Grammar Rules

Prepositional Phrases

What is a Prepositional Phrase?

Prepositional phrases are groups of words containing prepositions. Remember that prepositions are words that indicate the relationships between various elements within a sentence, and you’ll never have difficulty identifying prepositional phrases.

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A prepositional phrase is a group of words that lacks either a verb or a subject, and that functions as a unified part of speech. It normally consists of a preposition and a noun or a preposition and a pronoun. Remember the following rules for prepositional phrases and you will find that using them becomes much easier.
  • Prepositional phrases always consist of two basic parts at minimum: the object and the preposition.
  • In formal English, prepositions are almost always followed by objects.
  • Adjectives can be placed between the prepositions and objects in prepositional phrases.
  • Prepositional phrases can act as adverbs or adjectives. When they are used as adjectives, they modify nouns and pronouns in the same way single-word adjectives do.
  • When prepositional phrases are used as adverbs, they at the same way single-word adverbs and adverb clauses do, modifying adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs.
Just like bread and cheese are the minimum ingredients for making a cheese sandwich, a preposition and the object of a preposition are the minimum requirements for forming a prepositional phrase. The object of a preposition is the name for the noun or pronoun following the preposition. Prepositional phrases don’t have to be plain. Just as adding more ingredients to a sandwich dresses it up, adding more words such as adverbs or adjectives is a good method for spicing up prepositional phrases. As you read the following examples of prepositional phrases, you’ll notice that the first sentence in each set contains a basic prepositional phrase, while the second one contains a more interesting one.

Examples of Prepositional Phrases

The following sentences contain examples of prepositional phrases; the prepositional phrase in each sentence is italicized for easy identification. The cupcake with sprinkles is yours. The cupcake with colorful sprinkles is yours.   We climbed up the hill. We climbed up the very steep hill.   The rabbits hopped through the garden. The rabbits hopped through the perfectly manicured garden.  

Prepositional Phrase Exercises

The following exercises will help you gain greater understanding about how prepositional phrases work. Choose the best answer to complete each sentence.
  1. There are lots of birds nesting _____________________.
    1. Under the eaves
    2. There
    3. Now
    Answer: A. There are lots of birds nesting under the eaves.
  2. After school, the children played tag ________________.
    1. At the park
    2. Roughly
    3. And baseball
    Answer: A. After school, the children played tag at the park.
  3. Come ___________________ with me.
    1. Home
    2. Over
    3. Into the store
    Answer: C. Come into the store with me.
  4. __________________ the chair sat mouldering in the attic.
    1. Sad to say,
    2. For one hundred years
    3. Incredibly
    Answer: B. For one hundred years the chair sat mouldering in the attic.
  5. I gave the children pizza ______________ pancakes for breakfast today.
    1. Instead of
    2. Because of
    3. Any more
    Answer: A. I gave the children pizza instead of pancakes for breakfast today.

List of Prepositional Phrases

The following is by no means a complete list of prepositional phrases. While there are only about 150 prepositions in the English language, there are thousands of other words that can make their way into prepositional phrases. Learn to create a colorful prepositional phrase, and your writing will be wonderfully appealing. Down the tree Up the hill Around the mulberry bush Into the woods With chopped nuts Near a fast-flowing river Within the book’s pages Through the tunnel In spite of Instead of Any more On account of To the fact that Because of