What Is the Object of a Preposition? (with Examples)

Object of a Preposition

The object of a preposition is the noun or pronoun governed by a preposition. The object of a preposition is usually (but not always) the noun or pronoun to the right of the preposition.

object of a preposition

Easy Examples of Object of Preposition

In the examples below, the objects of prepositions are shaded, and the prepositions are in bold
  • in silence
  • without prejudice
  • to me, to you
  • (Don't forget that the object of a preposition can be a pronoun.)
  • by whom?

Real-Life Examples of Objects of Prepositions

Here are some more examples of objects of prepositions:
  • This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. (Neil Armstrong)
  • (The word a before man is a modifier. The object of a preposition is often accompanied by modifiers that precede it or follow it.)
  • The ants get in your ears when you are sleeping.
  • (The word your is a modifier.)
  • Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist. (George Carlin)
  • (The words every and cynical are modifiers.)
  • Are those biscuits on the table for the dogs?
  • (Note: The words the before table and dogs are modifiers. Remember that the object of a preposition is the head noun (or pronoun) within the noun phrase or noun clause.)
  • Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save. (Will Rogers, 1879-1935)
  • (In this example, the preposition relates to the noun clause the time we have rushed through life trying to save. The object of the preposition is time, which is the head noun. The word the is modifier. The clause we have rushed through life trying to save is also a modifier. It's an adjective phrase.)

Noun Phrases and Noun Clauses after Prepositions

As we've just covered, more often than not, the object of a preposition is embedded within a noun phrase or a noun clause. Let's look at some more examples:
  • I have such a strong belief in women's ability to sustain each other. (American actress Deidre Hall) (The object of a preposition in is the noun ability. This is the head noun in the noun phrase women's ability to sustain each other.)
Of note, the whole caboodle (i.e., the preposition (bold), the object of the preposition (shaded), and all of its modifiers) is called a prepositional phrase.
  • Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist. (George Carlin)
  • (In this example, inside every cynical person is a prepositional phrase. It consists of the preposition (inside), the object of the preposition (person), and all the modifiers of person (every and cynical).)
Let's look at another example:
  • You cannot work with men who won't work with you. (American businessman John Harvey Kellogg)
  • (It can get quite complicated. Here, the prepositional phrase (with men who won't work with you) has another prepositional phrase (with you) nested within it.)

Why Should I Care about the Objects of Prepositions?

There are two good reasons to think a little more carefully about the objects of prepositions.

(Reason 1) Using whom correctly.

When the object of a preposition is a pronoun, it must be in the objective case. This just means that words like I, he, she, they, and who change to me, him, her, them, and whom when they are governed by a preposition. Here's a simple example:
  • Go with her.
  • (When it's the object of a preposition, she changes to her.)
Native speakers almost never get this wrong, unless we're talking about who and whom.
  • You want me to talk to whom?
  • (When it's the object of a preposition, who changes to whom.)
Here's the bottom line: Use whom after a preposition.

Read more about objective personal pronouns.
Read more about who and whom.

(Reason 2) Making sure your subject and verb agree.

The object of a preposition cannot be the subject of a verb.
  • A box of magazines are under the stairs.
  • A box of magazines is under the stairs.
Don't be fooled by the proximity of the object of the preposition to the verb. You must ensure the subject (here, box) and the verb agree in number.

This error is particularly common with the word each (which is singular).
  • Each of the guide dogs are assigned a trainer.
  • Each of the guide dogs is assigned a trainer.
  • (Don't be fooled by dogs being plural. Remember that the object of a preposition (here, dogs) cannot be the subject of a verb.)
Be aware though that with some expressions (e.g., half of, proportion of, percentage of, majority of), the object of the preposition does influence the verb.
  • Half of the cakes are missing.
  • (Here, cakes means that half is treated as plural.)
  • Half of the cake is missing.
  • (Here, cake means that half is treated as singular.)
So, with such terms, the object of the preposition influences whether the subject (e.g., half, proportion, percentage, majority) is treated as singular or plural.
Interactive Test
 

See Also

Take another test on the objects of prepositions What are prepositions? What is the objective case? More about who and whom More about subject-verb agreement What are noun phrases? What are noun clauses? Glossary of grammatical terms