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 phrase, adpositional phrase) 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 at least have one preposition and the object that follows it. This object of preposition can be a noun, a gerund (an -ing form acting as a noun), or a clause.

preposition + noun/pronoun/gerund/clause

Most Common Prepositions in a Prepositional Phrase

Here are some of the most common preposition that begin prepositional phrases:

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.

The love letters are in the box under the bed.

In this example, 'under the bed' gives us information about where the box is.

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.

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

Noun Phrases

Very rarely, a prepositional phrase can act like a noun in a sentence. Generally, a nominal prepositional phrase functions as the subject or subject complement of a sentence.

During the summer is the best time to go on a road trip. (subject)

A cozy place to sleep is in front of the fire is. (subject complement)

With nominal prepositional phrases, usually, we have an implied or understood noun in front of the prepositional phrase.

(The time) during the summer is the best time to go on a road trip.

A cozy place to sleep is (the place) in front of the fire.

The Object of a Preposition

The object of a preposition can in fact be another prepositional phrase. The resulting sequence of two prepositions is considered a complex preposition.

Come out from under the bed (complement is an adverbial)

In this example, with the modifiers 'the' and 'big,' and 'plastic', the object of the preposition is a noun phrase.

Tip!

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.

Verb Complements

A prepositional phrase can also be used as a complement of a verb. Verbs that require a specific preposition to introduce the complement of them are called 'phrasal verbs (also known as prepositional verbs).'

My family consists of four people.

She would agree with whoever is the most popular.

Sometimes a particle is used before the preposition. This verb structure is called 'phrasal prepositional verbs.' Their meaning is often not related to the meaning of the original verb.

She cannot put up with his rude behavior.

He's always looked up to his father for his honesty and hard work.

Tip!

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

cheese from Belgium with live bacteria

Review

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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Adjective Phrases

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Adverbial Phrases

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