What is an Adjective Phrase?

Adjective phrase is one of the many kinds of phrases you use in your speech and writing every day. With an adjective, you describe a noun.

With adjective phrases, you describe adjectives. Ultimately, adjective phrases offer more vivid descriptions for nouns and create richer sentences.

What is an Adjective Phrase?

To FULLY understand what an adjective phrase is, let’s break it down.

A phrase is a group of words that’s not a sentence but expresses a coherent thought. They fit into sentences to offer context and clarity. Here are a few sharp examples of phrases:

  • Down the hill
  • Without any penny

An adjective is a word that describes a noun. Adjectives include:

  • blue
  • big
  • funny

An adjective phrase is a phrase that contains an adjective, but there’s more to it than that—as a whole, an adjective phrase is a phrase that performs the function of an adjective by describing a noun.

Consider the bolded adjective phrases in these sentences:

  • We didn’t believe our tour guide when he warned us about the increasingly hostile goblins we’d encounter as we went further into the woods.
  • She was finer than her classmates. 

As you see in those examples, an adjective phrase can go before or after the noun it’s ultimately describing.

How to Identify Adjective Phrases

When you need to identify an adjective phrase in a sentence, look for the noun first. Identify who or what the sentence is about. Let’s use this sentence as an example:

After shopping around for months, I finally found a reliable, yet affordable, used vehicle. 

There are two nouns in this sentence: the speaker and the vehicle. Next, look for adjectives—the words that describe these nouns. In our example sentence, only one noun, the vehicle, is described: It’s a used vehicle.

But if you look a little closer, you’ll see that it isn’t just a used vehicle—more specifically, it’s a reliable, yet affordable, used truck. The phrase “reliable, yet affordable, used” is an adjective phrase because it gives descriptive details about the noun “vehicle.”

We could delete this adjective phrase, and the sentence’s meaning would remain the same: After months of shopping, I finally found a used truck. But by including the full phrase, we’re more deeply describing the exact kind of vehicle the speaker wanted, giving context for why they shopped around for so long.

Look for phrases that could be cut from their sentences without changing their meaning, but remain because they offer valuable context. Here are a few more bolded adjective phrases that serve this purpose:

  • The horse’s large, menacing eyes said a fight was imminent.
  • Your cluttered ’90s-era living room badly needs a furnishing.
  • She didn’t enjoy the book because it was too long and convoluted for them to follow.  

By design, an adjective phrase has multiple words. As you can see from the examples above, more than one of them may be adjectives.

When you’re scouting for an adjective phrase in a sentence, look for words that follow the Royal Order of Adjectives, the standard order English adjectives follow in sentences.

Although you might not consciously think about the order adjectives need to follow in a sentence, you will notice when they’re out of order because the sentence will sound wrong.

Examples of Adjective Phrases

Adjective phrases come in many different forms. Some incorporate comparative and superlative adjectives, such as these examples:

  • We experienced the decade’s most destructive storm.
  • They saw only the brightest stars through their telescope.

Compound adjectives are often part of adjective phrases, too:

  • The movie, short and whitewashed, faced criticism from historians.
  • The playlist was too slow-paced for the crowd that night.

Adjective phrases can contain adverbs:

  • It was a deliciously sensational play.
  • His hair, shockingly dyed pink, surprised his parents.

And they can incorporate prepositions:

  • The kids, like popcorn, were bouncing all over their trampoline.
  • My grandmother from New York makes a delicious egg cream.

Sometimes, an adjective phrase is just a series of adjectives:

  • My old, slow, gas-guzzling minivan finally died.
  • They took an intense, time-consuming physics course.

No matter what an adjective phrase contains or where it appears in a sentence, it always makes the sentence more descriptive without changing the sentence’s central meaning.

Comments (1)

  1. It was great seeing how much work you put into it. The picture is nice, and your writing style is stylish, but you seem to be worrying that you should be presenting the next article. I’ll almost certainly be back to read more of your work if you take care of this hike.

    January 22, 2024 at 3:58 pm

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