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What Is a Prepositional Phrase? (with Examples)

What Is a Prepositional Phrase? (with Examples)

A prepositional phrase is a phrase that starts with a preposition and ends with noun (or a pronoun). For example:



It is a little bit more complicated than shown above because the noun can be anything that plays the role of a noun. For example:
  • from her
  • (the "noun" is a pronoun)
  • from sleeping
  • (the noun is a gerund, i.e., a verbal noun)
  • from the man across the street
  • (the noun is a noun phrase)
  • from what he said
  • (the noun is a noun clause)
The words after the preposition (shown in bold above) are known as the object of a preposition. There will often be modifiers in the object of the preposition making it a noun phrase. For example:
  • with John
  • (There are no modifiers in this example. Compare it to the next example.)
  • with the wonderful John
  • (With the modifiers the and wonderful, the object of the preposition is now a noun phrase.)
Here is another example:
  • without trying
  • (There are no modifiers in this example. The object of the preposition is a noun. In this case, it's a gerund. Compare it to the next example.)
  • without overly trying
  • (With the modifier overly, the object of the preposition is a noun phrase.)

Prepositional Phrases Function As Adjectives or Adverbs

Here are some more examples of prepositional phrases. In each example, the prepositional phrase is shaded with the preposition in bold. Be aware that prepositional phrases function as adjectives or adverbs.

Prepositional phrases functioning as adjectives:
  • Please read the message from Lee.
  • (The prepositional phrase describes the noun message.)
  • The man on the radio has a boring voice.
  • (The prepositional phrase describes the noun man.)
  • May I see one of the brown ones?
  • (The prepositional phrase describes the pronoun one.)

Prepositional phrases functioning as adverbs:
  • Lee caught a small mackerel with utmost pride.
  • (The prepositional phrase modifies the verb caught. It is an adverb of manner; i.e., it tells us how he caught it.)
  • Before the war, Lee played football for Barnstoneworth United.
  • (The prepositional phrase modifies the verb played. It is an adverb of time; i.e., it tells us when he played.)
  • Lee is tired from the hike.
  • (The prepositional phrase modifies the verb is. It is an adverb of reason; i.e., it tells us why he is tired.)
  • Lee lives in that fridge.
  • (The prepositional phrase modifies the verb lives. It is an adverb of place; i.e., it tells us where he lives.)
Beware

Be Careful When a Prepositional Phrase Precedes a Verb

The noun at the end of a prepositional phrase will never be the subject of a verb. For example:
  • A list of factors are at play.
  • (Here, the subject is not factors. It is list. Therefore, the verb should be singular in number.)
  • A list of factors is at play.
Read more about mistakes with prepositional phrases and verbs.

However, a Preposition Phrase Can Influence a Verb

The indefinite pronouns all, any, more, most, and some can be singular or plural. When modified by a prepositional phrase, they copy the number of the noun in the prepositional phrase. For example:
  • Some of the cake has been
    eaten.
  • (The noun in the prepositional phrase (cake) is singular; therefore, Some is treated as singular.)
  • Some of the cakes have been
    eaten.
  • (The noun in the prepositional phrase (cakes) is plural; therefore, Some is treated as plural.)
Read more about subject-verb agreement.
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