Absolute Phrases

Definition: An absolute phrase (nominative absolute) is generally made up of a noun or pronoun with a participial phrase. It modifies the whole sentence, not a single noun, which makes it different from a participial phrase.Absolute phrases: Its branches covered in icicles, the tall oak stood in our yard.The tall oak, its branches covered in icicles, stood in our yard.The tall oak stood in our yard, its […]

Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Appositives

Definition: An appositive noun or phrase is restrictive (also called essential) if it narrows down the word it modifies. It tells which one of the noun you are writing about. A restrictive appositive noun or phrase is necessary to the meaning of the sentence. If you remove a restrictive appositive phrase, the sentence will sound like it is […]

Appositives and Appositive Phrases

Definition: An appositive is a word or phrase that renames the noun. It makes positively sure you know what the writer is talking about. We say that an appositive is “in apposition” to the noun, which means that it’s next to the noun. My uncle, a doctor, is moving to New Jersey.(Uncle and doctor are the same person. Doctor is in apposition […]

Classifying Verbals and Verbal Phrases

Participles present participle and past participle forms acting as an adjective The tiger walking toward us is the oldest cub. Gerunds present participle acting as a noun I really enjoy painting ceramics. Infinitives infinitive form (to walk) acting as a noun, adjective, or adverb My grandfather is learning to skydive.

Infinitives and Infinitive Phrases

Definition: An infinitive is a verb that has not been conjugated (changed to show person or tense). In English, infinitives generally use to with the base (present) form of the verb. The infinitive can work as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. Noun: To drive would be my first choice. Mom’s first choice is to fly.Adjective: Watermelons are good fruits to eat.Adverb: We […]

Gerunds and Gerund Phrases

Definition: A gerund is a verbal that uses the present participle of a verb (the ing form) but acts as a noun. It can act as a subject, a subject complement, a direct object, an indirect object, or an object of a preposition. Reading is my favorite activity. (gerund as a subject)Julie’s best subject is writing. (gerund as a subject complement)Carlos really […]

Misplaced Participial Phrases

A participle or participial phrase generally follows the noun or pronoun it modifies. Nonessential phrases can sometimes come before the noun. Phrases before nouns are set off with commas. Kevin, playing with his new puppy, did not finish his homework.Playing with his new puppy, Kevin did not finish his homework. Justin, working on his homework, made good […]

Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Participial Phrases

Definition: A phrase is restrictive (also called essential) if it narrows down the word it modifies. It tells which one of a noun you are writing about. A restrictive phrase is necessary to the meaning of the sentence. Restrictive phrases do not have commas around them. The man wearing the white jacket is our coach.There are several men. Wearing […]

Participles and Participial Phrases

ParticiplesDefinition: A participle is a form of a verb that needs a helping verb. There are two participles, the present participle and the past participle. Present Present Participle(needs to be) Past Past Participle(needs have) dance(s) dancing danced danced eat(s) eating ate eaten become(s) becoming became become The present participle of all verbs ends in ing. The past […]


When is a verb not a verb? When it is a verbal. You remember that in English there are only four forms of each verb: the present, the present participle, the past, and the past participle. Sometimes when you see these forms in a sentence, they are not actually being used as verbs.Definition: A verbal (or […]