terror, all of a sudden? (Meyrink?94).

My heart began to contract convulsively (Meyrink?66).

Prepositional phrases include a preposition as the predominant word:

At times In front of By way of In a flash In a transport of delight For an instant For a fraction of a second

In my father's house are many mansions [in my father's house, 'in' is a preposition followed by the nouns 'father' and 'house.' Most prepositional phrases are modifiers; that is, they function as either adjective or adverbs.]

On second thought, that makes me doubt the result [On is a preposition and the central word of the prepositional phrase on second thought, which in turn functions as an adverb.]

Mimi was upset about her low grade in Accounting [About is a preposition and the head of the prepositional phrase about her low grade in accounting. This phrase modifies the verb 'upset;' therefore, it functions as an adverb.]

And yet, in giving laws to a commonwealth, in maintaining States and governing kingdoms, in organizing armies and conducting wars, in dealing with subject nations, and in extending State's dominions, we find no prince, no republic, no captain, and no citizen who resorts to the example of the ancient (Machiavelli?4).

They looked upon him, as painters often do writers, with contempt because he was a layman, with tolerance because he practiced an art, and with awe because he used a medium in which themselves felt ill at ease (Maugham 189).

Absolute phrases are treated at length in Mary's Book.

Participial Phrases function as adjectives; they easily identifiable because they include participials, which are verb forms that end in with the suffix ed, en, or ing.

Stunned and shocked, she retreated.

Shaken, she stuttered and never recovered.

Cursing, she moved away.

Shaking with terror, I got down on to the floor, and, as softly as I could, crept up to Laponder's bed (Meyrink?161).

Infinitive Phrases are treated at length in Chapter 3.

Gerund Phrases include present participles (verb forms ending in -ing), and always function as nouns. The can also be used as subjects, subject complements, direct objects, or objects of prepositions.

Modeling can be lucrative.

The gerund 'Modeling' in the above sentence is acting as the subject of the sentence.

Mary enjoys modeling.

By responding to the question: What is it that Mary enjoys? We discover that the answer 'modeling' is not only a gerund but also acting as the direct object.

Wanda earned a fortune from modeling alone.

Jill complained bitterly about modeling on weekends.

She earned high fees by modeling in China.

In the above three examples the gerund 'modeling' follows prepositions; therefore, the gerund is acting as the object of a preposition.

Retired. Former investment banker, Columbia University-educated, Vietnam Vet (67-68). For the writing techniques I use, see Mary Duffy's e-book: Sentence Openers. To read my book reviews of the Classics visit my blog: Writing To Live

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