Noun phrase

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In grammar, a noun phrase (abbreviated NP) is a phrase whose head is a noun or a pronoun, optionally accompanied by a modifier set.[1]

Noun phrases are very common cross-linguistically, but some languages like Tuscarora and Cayuga have been argued[by whom?] to lack this category.



Noun phrases normally consist of a head noun, which is optionally modified ("premodified" if the modifier is placed before the noun; "postmodified" if the modifier is placed after the noun). Possible modifiers include:

  • determiners: articles (the, a), demonstratives (this, that), numerals (two, five, etc.), possessives (my, their, etc.), and quantifiers (some, many, etc.). In English, determiners are usually placed before the noun;
  • adjectives (the red ball); or
  • complements, in the form of a prepositional phrase (such as: the student of physics), or a That-clause (the claim that the earth is round);
  • modifiers; pre-modifiers if placed before the noun and usually either as nouns (the university student) or adjectives (the beautiful lady), or post-modifiers if placed after the noun. A postmodifier may be either a prepositional phrase (the man with long hair) or a relative clause (the house where I live). The difference between modifiers and complements is that complements complete the meaning of the noun; complements are necessary, whereas modifiers are optional because they just give additional information about the noun.

Noun phrases can make use of an apposition structure. This means that the elements in the noun phrase are not in a head-modifier relationship, but in a relation of equality. An example of this is I, Caesar, declare ..., where "Caesar" and "I" do not modify each other.

The head of a noun phrase can be implied, as in "The Bold and the Beautiful" or Robin Hood's "rob from the rich and give to the poor"; an implied noun phrase is most commonly used as a generic plural referring to human beings.[2] Another example of noun phrase with implied head is I choose the cheaper of the two.

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