So, you are in a quest of mastering prepositional phrases in English. Well, you should be. It’s one of the few phrases in English that can play multiple roles in a sentence. Assuming you guys already know what prepositions are, let me help you master prepositional phrases in English. I don’t call you smart brains for no reason. 😉
What could a prepositional phrase be? Well, you could find that out just by looking at its name. It’s worth giving a try, isn’t it? Let’s find it out now!
What are prepositional phrases in English?
Phrases that start with a preposition are called prepositional phrases in English. Prepositional phrases start with a preposition and are followed by an object of the preposition. Well, that’s how easy it is to identify prepositional phrases in English. Now, let’s understand what exactly they do in a sentence.
Functions of prepositional phrases
Prepositional phrases can function as the following:
- Prepositional phrases as an adjective
- Prepositional phrases as an adverb
Prepositional phrases as adjectives
When prepositional phrases function as an adjective, modifying a noun or a pronoun, they are called adjectival phrases as they function adjectivally. Let’s take some examples of prepositional phrases.
Prepositional phrase examples
• They are writing a movie about his life.
(The prepositional phrase ‘about his life‘ modifies the noun ‘movie’ and helps us to understand which movie the speaker is talking about writing. It is starting with the preposition ‘about’ and is followed by the object of the preposition his life.)
• I’m marrying the girl of my dreams.
(Which girl am I marrying? The girl of my dreams. The prepositional phrase ‘of my dreams‘ is helping us to identify the girl the speaker is talking about.)
• The ending of the movie wasn’t good.
(The ending of what was not good? The prepositional phrase ‘of the movie’ modifies the noun ‘ending’ and identifies it for us.)
• The guy in the red shirt is my neighbor.
(Which guy is my neighbor? The prepositional phrase ‘in the red shirt’ identifies the noun guy. Not any guy present there is my neighbor; the guy in the red shirt is my neighbor.)
• The house across the street is believed to be haunted.
(Here, the prepositional phrase ‘across the street’ modifies the noun ‘house‘ and tells us which house we are referring to in the sentence.)
• Don’t open the letter inside the box; it’s personal.
(Which letter is personal? The letter inside the box.)
• Students from different countries are studying in this college.
(From different countries is the prepositional phrase that’s modifying the noun students. Without it, the sentence gives a different meaning.)
Preposition phrases as adverbs
What does an adverb do? We know an adverb in English modifies a verb; it gives us more information about it. When prepositional phrases function as an adverb, they are called adverbial phrases.
Prepositional phrase examples
- He lives across the street.
(Across the street is the prepositional phrase here that’s modifying the verb lives. It is telling us where he lives. So, it’s, rightfully, working as an adverb in the sentence. It has the preposition across and its object the street.)
- Looking at the sun for long can damage your eyes.
(At the sun for long modifies the verb looking, answering the question where. At is the preposition, the sun is the object of the preposition, and for long is another modifier.)
- The dog is hiding under the table.
(Under the table is the prepositional phrase that’s modifying the verb hiding and telling us about the place of the action.)
- His father sends him money at the end of every month.
(When does his father send him the money? At the end of every month is the prepositional phrase that’s answering that question, answering when. At is the preposition, the end is its object, and of every month is another prepositional phrase that’s modifying the object of the preposition the end. It is working as an adjective.)
- You need to keep your money in your pocket.
(Where do you keep your money? In your pocket modifies the verb keep, answering the question where.)
- I would take you guys to my dream place.
(The preposition phrase to my place modifies the verb takes, tells us about the place of the action.)
- Everyone is getting crazy during this lockdown period.
(The preposition phrase to my place modifies the verb getting, tells us about the time of the action.)
- He jumped off the building and killed himself.
(Where did he jump from? The preposition phrase off the building modifies the verb jumped and answers the question where.)
- Prepositional phrases always come after the nouns they modify.
- We need two things to form a prepositional phrase: a preposition, and a noun/pronoun.
Prepositional phrases as a noun
Prepositional phrases, less frequently, can also work as a noun. You heard me right; they can. This rarely happens, but it does. So, you should be able to identify it. When prepositional phrases do work as a noun, they can be the subject of a sentence, or a predicate nominative (Subject complement). Let me show you how!
Examples of prepositional phrases functioning as nouns:
- After the class is not the right time to meet.
(How do we know if it’s working as a noun? Well, we can replace it with another noun or pronoun, it will be a good proof. Let’s do it!)”
That is not the right time to meet.
- Under the bed is Jimmy’s home.
(It is referring to a particular place, and the name of a place is a noun we know. We can replace it with a noun phrase or a noun clause or a pronoun too. Let me show some examples.)
The corner of the bed is Jimmy’s home.
The corner where Jimmy hides all the time is her home.
That is Jimmy’s home.
- The worst time to call your ex-girlfriend is during your wedding.
(The prepositional phrase during your wedding is working as a subject complement here.)
- The meeting point is behind the school.
(The prepositional phrase behind the school is working as a subject complement here too. It is renaming the subject The meeting point, referring to a place.)
How to form a prepositional phrase?
You smart brains probably, now, know what prepositional phrases are, and what they have in them, but you probably don’t know the possible ways we can form a preposition in. Probably is not a great word. Let me show you all the possible ways to form prepositional phrases in English.
A prepositional phrase has the following things in it:
- A preposition
- An object of the preposition
- Any modifier that modifies the object of the preposition
The guy in the red shirt is my neighbor.
- Preposition: IN
- An object of the preposition: SHIRT
- Modifiers: THE and RED (modifying the noun SHIRT)
His father sends him money at the end of every month.
- Preposition: AT
- An object of the preposition: END
- Modifiers: THE, and OF EVERY MONTH (modifying END)
Is the object of a preposition always a noun?
An object of a preposition can be the following:
The object of a preposition as a noun or a noun phrase
- My friend Gill is living in Spain.
(Noun = Spain)
- My friend Gill is living in my house these days.
(Noun phrase = my house)
The object of a preposition as a pronoun
- You are fighting a monster in him.
(Pronoun = him)
- Are you hitting on me, girl?
(Pronoun = me)
The object of a preposition as a gerund/gerund phrase
- I get excited whenever someone talks about fighting.
- Some people are earning a crazy amount of money from blogging.
- I get excited whenever someone talks about fighting in a backyard.
(Gerund phrase = fighting in a backyard)
- Some people are earning a crazy amount of money from making videos on YouTube.
(Gerund phrase = making videos on YouTube)
The object of a preposition as a noun clause
- He is asking me about what she told me yesterday.
(Noun clause = what she told me yesterday)
- Max poured hot tea on what you had gifted me on my birthday.
(Noun clause = what you had gifted me on my birthday)
Prepositions and prepositional phrases
What is the difference between prepositions and prepositional phrases? A preposition is a word or more, generally one, but a prepositional phrase is a group of words that has a preposition, an object of the preposition, and may have modifiers that modify its object.
To form a prepositional phrase, you must have a preposition and an object of the preposition.
- Noun phrases
- Verb phrases
- Adjective phrases
- Adverb phrases
- Gerund phrases
- Infinitive phrases
- Present participle phrases
- Past participle phrases
- Perfect participle phrases
- Participle phrases
Check out my Youtube lesson on prepositional phrases in English:
That was about today’s lesson, smart brains. I will see you in some other class. Feel free to empower others by sharing the lesson. Feel free to ask your doubts. And feel free to correct typos if you see them. You have been amazing! Ashish is out!