Many of us may have learned about prepositional phrases in school, but unless we are writers, editors, or teachers, we might not think about them often even though we use them every day.
In this brief discussion, we’ll review what prepositional phrases are and look at some reinforcing examples.
What Is a Preposition?
A preposition is a part of speech that shows the relation of a noun or noun equivalent (an object) to another word in the sentence. It is typically used before a noun or a pronoun to form phrases that modify verbs, nouns, or other adjectives. They usually express relationships of direction, time, or location.
Just a few common prepositions include:
I want to get to the beach before sunset.
We tied the hammock between two trees.
What Are Prepositional Phrases?
A prepositional phrase is a group of words including a preposition, its object (noun or pronoun), and any words that modify the object (e.g., articles and adjectives).
A prepositional phrase is only a sentence component; it cannot stand on its own. As a unit, it often provides additional information about an action’s time or place (adverb) or extra description about a person or thing (adjective).
I went walking with Martha. (with is the preposition; with Martha is the prepositional phrase acting as an adverb modifying the verbal phrase went walking)
Did you find that book on the table? (on is the preposition; on the table is the prepositional phrase acting as an adjective modifying book)
Prepositional phrases are often important to clarity. Compare our example sentences with and without prepositional phrases:
I went walking.
I went walking with Martha.
Did you find that book?
Did you find that book on the table?
You can see that the prepositional phrase changes the meaning of the sentence or adds information that makes it more precise.
More on Prepositional Phrases
Now that you understand what prepositional phrases are, let’s look at more examples as well as other ways they might be used:
Jacob often jogs near the forest. (adverb modifying jogs)
Sheila likes those flowers by the river’s edge. (adjective modifying flowers)
Gerald is reading the letter from Janie. (adjective modifying letter)
The football team regrouped after a lackluster first half. (adverb modifying regrouped)
A prepositional phrase can also modify an adjective:
Danielle feels positive about her ice-skating performance.
In some cases it might appear as a noun phrase:
Before this weekend is too early. (The prepositional phrase is the sentence subject.)
You may also find a prepositional phrase as the object of a prepositional phrase:
The surprise-party guests jumped up from behind the table.
With your refreshed awareness of prepositional phrases, you should be able to continue recognizing what they are and how they add meaningful details to writing.
Identify the prepositional phrase in each sentence as well as the function it serves (adverb or adjective).
1. I think we drove past the grocery store. [adverb / adjective]
2. Brianna lives in the freshmen dorm. [adverb / adjective]
3. Employees must wash their hands before returning to work. [adverb / adjective]
4. I’ll have blueberry pancakes with extra butter, please. [adverb / adjective]
5. They’re asking for the treasure map in the canister. [adverb / adjective]
Pop Quiz Answers
1. I think we drove past the grocery store. adverb
2. Brianna lives in the freshmen dorm. adverb
3. Employees must wash their hands before returning to work. adverb
4. I’ll have blueberry pancakes with extra butter, please. adjective
5. They’re asking for the treasure map in the canister. adjective
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