Grammar Topics

Verb Phrases

A verb phrase contains a verb in the form of a participle. A participle is a form of a verb that ends in ing or ed. Verb phrases work as adjectives or nouns.

Terrified by the rolling boulder, the hikers ran down the mountain.

The dog likes chasing the cat.

In the first sentence above, terrified is the participial form of the verb terrify. The phrase terrified by the rolling boulder is an adjective that describes the hikers. In the second sentence above, the verb phrase chasing the cat is a noun.

Verb phrases are often misplaced when used as adjectives. They should be placed next to the thing they describe. In the following sentence, the verb phrase is misplaced:

Incorrect: Based on the evidence, we delivered our recommendations.

In the sentence above, the recommendations are the things that are based on our discussion, but the phrase based on the evidence is placed next to we, mistakenly describing it instead. The sentence could be revised to correctly place the verb phrase:

Correct: We made some recommendations based on the evidence.

Some participles have morphed into other parts of speech, and so verb phrases using these participles do not work as adjectives and do not describe anything:

Provided that they read the text, the students will do well on the exam.

In the sentence above, provided is the participial form of provide, but the phrase provided that they read the text works here as a conjunction. The word provided is not intended to describe anything in the sentence; thus, it’s fine to place provided that they read the text, next to the students.