- Prepositional phrases outline the relationships between a sentence’s nouns, pronouns, and other supporting words.
- Prepositional phrases contain a preposition, an object, and sometimes a modifier/several modifiers.
- There are two types of prepositional phrases: adverbial and adjectival.
- Simple prepositions consist of just one word.
- Complex prepositions contain two or more words.
- Some words can be both adverbs and prepositions—prepositions always relate to an object.
Prepositional phrases give your content power. Instead of simple, drab sentences that lack color, you can create an entire world. Why say “you went out” when you can say that “you went out to an awesome party?”
Here’s a look at prepositional phrases, how they work, and the best way to use them.
What is a Prepositional Phrase?
In their simplest form, prepositional phrases contain one preposition and one object.
Then, you have the option to add a modifier.
“A bit” modifies or further describes the time of departure.
In most cases, writers use a prepositional phrase to modify a verb or a noun. That looks a little something like this.
Adverbial clauses or phrases are so named because they function as adverbs. They’re often used to demonstrate timing or indicate cause and effect. They might tell you when or where something happened. They might also detail how something happened or to what extent.
In this example, “because I went to the store early” is an adverbial clause. This is because it demonstrates how the action in the second part of the sentence came to be. “Before it sold out” is also an adverbial phrase because it described when that action took place.
Here, “Since Marika left her wallet at home” demonstrates what caused her to have to borrow money.
An adjective phrase modifies the noun or pronoun that comes immediately before.
“On the island” describes the man. The object of the prepositional phrase is the island, and the phrase itself indicates how the island and the man are connected. If this reference is lost on you, watch Castaway.
In this case, the pantry is the object, and the prepositional phrase is describing the link between the cake and its location.
Examples of Simple and Complex Prepositions
To fully answer the question, “What is a prepositional phrase?” it helps to have some examples.
Let’s start with a list of prepositions:
There are also some multi-word prepositions. These contain two or more words that function together to create a complex preposition.
- According to
- In spite of
- Along with
- On account of
What is an Example of a Prepositional Phrase?
Let’s look at some prepositional phrases in their natural habitat. We’ll give you a sentence, identify the prepositional phrase, and explain how it works.
Here, we’re demonstrating the connection between the rainbow and where the Wicked Witch lives.
How are the couch and magazine related? One fell behind the other!
Why did Eliza jump? “For joy!”
“By the elevator” indicates where the room is.
When is a Preposition Not a Preposition?
Sorry to throw a wrench in the works, but it’s time to talk about prepositions vs. adverbs.
There are many words in the English language that pulls double duty as both prepositions and adverbs. To tell the difference between the two, try identifying the object of the sentence. If there is an object, your word is likely a preposition. If there is no object, you’re probably dealing with an adverb.
There is no object associated with “up” in the first sentence. It’s therefore, an adverb. In the second example, “up” is followed by a noun, so it’s a preposition. Where did she run? She ran up the hill!
Here’s another one:
In the first example, all we know is that Malik walked across something. We don’t know what that something is, because there is no object. “Across” is an adverb here.
In the second example, we find out that Malik walked across a courtyard. “Courtyard” is the object, and across has gone from being an adverb to becoming a preposition.
Quick Prepositional Phrase Grammar Quiz
Prepositional Phrase Question #1
The answer is A. Under the bed shows the relationship between the monster and the whispers.
Prepositional Phrase Question #2
The answer is TRUE. Prepositional phrases can function as either adjective phrases or adverb phrases to modify other words in a sentence. For example, "The girl with him is his daughter."
Prepositional Phrase Question #3
The answer is C. A prepositional phrase must include a preposition, its object, and any modifiers of the object.
Prepositional Phrase Question #4
The answer is C. The object of the preposition can either be a noun or a pronoun.