For example, the house at the end of the street is a phrase. It acts like a noun. It can further be broken down into two shorter phrases functioning as adjectives: at the end and of the street, a shorter prepositional phrase within the longer prepositional phrase. At the end of the street could be replaced by an adjective such as nearby: the nearby house or even the house nearby. The end of the street could also be replaced by another noun, such as the crossroads to produce the house at the crossroads.
Most phrases have a central word defining the type of phrase. This word is called the head of the phrase. Some phrases, however, can be headless. For example, the rich is a noun phrase composed of a determiner and an adjective without a noun.
Phrases may be classified by the type of head taken by them:
A complex phrase consists of several words, whereas a simple phrase consists of only one word. This terminology is especially often used with verb phrases:
"Complex," which is phrase-level, is often confused with "compound," which is word-level. However, there are certain phenomena that formally seem to be phrases but semantically are more like compounds, such as "women's magazines," which has the form of a possessive noun phrase, but which refers (just like a compound) to one specific lexeme (i.e. a magazine for women and not a magazine owned by a woman).
In more semiotic approaches to language, such as the more cognitivist versions of construction grammar, a phrasal structure is not only a certain formal combination of word types whose features are inherited from the head. Here each phrasal structure also expresses some type of conceptual content, be it specific or abstract.
In English there are five different kinds of phrases, one for each of the main parts of speech. In a phrase, the main word, or the word that is what the phrase is about, is called the head. In these examples, it is printed in cyan. The words which make up the rest of the phrase and do the work of changing, or modifying the head, are printed in green.
In a noun phrase, one or more words work together to give more information about a noun.
In an adjective phrase, one or more words work together to give more information about an adjective.
In an adverb phrase, one or more words work together to give more information about an adverb.
In a prepositional phrase, one or more words work together to give information about time, location, or possession, or condition. The preposition always appears at the front of the phrase.