Writers Workshop: Writer Resources
Grammar Handbook: Prepositional Phrases
A prepositional phrase is a group of words including a preposition and a noun, pronoun, or group of words used as a noun. They are fragments that usually do not stand alone, except in commands like "At once!" or "On your feet!"
Kinds of Phrases
There are two kinds of prepositional phrases: adjective phrases and adverb phrases.
An adjective phrase modifies a noun or pronoun. It always comes immediately after the noun or pronoun it modifies:
- Joe is the student with the highest grade. ("with the highest grade" modifies "student.")
An adverb phrase modifies a verb, adjective, or adverb. It is used to tell when, where, how, or to what extent about the word it modifies:
- Megan put her bird in its cage.
("in its cage" modifies the verb "put.")
Two or More Phrases
When two or more prepositional phrases follow each other, they may modify the same word, or one phrase may modify the object in the preceding phrase:
- They arrived at the airport on time. (Both phrases modify "arrived"; "at the airport" tells where and "on time" tells when.)
- Chicago is on the northeast tip of Illinois.
("on the northeast tip" modifies "is"; "of Illinois" modifies "tip.")
Preposition or Adverb?
Many words can be either prepositions or adverbs; you can distinguish prepositions by their objects.
- Preposition: The bird flew out the window. ("window" is the object of "out.")
- Adverb: We went out last night.
("out" has no object.)
Prepositional Phrase or Infinitive Phrase?
Prepositional phrases can be confused with infinitive phrases. "To" followed by a verb is an infinitive, but "to" followed by a noun or pronoun is a prepositional phrase