A phrase is a functional word group that does not contain a subject-finite verb combination, although some phrases do use nonfinite verb forms. We can distinguish five kinds of phrases: verb, prepositional, participial, gerundive, and infinitive.
A verb phrase is a main verb plus any auxiliaries: They have been calling all day.
A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition (in, of, to, and so on) plus an object, plus (often though not invariably) modifiers of the object:
Three people were sitting on the beautiful green lawn.
The chief function of prepositional phrases is to modify, either as adjectives or as adverbs. A participial phrase is constructed around a participle, usually in the present (running, for example) or past (run) participle form. It acts as an adjective:
Here the participial phrase modifies man. A gerundive phrase also uses the present participle but in a construction that functions as a noun. In the following example the gerundive phrase is the subject of the verb phrase can be:
An infinitive phrase, finally, is built around one of the infinitives (usually the active example, to run). Infinitive phrases may act either as nouns or as modifiers. In this sentence the phrase is the direct object of the verb, a nounal function:
They want me to go to medical school. Here it is an adjective modifying time: We had plenty of time to get there and back.
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