The Nominal Group


A nominal group (also known as noun phrase) is a group that has a noun or a noun equivalent as its headword. The structure of a nominal group is usually “(M) H (Q)”. “M” stands for modifier, “H” for headword and “Q” for qualifier. The items in bracket are optional. Besides, the structure is unidirectional (“M” comes before “H” and “H” before “Q”).

The Modifier

The modifier is realised by the following:

  1. Determiners – “a”, “an”, “the”, “each”, “every”, etc. However, these determiners can be preceded by other items called pre-determiners.
  2. Pre-determiners – “half”, “both”, “all”, etc.
  3. Cardinal numerals – “one”, “two”, “three”, etc.
  4. Ordinal numbers – “first”, “second”, “third”, etc.
  5. Quantifiers – “few”, “a few”, “little”, etc.
  6. Epithet (adjectives) – “beautiful”, “short”, “tall”, etc.
  7. Nominals – “Oyo girls”, “school boys”, etc. They are nouns functioning as adjectives.
  8. Possessive pronouns – “my”, “our”, “their”, etc.

The Headword

The headword is usually realised by a noun or a pronoun. Example: “The boy from Ekiti is my friend” or “He is my friend”.



Qualifiers are realised by adjectives. E.g. “good”, “tasty”, “palatable”, “tall”, etc.

Qualifiers are also realised by prepositional groups. E.g. “Ladies of nowadays are lazy”, “The book on the table is mine”.

Also realised by relative clauses. E.g. “The man who came here yesterday is my uncle”, “The book that I gave you last night is my lecturer’s”.

The Structural Types of the English Nominal Groups

  1. Unmodified Head type (H-type). E.g. “Boys (H) are lazy”, “She (H) is my friend”, “Nigeria (H) is corrupt”, etcetera.
  2. Pre-modified Head type (M-H type). E.g. “The (M) boy (H) is my (M) friend (H)”.
  3. Post-modified Head type (H-Q type). E.g. “Ladies (H) of nowadays (Q) are lazy”, “Students (H) who study hard (Q) often perform well in exams”, etc.
  4. Pre- and Post-modified Head type (M-H-Q type). E.g. “The (M) boy (H) from Ilobu (Q) is my friend”.

Syntactic Functions of Nominal Group

  1. Subject of the sentence: E.g. “Ade (S) is a student”, “The man (S) is my uncle”, etc.
  2. Direct Object: E.g. “He killed the goat (Od)”, “She slapped him (Od)”, etc.
  3. Indirect Object: E.g. “He gave Bisi (Oi) a ring”, “He bought his mother (Oi) a car”.
  4. Subject Complement: E.g. “Shade is a nurse (Subj. C)”, “Sakira is the class rep (Subj. C)”.
  5. Object Complement: E.g. “We made Bisi the class rep (Obj. C).”
  6. Appositive: E.g. “Prof. Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate (Appositive), is around.”
  7. Completive in a Prepositional Phrase: E.g. “On the table”, “At night”, “At amphitheatre”, etc.


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