A dictionary defines 'noun phrase' as:

"A phrase formed by a noun and all its modifiers and determiners."

But some noun phrase has no modifiers, and some noun phrase has a modifier, not modifiers. Then, does it mean a plural have a special function?


In the same way, 'winged' is defined 'having wings' although 'a winged man has one wing' is true.


I'm using mathematical examples since mathematicians like to have very exact definitions.

You can say:

"All even prime numbers are less than 10"

This is true and grammatically correct. The fact that there is only one even prime number is a separate fact and not dependent on the first.

You can say

"All odd perfect numbers are greater than 10⁵⁰⁰⁰".

This is also true. Even though I don't know how many odd perfect numbers exist.

It is even correct to say

"All square prime numbers are negative".

This is certainly grammatically correct and an empty truth, since the set of square prime numbers is empty.

In the definition, "A noun phrase is a noun preceded by all its modifiers", does not imply that there are more than one modifier. It means that each modifier, if it exists precedes the noun. This is not a special use of the plural, but it is standard precise English.

  • People are smart. Then, 'people' can consist of two people who exist and two people who don't exist. I got it.
    – user126927
    Jan 3 at 0:45

According to Merriam-Webster:

Noun phrase:
A phrase formed by a noun and all its modifiers and determiners.

According to Collins Dictionary:

Noun phrase:
A noun phrase is a word or group of words that can function as the subject, the object, or the complement in a sentence.

It continues to say that:

A noun phrase may consist of only one word. That word will be either a noun or a pronoun. A noun phrase may consist of more than one word. One of these words, a noun or a pronoun, is the headword. The other words describe or modify the headword which are called modifiers.

It again states that:

A noun can be premodified by:

  • A determiner.

So you see, it's not necessary for a noun phrase to contain a modifier. It may or may not have one. Moreover, a determiner is just a type of modifier. And that definition is also not wrong, it says that a noun phrase is a phrase consisting of a noun and all its modifiers and determiners it does not say that the total number of modifiers and determiners will never be zero.

  • 1
    Yeah, it means the noun phrase consists of the noun, and any modifiers or determiners that happen to be attached to it! Jan 2 at 16:05

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