The Printable KISS Workbooks
What is a "Phrase"? Study:
At a 
Reading Desk
1877
by
Fredrick Lord Leighton
(1830-1896)

     A "phrase" is a group of words that work together as one. Adjectives, for example, modifying nouns and by doing so form noun phrases:

the old fir tree

Similarly, adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, and by doing so they form phrases:
 
Verb phrases came quickly
Adjectival phrases very beautiful
Adverbial phrases too slowly

Phrases grow as more words are added to them or as they connect to other words. Phrases are named by the most important word in them. Thus

very beautiful house

is called a noun phrase because the "very" modifies "beautiful," and "beautiful" modifies the noun "house."

Two Ways of Looking at Sentences -- Modification and Chunking

     When we talk about "modification," we are looking at the way a word modifies, or affects the meaning of the word it modifies. There is, however, another important way of looking at sentences. Almost every word in every sentence connects to another word (or construction) in its sentence until all these words end up connected to a main subject and verb in the sentence. Linguists (people who study how language works) call this connecting "chunking." You will be learning more about this later, but for now we are simply interested in adjectival and adverbial phrases. Consider the following sentence:

The little boy runs very quickly.

The adjectives "The" and "little" modify (and thus chunk to) the noun "boy." In other words, they form a noun phrase that functions as the subject of the sentence. Similarly, the adverb "very" modifies (chunks to) the adverb "quickly," and "quickly" modifies (chunks to) the verb "runs." They thus form a verb phrase that functions as the verb in the sentence.


About these Exercises on Phrases

     The following exercises ask you to focus on noun and verb phrases. You really do not want to work with simple sentences such as "The little boy runs very quickly." You can do better than that. Therefore the sentences in the exercises are more complicated. The directions for all these exercises are:

1. Underline every subject once and every verb twice.
2. Label every noun (N), every pronoun (PRN), adjective (J), and adverb (A).
3. Draw a box around every noun phrase and an oval around every verb phrase.
4. If parts of a phrase are separated by other words, draw a line to connect from box to box or from oval to oval to connect the parts of the phrase.
The exercises include some words that function in ways that you have not studied yet. In the exercises, these words are in bold.  For these exercises, you should simply ignore those words. For example,

In return Simon gave them a place to sleep on the floor of the attic.

In this sentence, "In," "to sleep on," and "of" are in bold, so you should ignore them. Having completed KISS Level 1.1, you should be able to identify "Simon gave" as a subject and verb.
     Next you have to label every noun, pronoun, adjective, and adverb. You will need to do some thinking, but remember that you are expected to make some mistakes. "Return," for example, could be a verb, but here it does not have a subject, so it probably functions as a noun. You should easily recognize "them" as a pronoun. Similarly, "a" and "the" are always adjectives. After you follow direction number two, your paper should look something like:

In return (N) Simon (N) gave them (PRN) a (J) place (N) to sleep on the (J) floor (N) of the (J) attic (N).
The nouns "return" "Simon" are not modified, so they are simple nouns, but "place," "floor," and "attic" are modified, so you should have boxes around three noun phrases: "a place," "the floor," and "the attic."

Split phrases

     Sometimes, modifiers are separated from the words they modify. For example:

Maybe she will give me a new red coat.

In this sentence, "Maybe" modifies (chunks to) "will give." In cases like this, draw an oval (because "maybe" is an adverb) around "Maybe" and around "will give." Connect the two ovals with a curved line.

     Dr. Vavra, the developer of KISS Grammar, truly believes that you are smart and can find the noun and verb phrases in even more complicated sentences. The following examples include constructions that you will be learning about later, not only in KISS Level 1, but also in KISS Level 3.

More than one subject or verb  -- "and"

     You may have already seen subjects that have more than one verb and verbs that have more than one subject. Technically, these are called "compounds." They are the focus of KISS Level 1.4, and they are usually joined by "and." For now, simply remember to look for all the subjects that go with a verb and for all the verbs that go with a subject. (Note that the "and" in the following sentence is in bold. You are not expected to explain it, but you should be able to identify both of the subjects of "hurried."

The Fairies and the Goblins hurried to the kitchen in the hollow.

Multiple subject/verb patterns

     As in the following example, many sentences have more than one subject/verb pattern. A subject/verb pattern and all the phrases that chunk to it is called a "clause." You will be studying clauses in KISS Level 3. For now, simply remember to look for all the subject/verb patterns in a sentence.
     

"You speak truly, brother," said another tree.

Note that the example includes the word "brother." You have not yet studied the function of "brother," but you should be able to identify it as a noun.



     Remember -- being smart does not mean that you will not make mistakes. Smart people make lots of mistakes -- and they learn from them. Ideally, your teacher will go over these exercises with you to help you understand your mistakes.