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Verb Phrase

A verb phrase is the part of a sentence containing the verb and any direct or indirect object, but not the subject. Read more about verbs and tenses.

Introduciton to verb tenses

This is because a verb phrase is simply the combination of a verb and all its objects, minus the actual subject of the sentence. So, in a way, you could say that the basic structure of a sentence is: subject plus verb phrase. The verb phrase cannot stand alone as a sentence (like a dependent clause). But it becomes a full sentence when it is combined with an appropriate subject. 

Adding a verb phrase to a sentence

Here is an example of the verb phrase being used correctly in a sentence. 

"The man went on an eight-hour bike ride in order to get his mind off his romantic and financial troubles." 

In this sentence, everything after "the man" is a properly formed verb phrase. 

Now, here is an example of the verb phrase being used in an incorrect way

"The woman is thinking last week about the date she went on and its potential consequences for her future."

In this sentence, the verb phrase contains an incorrect present tense conjugation.  

In case you are still a little confused about the nature of the verb phrase, here are a couple rules for the purposes of your reference. 

  1. The verb phrase is essentially just the entire sentence, minus the subject. It is often also known as the predicate, where the structure of a sentence can be defined in terms of subject plus predicate. The subject is the main noun in a sentence who is performing an action; therefore, the verb phrase is just the sentence excluding this subject. 
  2. The verb phrase is primarily useful within the context of linguistics or grammatical analysis. As an ordinary language user, you probably will not need to think too much about what is or is not a verb phrase. The concept is meant more for analytical purposes than for pragmatic purposes.  

Connections to linguistics

In linguistics, the verb phrase is often categorized as either a finite or a non-finite verb phrase, on the basis of the specific conjugation of the verb in question. This becomes especially relevant when one analyzes the verb phrase itself into its constituent parts, including the primary verb, the secondary verb phrase, and so on. In general, a clause contains one finite verb phrase and possibly other non-finite verb phrases. It really depends on the kind of analysis that one is conducting on a given sentence, and the way that the sentence is being broken down into its constituent parts. In principle, these structural parts can be mapped in a tree-like way that is ultimately reflective of the most elementary parts of language. 

It is also worth noting, though, that different theories of linguistics may have different conceptions of what the verb phrase is. Indeed, even the very concept of the verb phrase is more important within some theories than others. The verb phrase can thus more or less be understood as a technical construct that is primarily utilized by specialists in language analysis, as opposed to actual layspeakers of a given language. For practical purposes, the verb phrase can just be defined as the sentence minus the subject. But practically considered, this definition is somewhat trite and has little actual applicability.  

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