A preposition is a word that shows the relation between its object and some other word in the sentence.
A prepositional phrase consists of the preposition and its object. Sometimes the noun which serves as the
object of the preposition has modifiers, but the important words in the phrase are the two words—the
preposition and object.
I walked down the winding street.
The girl with red hair is an artist.
In the first sentence, the preposition is the word down. The object is street. The entire phrase is down the
winding street. The two important words in the phrase are the preposition down and the object of the
In the second sentence, the preposition is with and the object is hair. The prepositional phrase is the
group of words, with red hair.
In grammar, a phrase is a group of words, without a subject and predicate, that functions as a single part
of speech. A prepositional phrase is a phrase that functions as an adjective or an adverb. Since adjectives
and adverbs are modifiers,the prepositional phrase is also a modifier.
An adjective phrase is a prepositional phrase that modifies a noun or a pronoun. An adjective phrase is
often the equivalent of an adjective, as you will see from the following examples:
The man at the gate sold us the tickets.
We followed the path near the river.
In the first sentence, the prepositional phrase is at the gate. It is an adjective phrase because it modifies
the noun man. The phrase, at the gate, is the equivalent of an adjective because it means the gate man.
In the second sentence, the prepositional phrase is near the river. This is also an adjective phrase
because it modifies the noun path. The sentence means that we followed the river path. The phrase near
the river is the equivalent of an adjective.
Like the adjective, the adjective phrase describes or limits the noun or pronoun which it modifies.
She wore a hat with blue trimming. (describes the hat)
He lives in the house to your right. (limited to a particular house)
An adjective phrase may follow the noun which it modifies, or it may be used in the predicate after a
The accident on the bridge was not serious. (follows the noun)
The injured man seemed in a daze. (follows a linking verb)
COMMONLY USED PREPOSITIONS
above at by into toward
about before down like through
across behind during near under
after below except of until
against beneath for off up
along beside from on upon
among between in since with
around but (except) inside to within
The words on this list do not mean that they are always used as prepositions. Many of the words used as
prepositions are also often used a adverbs.
Planes were flying above the city. (above is a preposition here)
Planes were flying above. (above is an adverb here)
An adverbial phrase is a prepositional phrase that modifies a verb, an adjective, or an adverb. Like the
adverb, the adverbial phrase answers the questions: when? where? how? and to what extent? Adverbial
phrases express time, place, manner, and degree.
I will return at noon. (Phrase expresses time.)
The sailor was working on the deck. (Phrase expresses place.)
Tell the story in your own words. (Phrase expresses manner.)
In the first sentence, the adverbial phrase is at noon. The phrase tells when I will return. It modifies the
verb will return. The adverbial phrase in the second sentence is on the deck. This phrase tells where or at
what place the sailor was working. It modifies the verb was working. The adverbial phrase in the third
sentence is in your own words. It tells how or in what manner you should tell the story. The phrase
modifies the verb tell.
Adverbial phrases that modify verbs are easy to identify. Those that modify adjectives and adverbs are
not always easy to identify. The adverbial phrase that modifies an adjective usually follows that adjective.
Look at the following example:
The child seemed afraid of the noise. (modifies afraid, an adjective)
In this sentence, the adverbial phrase of the noise modifies the predicate adjective afraid. Adverbial
phrases that modify adjectives usually follow this pattern.
By using prepositional phrases, ideas can sometimes be better expressed than by using simple adjectives
or adverbs. Look at the following examples and notice how simple adjectives and adverbs have been
expanded by changing them to prepositional phrases.
1. Blue flowers grow here.
Flowers of blue grow in the field.
2. Good coal burns easily.
Coal of quality burns with ease.
3. Weary birds fly slowly.
Birds on weary wings fly with effort.
4. Some neighbors helped enthusiastically.
The neighbors across the street helped with enthusiasm.
5. Free people live courageously.
People in freedom live with courage.
THE FIVE BASIC SENTENCE TYPES (chapter 2) AND PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES
Type 1 (Intransitive)
1. The unkempt man on the park bench lay there through the cold drizzle of the night.
2. The little statuette of clay sits on the mantle like a cold reminder of ancient times.
3. Without a word the weary prisoners plodded like mechanical men across the endless miles of marshy
4. The friend of the missionary is at present in the church with his sister.
Type 2 (Transitive)
1. With a man on every base Roger, hit a home run over the fence in left field.
2. By means of a little perseverance the average student quickly learns the patterns of very complex
3. After the warm May rain, the young leaves of the willow trees beside the river very quickly change their
color from lemon to chartreuse.
4. During a serious crisis, faith in a divine principle can often provide a man with an extra ounce of
Type 3 (Dytransitive)
1. With great reluctance, Jack with a frowning face handed Jim the award of great renown.
2. The girl in the red sweater brought the boy in tears the puppy of only 3 months.
3. My aunt from France always sends at the end of November my siblings and me gifts of great worth.
4. With deep sadness in her voice, Jill told her grandmother of 85 the death of her husband of 60 years.
Type 4 (Copulative + predicate noun)
1. The tall man on the corner is now a friend of the family.
2. The old tower with the turret on top is really a pipe for the town waterworks.
3. From this position the ship on the horizon is a magic boat among the lovely aquamarine clouds.
Type 5 (Copulative + predicate adjective)
1. Some sentences with prepositional phrases are certainly rather subtle in the expression of human
2. Truly, the study of the relations between thought and language is absolutely essential for any serious
study of the human mind.
3. The estuary about five miles from her on our left is indeed noteworthy for many scientific reasons.
I. Answer True or False to the following; if the answer is false, correct it so that it is true.
1. Swift, muddy waters is an example of a prepositional phrase.
2. Function in the sentence determines whether a prepositional phrase is an adverbial or
adjectival prepositional phrase.
3. A phrase functions as a unit just as a single word does.
4. Adjectival phrases can modify both nouns and pronouns.
5. A phrase like in the morning could be either an adjectival or adverbial phrase.
6. Each of the sentence types can be expanded by the addition of prepositional phrases.
7. The complete subject includes any phrases modifying the noun or pronoun that is the simple
8. The complete predicate excludes the direct object.
9. Under the window is not a good example of a prepositional phrase.
10. A preposition links words, phrases, and clauses of equal value.
11. A phrase is a groups of words without subject and predicate.
12. An adjective phrase modifies a noun, pronoun, or adjective.
13. After is only used as a preposition.
14. The adjective phrase, like the adjective, qualifies or limits the meaning of a noun or pronoun.
15. Generally, an adverbial phrase that modifies an adjective, follows that adjective.
II. Sentence Analysis: classify the italicized phrases as either adjectival or adverbial by writing Adj. or
Adv. Then, classify the types of sentences.
1. The girl in red is the one I mean.
2. The guests arrived at noon.
3. The tree on the hill is a landmark.
4. The house sits on the hill.
5. The officer read the orders of the day.
6. The officer read the orders of the day in a soft voice.
7. In a loud voice, he requested attention.
8. A glass of cold lemonade hits the spot on a hot summer day.
9. The trees in the moonlight are beautiful.
10. For the moment these biscuits are too hot.
11. A house dog is a constant care to his owners.
12. A sluggish river winds across the flat plain.
13. The trees on the other side of the road are good timber.
III. Construction Exercises
A. Cross out the italicized word or words in the following sentences and substitute an equivalent
prepositional phrase in the space provided. You may need to add definite or indefinite articles.
For example: Youthful ambitions soon change
The ambitions of youth soon change.
1. The player scores easily _____(with ease)__________.
2. The red-sweatered player ____________________ looks tired.
3. Parental love ____________________ probably created human societies ____________________.
4. The rain changed quickly ____________________ to sleet.
B. Place an appropriate and meaningful prepositional phrase in the blanks in the following sentences:
1. This country ___(of great beauty)_________ affirms the equality ____________________.
2. ____________________ the milkman stomps ____________________.
3. The river ____________________ meanders endlessly.
4. The little convertible ____________________ suddenly came ____________________.
5. The Chairman introduced the new officers ____________________.