0

I am trying to learn how to identify noun phrases, however I am having some difficulty with the following cases.

Case 1:

The cars were destroyed and thrown away in five days.

"were destroyed and thrown away" seems to be post-modifier on the head noun 'cars' and hence it forms a noun phrase with 'The car'. Is this correct? With this logic, isn't 'and thrown away in five days' also a post modifier on 'cars'?

Case 2:

The dog which John loves is dead

In this case, The noun phrase is 'The dog' only, this is because, 'which john loves' is not saying anything about 'the dog', correct?

Case 3:

These wounds require immediate attention by a doctor

The entire sentence is a noun phrase, because "require immediate attention by a doctor" is a post modifier on 'wounds'?

2

Example 1

In the sentence:

The cars were destroyed and thrown away in five days.

"were" is the verb, and the noun phrase is simply "the cars" (or you can think of "were destroyed" as a phrasal verb). In any case "were destroyed and thrown away" does not describe "cars" it tells what happened to the cars, so it si not a modifier of the noun "cars". Note that one can form the sentence:

They were destroyed and thrown away in five days.

but the attempted sentences:

  • They in five days
  • It in five days.

do not work (having no verb), which confirms that "The cars were destroyed and thrown away" is not a noun phrase.

Example 2

The dog which John loves is dead.

First of all I would recast this as

The dog which John loved is dead.

because the dog is in the past, now being dead. To avoid the tense issue, consider the alternate example:

The dog which John loves is black.

But the point is that "which John loves" (or loved) is a relative clause, telling the reader which particular dog is being discussed. So "The dog which John loves" is a noun phrase. It contains the shorter noun phrase "the dog". Note that the whole noun phrase can be replaced with a single pronoun:

It is black.

and a grammatically valid, albeit not very meaningful, sentence remains.

Example 3

These wounds require immediate attention by a doctor.

The verb is "require". The noun phrase is "These wounds". Note that this can be replaced by the single pronoun "they":

They require immediate attention by a doctor.

" immediate attention by a doctor" is what the wounds require. That is the object of the verb "require".

A noun phrase does not normally include the main verb of a sentence

Overall and links

If you cannot replace a string of words with a single pronoun and leave a grammatically valid sentence, it is almost surely not a noun phrase. This means that a complete sentence is not normally a noun phrase, nor is an independent clause in a compound sentence.

A noun phrase consists of the primary or head noun and things that modifiy it, such as:

  • articles/determiners
  • adjectives
  • other nouns used adjectivally ("fallout survival shelter" the head noun is "shelter")
  • possessive forms attached to the noun or a shorter npoun phrase ("John's shirt" the head noun is "shirt", "John's" modifies it by indicating which shirt.)
  • possessive pronouns
  • participles which are function as adjectives ("a flying squirrel" the participle "squirrel" tells the reader what kind of squirrel; "The marching soldiers" "marching" says which soldiers are being referred to, or describes them.)
  • prepositional phrases ("a crook on the run" the head noun is "crook" while "on the run tells what the crook is doing, or which crook is meant
  • relative clauses that are adjectival in function ("the runner who came in first", the head noun is "runner" )
  • Participle phrases ("A politician scheming for a victory")
  • infinitives ("A student to teach" the head noun is "student")

Two pages which describe noun phrases in some detail are:

0
2

Let's check what exactly is a noun phrase

According to the Oxford Dictionary

noun phrase
Grammar
A word or group of words containing a noun and functioning in a sentence as subject, object, or prepositional object.

Case 1:

The cars were destroyed and thrown away in five days.

The subject, the noun phrase, is "the cars". This sentence can be understood as

The cars were destroyed and the cars were thrown away in five days.

where

were thrown away in five days

is the predicate of the second sentence.

Case 2:

The dog which John loves is dead

The subject, the noun phrase, of this sentence is

The dog which John loves

"which John loves" does affect the dog, determining which dog is dead. The dead dog is not any dog, it's the one that John loves.

Case 3:

These wounds require immediate attention by a doctor

According to the definition, there are two noun phrases in that sentence: the subject [These wounds] and the object [inmediate attention by a doctor].

2
  • Thanks, regarding, "The cars were destroyed and thrown away in five days.", can you elaborate a bit more on why, 'where destroyed' are not part of the noun phrase? According to dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/noun-phrases , any word that is dependent on the noun, is part of the noun phrase, isn't, 'were destroyed' dependent on 'the cars'? (Apologies if this a stupid question, I am new at this!)
    – John
    Sep 30 '19 at 15:33
  • @John "were destroyed" is the main verb (passive voice), it is not part of the subject.
    – RubioRic
    Sep 30 '19 at 16:08
0
  • Verbs aren't part of noun phrases unless in participle form.

"Were destroyed and thrown away in five days" isn't a noun phrase but "being destroyed and thrown away in five days" could be.

  • In X which Y, Y provides more information about X, and X must be a noun or noun phrase.

  • Therefore all of X which Y is a noun phrase.

So "The dog which John loves" is a noun phrase and "which John loves" definitely talks about and has to do with "the dog".

  • The defintion of a sentence is something that has a complete subject and verb.

In X which Y, Y can be a clause that has its own subject and verb, but because which is a relative pronoun, it can't complete the sentence (and it can't even complete the phrase, it needs the X there).

1
  • Minor quibble, it is possible for an imperative sentence to have only a verb, or to have a verb and an object, with teh subject implied. "Run!" is a sentence, and elided from of "[You] run [away]!" However, that does not apply in this case. Oct 1 '19 at 1:05
0

"The cars were destroyed and thrown away" is a clear example of a sentence in the passive voice. The active version would be "Someone destroyed and threw away the cars", with the compound verb phrase "destroyed and threw away" as the main verb of the sentence. What did they destroy and throw away? Answer: the cars, so this is a direct object which consists of an NP formed by two elements: the determiner "the" and the headnoun "cars".

1
  • 1
    Can you edit this to explain how it goes beyond the existing answers?
    – mdewey
    Aug 21 at 12:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.