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Noun Phrases Expanded – Everything a Teacher (or Parent) Needs to Know

Noun phrases expanded
Noun Phrases Expanded appear in Year 2 and Year 4 of the National curriculum and are a great way of improving writing.

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What is a Phrase?

A Phrase is a group of words that don’t include a verb. 

It roughly runs paragraph > sentence > clause > phrase. Below is a video by the BBC explaining sentences, clauses and phrases. 


So if a Phrase had a verb it would be a clause. 

A few examples include: “a desk”, “on the desk”, “the clean, shiny desk”, “my last desk”, “the desk in my office”, “my desk and your desk”, “mine and your desk”, “very stable and colourful desk”, “writing easily”, “needing a rest”, “for 12 months a year”

What is a Noun Phrase?

A Noun Phrase is simply a phrase that includes a noun.  As it’s a Phrase there is no verb involved. 

Examples of Noun Phrases

A few examples include: “the desk”, “a desk”, “his desk”, “on the desk”, “the clean, shiny desk”, “my last desk”, “the desk in my office”, “my desk and your desk”, “mine and your desk”, and “very stable and colourful desk”,

What is a Noun Phrases Expanded?

An expanded noun phrase is a descriptive phrase made up of a noun as well as one or more adjectives. They are there to add more detail to a noun. Typically, adjectives are added, separated by commas, to describe the noun and create the noun phraseSo instead of the noun phrase “the man”, an expanded noun phrase might be “the tall man”. 

Examples of Noun Phrases Expanded:

  • The big, warm coat
  • The little, pretty cottage
  • The shoes with ruby jewels
  • Hannah’s bowl of melon
  • The cheeky monkey climbed on top of the car

Noun Phrases that need Expanding:

  • The alien – The green alien; the one-eyed, green alien in the spaceship; the smelly, angry alien
  • The gem – The shiny gem; the tiny, sparkly gem; the huge, knowledge gem
  • The viking – The viking warrior; the armed, large viking with the big sword; the peaceful, friendly viking
  • The tree – the green, large tree; the intimidating, dark tree; the huge, dominating tree

Noun Phrases Expanded & the National Curriculum

Noun Phrases turn up in two places in the National Curriculum

In Year 2: “Expanded noun phrases for description and specification [for example, the blue butterfly, plain flour, the man in the moon]”

Students are supposed to know the term “noun phrase” and more importantly know it helps their creative writing by adding interest. 

Noun phrases expanded year 2

In Year 4: “Noun phrases expanded by the addition of modifying adjectives, nouns and preposition phrases (e.g. the teacher expanded to: the strict maths teacher with curly hair)”

Noun phrases expanded

Why are Noun Phrases Expanded in the National Curriculum?

Expanded Noun Phrases are a great way of adding interest into writing. 

Let’s look at a simple, boring sentence: “The man drove the car down the road.” Technically it’s fine but not very interesting. 

Let’s expand the noun phrases “the man”, “the car” and “the road”. 

How about: 

“The angry man drove the loud car down the quiet road.” 

What do we think is happening in this sentence? Is the man nice? Would you like to live in the quiet road? 

“The angry, big man drove the loud, sports car down the quiet, village road.”

The more detail we add by expanding the noun phrases, the more interesting the writing. 

Who do we think the man could be and why would he be in the village? Would the people in the village be pleased to see him? 

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