Grammar Tips: What’s a Postmodifier?
  • 3-minute read
  • 6th December 2022

Grammar Tips: What’s a Postmodifier?

A postmodifier is a word or group of words that gives more details or limits the meaning of a noun in some way. Postmodifiers always come after the noun they describe.

For example, in “the tall girl standing up,” “standing up” is the postmodifier for the noun “the girl.” We know it’s the postmodifier because it follows the noun and describes what the girl’s doing.

Postmodifiers differ from their counterparts, premodifiers, which are words that describe the noun before the noun.

In the same example, “the tall girl standing up,” “tall” is the premodifier, in this case, an adjective, describing “the girl.” We also know that “tall” is a premodifier because it comes before the noun it describes.

Let’s discuss different types of postmodifiers in English.

Prepositional Phrases

Prepositional phrases are phrases starting with prepositions. To identify them, it’s useful to know what a preposition is; for example, in, at, on, with, before, and below are common prepositions. Most commonly, prepositional phrases give information about the time or place of a noun, but they can give various kinds of information about a noun.

“The party at school was fun.”

“At school” describes where the party will happen.

“The man in a tailored suit looks very dapper.”

“In a tailored suit” describes what the man is wearing.

“A wedding cake by Maria is essential for any wedding.”

“By Maria” describes who should make the wedding cake. 

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-ING Clauses

Postmodifiers beginning with -ing words, often gerunds, describe what the noun is doing.

“The secretary talking on the phone is attractive.”

“The children riding their bikes are having a great time.”

“The dogs barking next door are annoying.”

-ED Clauses

These clauses use the past participle of verbs, which usually ends in -ed, to give more information about the noun. 

“The books requested from the library finally arrived this morning.”

“The results obtained from the lab show no abnormalities.”

Infinitive Clauses

An infinitive verb is to + the verb stem, like to know, to run, and to do. Infinitive clauses use the infinitive of a verb to give more details about the noun or indefinite pronoun (e.g., anyone, someone, anybody, and somewhere).

“I am looking for something to do.”

“Homeless people often have nowhere to go.”

“Mr. Smith isn’t the man to help you.”

Relative Clauses

Relative clauses are dependent clauses, meaning they do not make a sentence on their own but give more information about a noun.

It is important to understand that there are two types of relative clauses: restrictive and nonrestrictive.

Restrictive Clauses

Restrictive clauses restrict or define a noun’s definition by giving specific information. In writing, restrictive clauses don’t use commas and are introduced with a relative pronoun (who, that, which, whom, and whose).

“The woman who stares at everyone returned from vacation this week.”

“The train people ride to work is late.”

“My neighbor who grows tomatoes decided to also grow cabbage this summer.”

Nonrestrictive clauses

Nonrestrictive clauses provide additional information about the noun, but the information isn’t imperative to understanding the meaning of the sentence. Nonrestrictive clauses are always separated by commas and function like parenthetical information in writing.

“My father, John Smith, is a great man.”

“My new computer, which I spent a lot of money on, doesn’t work anymore.”

“My dog, who’s completely crazy, ran into the road this morning.”

Takeaway

There are several types of postmodifiers you can use to add more information and detail to your sentences. If you’re struggling with postmodifiers or any other English grammar, check out Proofed’s Writing Tips Blog, and if you still need help with your writing and want personalized feedback, then one of Proofed’s expert editors will proofread your first 500 words for free.

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