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Modifiers in English: Describing Nouns, Adjectives, Verbs, Adverbs, and Clauses

written by: Heather Marie Kosur • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 11/30/2013

English contains five grammatical modifiers performed by seven grammatical forms. The following article makes learning about modifiers in the English language easy by listing and exemplifying the grammatical modifier in English.

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    English Modifiers

    English Modifiers are words, phrases, and clauses that function to describe other words, phrases, and clauses. The English language contains five grammatical modifiers:

    1. Noun phrase modifiers
    2. Adjective phrase modifiers
    3. Verb phrase modifiers
    4. Adverb phrase modifiers
    5. Adverbials

    The following sections discuss the five types of modifiers in English and include examples to illustrate use for learning about modifiers in the English language.

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    Noun Phrase Modifiers

    The first type of modifier in the English language is the noun phrase modifier. A noun phrase modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes a noun or noun phrase. The five grammatical forms that perform the grammatical function of noun phrase modifier in English are:

    1. Noun phrases
    2. Adjective phrases
    3. Prepositional phrases
    4. Verb phrases
    5. Adjective (relative) clauses

    For example:

    • A soup pan burned my kitchen table. (noun phrases)
    • The burly, angry man ran over the bright red wagon. (adjective phrases)
    • That child in the purple jumper broke the vase on the table. (prepositional phrases)
    • The cake to bake is next to the frying pan and the cookies eaten by the dog. (verb phrases)
    • The woman who lives next door accidentally kicked the cat that the dog chased underfoot. (adjective clauses)
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    Adjective Phrase Modifiers

    The second type of modifier in the English language is the adjective phrase modifier. An adjective phrase modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes an adjective or adjective phrase. The two grammatical forms that perform the grammatical function of adjective phrase modifier in English are:

    1. Adverb phrases
    2. Prepositional phrases

    For example:

    • Some of the much older students are rather strange characters. (adverb phrases)
    • The extremely weird boy likes the very odd girl. (adverb phrases)
    • The floor, wet near the sink, is also moldy along the floorboard. (prepositional phrases)

    Adverb phrases more frequently function as adjective phrase modifiers than prepositional phrases.

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    Verb Phrase Modifiers

    The third type of modifier in the English language is the verb phrase modifier. A verb phrase modifier is a word or phrase that describes a verb or verb phrase. The grammatical form that performs the grammatical function of verb phrase modifier in English is:

    1. Adverb phrases

    For example:

    • Students must write legibly on tests. (adverb phrase)
    • My cat does not like to eat fruits or vegetables. (adverb phrase)
    • Some maniac drove incredibly quickly on the interstate this afternoon. (adverb phrase)
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    Adverb Phrase Modifiers

    The fourth type of modifier in the English language is the adverb phrase modifier. An adverb phrase modifier is a word that describes an adverb or adverb phrase. The grammatical form that performs the grammatical function of adverb phrase modifier in English is:

    1. Adverb phrases

    For example:

    • The thief snuck into the house quite quietly. (adverb phrase)
    • The gardener worked wonderfully slowly on his roses. (adverb phrase)
    • That man is yelling increasingly loudly at that child. (adverb phrase)
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    Adverbials

    The fifth type of modifier in the English language is the adverbial. An adverbial is a word, phrase, or clause that modifies an entire clause by providing additional information about time, place, manner, condition, purpose, reason, result, and concession. The five grammatical forms that perform the grammatical function of adverbial in English are:

    1. Adverb phrases
    2. Adverb clauses
    3. Prepositional phrases
    4. Noun phrases
    5. Verb phrases

    For example:

    • The jury studied the evidence carefully. (adverb phrase)
    • All roads are closed because the blizzard forced the snow plow drivers to stop for the moment. (adverb clause)
    • After the gunfight, the cowboy rode off into the sunset. (prepositional phrase)
    • She flies to Paris tonight. (noun phrase)
    • To improve his reading skills, Espen studies every night. (verb phrase)
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    Learning about modifiers in the English language requires learning the seven grammatical forms that perform the five grammatical modifiers, which is made easy with this guide about English modifiers.

References

  • Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. W.W. Norton & Company: New York.
  • Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.