20 Examples of Grammatical Functions in English

Examples of grammatical functions are subject, object, subject complement, object complement, modifier of a verb, modifier or qualifier of a noun, complement of a preposition, appositive and complement of a verb. In this post, I will give you practical examples of grammatical functions in English to help you understand them better.

The list contains examples of grammatical functions for the most commonly used grammatical names. These are noun/noun phrase/noun clause, adjective/adjectival phrase/adjectival clause and adverb/adverbial phrase/adverbial clause.


Throughout this tutorial, I will use the below expressions interchangeably.

Adjective phrase/adjectival phrase

Adverb phrase/adverbial phrase

Secondly, nouns, adjectives and adverbs refer to their phrase forms and clauses as well.

Are you ready to have examples of grammatical functions? Then let’s get started.

List of Grammatical Functions of Nouns

There are, at least, 11 grammatical functions of nouns in English.

Here is the list of all the most common grammatical functions of nouns. Remember that the grammatical functions of nouns are mostly the same for noun phrases and noun clauses as well.

1. Noun Phrase Head

A noun can function as the head of a noun phrase. This means that it is the main word in that group of words and, for that matter, gives the phrase its distinctive name – Noun Phrase.


In each of the following noun phrases, the word in bold lettering is a noun. It is functioning as the head of the noun phrase.

1. an important idea

2. a very difficult assignment

3. many people

4. the crux of the matter

5. my favourite teacher

2. Subject

Another function of a noun is the subject of the main verb in a sentence or simply the subject of the sentence. The noun phrase and the noun clause also perform the same function in a sentence.


In these sentences, the noun/noun phrase/noun clause is in bold lettering. And it is functioning as the subject of the main verb in the sentence.

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1. Food is expensive these days.

The main verb here is ‘is’.

2. All those men live near the factory.

The main verb is ‘live’.

3. What made us nervous forced us to abandon the plan.

The main verb here is ‘forced’.

4. Tech companies hold the key to the prosperity of nations.

The main verb is ‘hold’.

5. Data Science professionals are in high demand.

The main verb is ‘are’.

3. Object

A noun/noun phrase/noun clause may function as the object of a verb. It can either be a direct object or an indirect object.

Direct Object Examples

1. It blocks the road.

2. No one made a move.

3. It brought many sweeping changes.

4. I know the answer.

5. Who drank my coffee?

Indirect Object Examples

1. She sang the crying baby a song.

2. Give those girls your book.

3. She didn’t bring Michelle the stolen dresses.

4. Have you given William what he asked for last night?

5. I can still sell them my new car.

4. Complement

Sometimes, a noun, noun phrase or noun clause functions as the complement of a verb. There are two types of complement here. They are subject complement and object complement

Next in our list of grammatical functions is ‘subject complement’. The subject complement is one of the major functions of nouns.

Subject Complement Examples

See below examples of how a noun functions as a subject complement in an English sentence.

The noun/noun phrase is in bold lettering.

1. John is my best friend.

2. Rising prices remain a major challenge.

3. Our goal was total victory.

4. They were our only hope.

5. This is the child of my brain and the product of my endeavour.

6. I am Dickson, the manager of this hotel.

Object Complement Examples

Just as we have a subject complement, so do we have an object complement. See below examples of object complements in a sentence.

1. Who made you a judge over us?

2. I call Akua my sunshine.

3. They elected him captain of the team.

4. Will the Prime Minister appoint Sunak Chancellor of the Exchequer?

5. I can make Francis my right-hand man.

5. Prepositional Complement/Complement of a Preposition

Nouns/Noun phrases/Noun clauses also function as complements of prepositions.


1. The rise of social media influencers is one of the effects of the technological revolution.

2. Digital products will eventually replace much of what we used to know.

3. TikTok is obviously on the way to overtaking well-known tech giants.

4. Have you ever travelled to the Caribbean?

5. The celebrations lasted for several weeks.

6. I wish I could live in Port Harcourt.

7. It depends on how the players will respond.

6. Noun Phrase Modifier

In the list of grammatical functions is a noun phrase modifier. Yes, a noun can modify or qualify another noun.


1. The New York City mayor pledged to promote law and order.

2. Sophia Hall is an investment banker.

3. To qualify for a bank manager job, you need a degree in finance.

4. He is a software engineer.

5. The London stock exchange is one of the busiest in the world.

7. Determinative

A noun can function as a determinative (determiner) in a sentence.


1. The pastor’s daughter is a popular YouTuber.

2. You need to follow your doctor’s advice.

3. This car’s engine is very new.

4. Tell me your boyfriend’s story.

5. I will never go to Mary’s house.

6. John’s friend is our teacher.

7. They couldn’t locate the baker’s place of work.

8. Adjunct Adverbial

The function of adjunct adverbial forms part of the list of grammatical functions in English grammar.

Quite often, nouns perform the traditional functions of adverbs. They modify verbs and point to the place, time, and so on of an action.


Take a look at examples of grammatical functions in this category.

1. We will go home.

2.  I will see you tomorrow.

3. Did you arrive this morning?

4. She travelled overseas.

5. They will come Monday afternoon.

9. Appositive

This is one of the least talked-about examples of grammatical functions. But we use nouns as appositives as often as the other types of grammatical functions.

A noun functions as an appositive (noun in apposition to another noun) when it refers to the same entity the preceding noun refers to.


1. Anderson, my friend from Sweden, is a tech blogger.

2. General Electric, the American car manufacturer, produces many other goods.

3. This is my brother Kofi, the mechanical engineer.

4. Ezoic, an AI-powered display ad platform, is making a lot of publishers rich.

5. They worshipped Zeus, king of the gods.

Examples of Grammatical Functions of Adjectives

Our next set of examples of grammatical functions will focus on adjectives.

Typically, adjectives perform the following functions.

  • Head of an adjective phrase
  • Qualifier/Modifier of a noun/noun phrase
  • Subject complement (predicative adjectives)
  • Object complement

Here are examples of the grammatical functions of adjectives.

10. Head of an Adjective Phrase

An adjective phrase or adjectival phrase derives its name from the word class or part of speech the most important word in the group belongs to – adjective.

The adjective functions as the head of the adjective phrase since without it the group of words would cease to function as an adjective phrase.


1. Online shopping is extremely popular in the US and Canada.

2. A very kind lady gave me this money.

3. Koroma now drives a completely new car?

4. The cost of starting an online business is quite low.

5. Tricia made a surprisingly funny remark about the whole affair.

11. Qualifier/Modifier of a Noun/Noun Phrase

The next example of grammatical functions in English is when an adjective functions as a qualifier or modifier of a noun or noun phrase.


1. Wise and Paypal are international payment platforms.

2. Samsung manufactures smartphones and desktop computers.

3. Do you really need a different credit card for that purchase?

4. I shop online for my essential kitchenware.

5. Wealthy people live below their means; poor people don’t.

12. Subject Complement

Earlier, we saw this example of a grammatical function in respect of nouns. Adjectives also function in the same manner.


1. It was nice.

2. Your work here is commendable.

3. Her income from that online business remains high.

4. Your certificate seems genuine.

5. That insurance company is reliable.

13. Object Complement

Quite often, adjectives function as complements of the objects in the sentence.


1. The incident made her happy.

2. I declared it worthless.

3. Do you consider paragliding risky?

4. Excessive debt will render you bankrupt.

5. The jury found the accused blameless.

6. Can you make me rich?

Examples of Grammatical Functions of Adverbs

Finally, you are going to see examples of grammatical functions with regard to adverbs.

The Grammatical Name and Functions of Adverbs

Adverbs function in the following ways.

  • Head of an adverb phrase
  • Modifier (intensifier) of an adjective
  • Modifier of a verb
  • Modifier (intensifier) of another adverb

Let’s take them one after the other.

14. Head of an Adverb/Adverbial Phrase

This situation occurs when the group of words is considered an adverbial phrase because the most important word in that group is an adverb. The adverb thus functions as the head of the adverb phrase.


Very well

Quite slowly

So carefully

Too kindly

Rather stupidly

Pretty fast

15. Modifier or Intensifier of an Adjective

Sometimes, too, an adverb can be seen modifying an adjective.


Very kind

Well trained

Amazingly beautiful

Too sure

Increasingly popular

Astonishingly frank

really powerful

purely absurd

16. Modifier of a Verb

This is arguably the most popular function of adverbs.


1. They left the office very early.

2. Digital technology is rapidly changing our lives.

3. Solar panels will soon cost nothing.

4. Lending rates have fallen significantly.

5. Machine Learning courses will quickly become the norm.

Examples of Grammatical Functions of Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases

Prepositions help show the relationship between two nouns or objects.


1. Jane sat on the chair.

2. Malik ran through the courtyard.

Also, prepositions tend to introduce nouns in phrases called prepositional phrases.


On the chair

Through the courtyard

In our school

Near my door

Beyond the sky

With dignity

Under pressure

Between the two parties

17. Qualifier (Modifier) of a Noun

A prepositional phrase can function as an adjective.


1. A boxer in the ring turns into something different.

2. The seat near my door was what he wanted.

18. Modifier of a Verb

A Prepositional Phrase can function as an adverb.


1. She cried with dignity.

2. Malik ran through the courtyard.

19. Complement of an Adjective

A prepositional phrase can serve as the complement of an adjective.


1. It is obvious you are scared of that Rottweiler.

2. He said he was tired of her constant nagging.

20. Verb Phrase Complement

Prepositional phrases often complement the main verb in a sentence.


1. I need you to focus on what is at stake now.

2. It depends on several factors.

3. Would you like to speak about your problems?

4. Do not listen to that guy.

Final Thoughts

I trust that I have been able to help you get a much better understanding of grammatical functions of words, phrases and clauses. Here is a very large collection of past questions and answers on grammatical names and functions.

Finally, you might want to test your understanding of the above examples of grammatical functions with a short quiz.

You will get instant feedback about your performance. And, believe me, it is private and strictly confidential until you personally decide to share your results with your friends.

Did you find this information helpful? Then share it on your favourite social media platform for the benefit of others you care about. Thank you!

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Ralph Nyadzi is the Director of Studies at Cegast Academy. He is a qualified English tutor with decades of experience behind him. Since 2001, he has successfully coached thousands of High School General Arts WASSCE candidates in English, Literature and related subjects. He combines his expertise with a passion for lifelong learning to guide learners from varying backgrounds to achieve their educational goals. Ralph shares lessons from his blogging journey on BloggingtotheMax. He lives with River, his pet cat, in the Central Region of Ghana.

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