The Parts of Speech: Prepositions
and Their Phrases
► Modified from Griffin Technical College Learning Support Center
As tendons connect muscle to bone,
prepositions connect their objects to
another part of the sentence.
We left after the movie.
The flock of birds ate all the berries.
Sue and Tim met in the moonlit garden
Some prepositions give a position in space
We left after the movie.
Time – The phrase
tells when we left.
Sue and Tim met in the moonlit garden.
Space – The
phrase tells where
So what makes up a prepositional
A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and ends with the last
object of the preposition, which can be a noun or a pronoun.
The preposition can have more than one object:
…with Tom and me…
The prepositional phrase also includes any
modifiers that go with the object
A modifier for a noun is called an adjective. Adjectives answer the
questions: Which kind? Which one? How Many? and Whose?
Preposition + Modifiers + Object(s)
in the moonlit garden
after the long, boring movie
among the white fluffy clouds
Remember, prepositional phrases begin with prepositions and
end with the last object. You can’t find prepositional phrases
unless you memorize your prepositions.
Why are prepositions and their
Read this paragraph from Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea with all of the
prepositional phrases left in place:
“The sun rose thinly from the sea and the old man could see the other boats, low on the water and well in toward the
shore, spread out across the current. Then the sun was brighter and the glare came on the water and then, as it rose clear,
the flat sea sent it back at his eyes so that it hurt sharply and he rowed without looking into it. He looked down into the
water and watched the lines that went straight down into the dark of the water. He kept them straighter than anyone did,
so that at each level in the darkness of the stream there would be a bait waiting exactly where he wished it to be for any
fish that swam there. Others let them drift with the current and sometimes they were at sixty fathoms when the
fishermen thought they were at a hundred.”
Now read it without the prepositional phrases:
The sun rose thinly and the old man could see the other boats, low and well, spread out. Then the sun was brighter
and the glare came and then as it rose clear, the flat sea sent it back so that it hurt sharply and he rowed. He looked
down and watched the lines that went straight down. He kept them straighter than anyone did, so that there would be a
bait waiting exactly where he wished it to be. Others let them drift and sometimes they were… when the fisherman
thought they were….
Doesn’t the text lose much of its meaning without the prepositional phrases?
Danger : While prepositional phrases are very
important to the meaning of the sentence, they can
cause grammatical errors.
Danger 1 : They can come between a subject and a verb. The problem occurs when
the writer thinks the object of the preposition is the subject of the sentence. The object
of the preposition can NEVER be the subject of the sentence!
What is the subject of the following sentence and what verb agrees
Paintings in a museum (is/are) available for all to see.
If you said paintings then you are right. Museum is the object of the
preposition in. Because the subject, paintings, is plural, we must use the
plural verb, are.
Danger Two: Many times people will mistakenly use the subjective case pronoun as the
object of a preposition. A pronoun that is the object of a preposition must be in the OBJECTIVE
The objective case pronouns are me, us, you, him, her, it, them.
This error most commonly occurs when the object of the preposition is compound.
Wrong: The Galloways are going to the beach with Tom and I.
Correct: The Galloways are going to the beach with Tom and me.
We wouldn’t say, “The Galloways are going to the beach with I,” would we?
Tip: When you have a compound object, and you are trying to decide which
pronoun to use, try eliminating the other part of the compounded object of the
preposition. If you use pronouns as the single object of the preposition correctly,
you should have no problems choosing the pronoun to use in the compound object.
For example, Mike bought tickets for Zoe and (I/me) becomes Mike bought tickets
for I, or Mike bought tickets for me.
Clearly, the second choice, me, is the correct answer.
This trick doesn’t work with the preposition between because, logically, between
requires two objects. Always fall back on the rule:
Pronoun objects of the preposition must be in the objective case.