Modifiers is a broad term in grammar, and it is used to refer to words, phrases, or clauses that are often optional but that "modify," or change, the meaning of the sentence. In essence, any word, phrase, or clause that functions as an adverb or adjective in the sentence is a modifier.
In English grammar, a basic sentence must have a subject and a verb. Depending on the type of verb, sentences also contain objects or predicate nominatives. Other than these basic elements, most other words and phrases in a sentence could be classified as modifiers. They add to and change the meaning of the basic subject, verb, and object or nominative.
Subject: Dog Verb: Ran
Sentence: The dog ran quickly down the road.
All of the bold words in this sentence could be classified as modifiers. "The" is an article, a special modifier that introduces or describes a noun. "Quickly" is an adverb, a modifier that describes the verb. "Down the road" is a prepositional phrase functioning as an adverb that tells where the dog ran.
Examples of Modifiers in Sentences
All words, phrases, and clauses that are functioning as modifiers are in bold.
The beautiful painting of trees will sell for $500.00.
I used to have a black Labrador puppy named Midnight.
When it was raining last night, I sat on the porch and read a book.
The lost cell phone was ringing shrilly, but we could not find it.
Vanilla-scented candles are my mother's favorite kind.
The bookbag that was left on the bus belongs to Josie.
The hot sun was beating down on the girls who were sitting on the dock.
Before she grew up to become a doctor, Vera Lynn practiced her medical skills on her stuffed animals.
Will you pass the strawberry jelly and a spoon?