Prepositions: What They Are & Examples

By Alan Reiner – December 18, 2023

A prepositional phrase is an essential component of any sentence, providing additional information and context to help readers better understand the message. These phrases consist of a preposition, its object, and any words that modify the object. They often serve to modify verbs or nouns, functioning as adverbial or adjectival phrases.

Delving into the world of prepositional phrases, you may find that they can include nouns, gerunds, or even clauses as the object. Learning to identify and properly use prepositional phrases can greatly enhance your writing, making your sentences more precise, informative, and engaging.

In this article, we will explore various examples and explanations that will help you grasp the concept of prepositional phrases and improve your writing skills. Stay tuned to discover the potential of these seemingly simple yet remarkably versatile components of language.

Noun-Modifying Prepositional Phrases

A noun-modifying prepositional phrase consists of a preposition, its object, and any words that modify the object. These phrases are called adjectival phrases because they function like adjectives, modifying nouns. In grammar terms, the object of a preposition can be a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase.

For example, consider the sentence: “The book on the shelf is interesting.” Here, “on the shelf” is the prepositional phrase that modifies the noun “book.” Within this phrase, “on” is the preposition, and “the shelf” is the object of the preposition.

Noun-modifying prepositional phrases can also provide additional information about relationships between things or ideas. For example, “The dog with the red collar is friendly.” In this sentence, the prepositional phrase “with the red collar” tells us which dog we are talking about.

Here are a few more examples of noun-modifying prepositional phrases:

  • The cookies in the jar are delicious.
  • I found the wallet under the couch.
  • She enjoys reading books about history.

Remember that prepositional phrases can be versatile, modifying verbs as adverbial phrases or nouns as adjectival phrases. By understanding these grammar concepts, you can clearly and confidently enhance your writing and communication in English.

Verb-Modifying Prepositional Phrases

In grammar, a prepositional phrase is a group of words consisting of a preposition, its object, and any words that modify the object. When a prepositional phrase modifies a verb, it is called an adverbial phrase.

Adverbial phrases can provide essential information about the action described by the verb. They often answer questions such as when, where, why, or how the action takes place. For example:

  • You waited in the park. (where?)
  • She arrived before sunset. (when?)

In these sentences, the prepositional phrases “in the park” and “before sunset” are adverbial phrases, modifying the verbs “waited” and “arrived” respectively.

Remember that adverbs can modify not only verbs but also adjectives and other adverbs. Sometimes, an adverbial prepositional phrase can also modify an adjective or another adverb within a sentence.

For example:

  • The cup is placed on the top shelf. (where?)

In this sentence, the prepositional phrase “on the top shelf” acts as an adverb modifying the adjective “placed.”

To use prepositional phrases effectively in your writing, be mindful of their position in the sentence. Generally, it is best to keep them close to the verb or subject they are intended to modify to avoid confusion.

In conclusion, understanding how verb-modifying prepositional phrases function in sentences can help improve your grammar and enhance the clarity of your writing.

Prepositional Phrases as Nouns

When a prepositional phrase acts as a noun, it can take on the roles of subjects or objects in sentences. These phrases are composed of a preposition followed by the object of the preposition, which commonly is a noun, pronoun, or a noun phrase.

For example, you can use a prepositional phrase as the subject of a sentence:

In the morning, is her favorite time to read.

The prepositional phrase “In the morning” serves as the subject in this sentence.

You may also use a prepositional phrase as the object of a verb in a sentence:

She enjoys reading by the window.

In this sentence, “by the window” is the prepositional phrase acting as the object.

Additionally, you will come across situations where prepositional phrases act as nouns within larger noun phrases:

She found the cake in the refrigerator.

In this example, “in the refrigerator” is a prepositional phrase working as a noun within a larger noun phrase.

It’s essential to recognize these prepositional phrases in sentences, as this will help you understand and improve your grammar. Familiarizing yourself with these examples will make it much easier to identify the prepositional phrases, even in more difficult sentences and clauses.

Cutting Down on Too Many Prepositional Phrases

When writing, you might unknowingly use too many prepositional phrases, which can lead to ambiguity and difficulty in understanding your sentences. To improve your grammar and clarity, focus on reducing the number of prepositional phrases in your writing.

Spotting Prepositional Phrases in Your Writing

To begin, identify prepositional phrases in your sentences. These phrases consist of a preposition, its object, and any words that modify the object. Practice locating these in your writing and consider whether they are necessary to convey your point.

morning scene with a transitioning cityscape at dawn 

For example: “In the quiet hours of the morning, with a gentle breeze blowing through the trees, the city awakened slowly.”

Replacing Unnecessary Prepositional Phrases

You might find that some prepositional phrases can be replaced with simpler constructions or eliminated entirely.

For example, have a look at your use of possession with prepositional phrases. Instead of using phrases like “the book of John,” opt for “John’s book,” as it’s more concise and clear.

Avoiding Confusion by Breaking Complex Sentences

Additionally, be mindful of sentences with multiple prepositional phrases, as they can obscure the main subject and action. If possible, break these complex sentences into smaller, more comprehensible clauses. This will help improve your reader’s understanding without sacrificing your intended meaning.

a ship sailing gracefully on a calm sea under a starry sky 

For example: “Under the stars and over the calm sea, the ship sailed gracefully; it was a serene night, perfect for a voyage.”

In summary, to enhance your writing’s clarity, examine your use of prepositional phrases and work to reduce any unnecessary instances. By doing this, you’ll create sentences that are easier to read and understand, making your overall writing more effective.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do prepositional phrases function in a sentence?

Prepositional phrases function as modifier phrases in sentences. They provide additional information that helps clarify the relationship between the object and other words. They can act as adverbs or adjectives, modifying verbs or nouns respectively.

Can you provide examples of prepositional phrases?

Sure, here are a few examples of prepositional phrases:

  1. “In the evening” (in – preposition, the evening – object)
  2. “With a smile” (with – preposition, a smile – object)
  3. “During the storm” (during – preposition, the storm – object)

What’s the difference between adjective and adverb prepositional phrases?

Adjective prepositional phrases modify nouns, providing additional information about the noun. They typically follow the noun they modify. For example, “The book on the shelf is mine” (modifying “book”).

Adverb prepositional phrases modify verbs, giving extra information about the action. They can be found anywhere in the sentence. For example, “She read the book in the park” (modifying “read”).

How do the 8 parts of speech relate to prepositional phrases?

The 8 parts of speech are: noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. In a prepositional phrase, the preposition is the main word, and it connects its object (a noun or pronoun) to the rest of the sentence. The phrase can also include modifying words, which can be adjectives or adverbs.

What are some common types of prepositional phrases?

Common types of prepositional phrases include:

  1. Time-related phrases: “before dinner,” “during the movie”
  2. Location-related phrases: “in the garden,” “on the table”
  3. Direction-related phrases: “from the store,” “to the beach”
  4. Others: “with a smile,” “despite the rain”

Where can I find exercises to practice prepositional phrases?

You can practice prepositional phrases by using online resources such as Grammarly, Cambridge Grammar, or English grammar websites. Many educational platforms offer interactive exercises and quizzes to help you master prepositional phrases and other grammar topics.