Prepositional Phrases

What are prepositional phrases? Generally, as its name requires, prepositional phrases are phrases made of prepositions. To get to know them, read the article.

"Prepositional Phrases" in the English Grammar

What Is a Prepositional Phrase?

Prepositional phrases (or postpositional phrases, adpositional phrases) are groups of words that contain a preposition, its object, and any modifying words that follow the preposition.

Prepositional Phrase: Structure

A prepositional phrase must have one preposition and the object that follows it. This object of a preposition can be a:

Prepositions + a Noun Phrase

A large number of prepositions can be followed by a single noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun.

  1. preposition + noun (phrase)
  2. preposition + pronoun

Prepositions + Nouns or Pronouns

In the most basic way, a preposition can be followed by a single noun or a noun phrase or a pronoun. Have a look at some examples:

I'm worried about Margaret.

Have you heard anything from him?

With thorough studying, I can manage to pass this exam.

Prepositions + a Noun Clause

Not all prepositions can be followed by noun phrases. Some need a noun clause as their objects of prepositions. These noun clauses can be:

Prepositions + Nominal Relative Clauses

Sometimes a nominal relative clause can appear immediately after certain prepositions and act as their objects.

I'm not sure about what Tommy said earlier.

From where I stand, things appear pretty much good.


When a relative pronoun is the object of a preposition, two things happen:

  1. In informal English, the preposition is placed at the end of the relative clause and the pronoun may be omitted or not.
  2. In formal English, the preposition is placed before the relative pronoun, and in this case, the pronoun cannot be omitted.
Informal English Formal English
Was that the girl (who) he came with? Was that the girl with whom he came?
It is a golf club (which) many collage students belong to. It is a golf club to which many collage students belong.
I love the family (that) I live with. I love the family with whom I live.
Do they know the boy (that) Mary is talking to? Do they know the boy to whom Mary is talking?

Prepositions + Participle Clauses

'with great passion' is a prepositional phrase acting as an adverb

A noun in the form of the present participle of a verb can also appear after prepositions. Present participles can also be used as an object of prepositions.

In spite of studying, she didn't pass the exams.

After eating breakfast, I waited for Elena.

Note that some prepositions can only take participles as their objects, not a bare infinitive. After prepositional verbs (verbs that need a preposition after them to have a complete meaning), certain adjectives, and nouns that require prepositions, we should use a participle:

  • interested in, keen on, proud of, sick of, sorry about/for, etc.
  • advantage of, chance of, choice between, etc.
  • accuse of, agree with, apologize for, etc.

I'm interested in cooking. (Not 'I'm interested in cook.')

You have a choice between watching the movie with German or Spanish subtitles. (Not 'You have a choice between watch ...')

I apologize for losing my temper. (Not 'I apologize for lose my temper.')

Prepositions + Bare Infinitive Clauses

With certain prepositions, the object of prepositions that follows them can only be a bare infinitive, which is the base form of the verb.

In order to win, you have to try your best. (Not 'In order to winning...')

We should all rejoice, rather than complain.

Prepositional Phrases: Types

Typically a prepositional phrase modifies a verb or a noun. Each of these prepositional phrases are called:

Adjectival Phrases

When a prepositional phrase modifies a noun, it is acting as an adjective, because adjectives modify nouns.

A prepositional phrase that acts as an adjective is called an adjectival phrase.

The notebook with the leather cover is mine.

In this sentence, 'with the leather cover' answers the question of which notebook the speaker says is theirs.

That dress next to the black one is the one I want to buy.

Here, 'next to the black one' tells us which dress the speaker wants to buy.

All adjectival phrases give us specific information about a noun to modify and describe the noun in more detail.

Adverbial Phrases

When a prepositional phrase modifies a verb or other adverbs, it is acting as an adverb, because adverbs modify verbs or other adverbs.

A prepositional phrase that acts as an adverb is called an adverbial phrase.

Put the baked goods on the top shelf.

He thrust his hand into his coat pocket.

Mason played his guitar with great passion.


You can place an adverb before a gradable preposition, especially prepositions of time or place, to modify it.

We stayed up talking far into the night.

The antique store you're looking is just around the corner.


More than one prepositional phrase may act as an adjunct to the same word.

cheese from Belgium with live bacteria


Prepositional phrases are made of a preposition and another term. As a result, they make a phrase. Prepositional phrases are mostly:

  • adverbial phrases
  • adjectival phrases


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