From Oxford Dictionary, we know that:

A phrase is a small group of words that forms a meaningful unit within a clause. There are several different types.

And another definition from ChompChomp.

I understand that some proper nouns such as Albert, Isadora Duncan are not phrases.

But how about these proper nouns?

  • Lord of the Rings (the title of a novel)
  • the Pacific Ocean (the name of an ocean)
  • Band of Brothers (the title of a series)
  • North Dakota (the name of a state)

They all have idiomatic meaning, but they are now names of something. Is it possible that a proper nouns still belongs to other forms as well (in this case, phrases)?

  • By which definition? As Wikipedia mentions, in linguistic terminology even a single word can be a phrase; so by the linguistic definition "Albert," "Isadora," "Duncan," "Lord of the Rings" etc. are all noun phrases.
    – herisson
    Oct 12, 2015 at 17:40
  • @sumelic I should change the definition then, it is more suitable to use meaning in normal grammar, not linguistic term
    – andydraif
    Oct 12, 2015 at 17:42
  • OK. Can you give an example of how you'd use the word "phrase" to refer to these in everyday speech? It doesn't seem a very likely situation to me.
    – herisson
    Oct 12, 2015 at 17:44
  • @sumelic It is unusual to use the above specific "phrases" in everyday speech. But consider that "band of girls singing on stage", the wide ocean, lord of the fallen castle. Each band of, ... ocean, lord of something has idiomatic meaning similar to the examples above. These examples are phrases. The above examples are proper nouns, now that they are names, but are they phrases too?
    – andydraif
    Oct 12, 2015 at 17:47

1 Answer 1


It just depends what you mean by "phrase". The everyday sense is an expression (constituent) containing several words, and since the name of an individual person or thing can perfectly well have several words, then yes. A proper noun can be a phrase, with several words. But in such a case, we would be more likely to refer to it as a "proper name" than a "proper noun", because using the word "noun" is often taken to imply that there is just a single word there.

In the grammarians' sense of "phrase", though, a phrase can have just a single word. The subject of a sentence, for instance, is a noun phrase, and of course a sentence subject may be single word. Here, the facts of language impose a certain interpretation for "phrase".

Another instance where the facts of language impose a sense that traditional grammar may find unintuitive is coordinate conjunction. A fundamental rule for how "and" works is that the grammatical category of a coordinate constituent is the same as the category of the two constituents that were conjoined. For instance, two verb phrases conjoined by "and" make up an expression which occurs in the same grammatical contexts as a single verb phrase. This rule works quite generally, and it tells us that the coordination of two nouns, common or proper, is a noun, even though it contains several words.

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