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Prepositional Phrases

A prepositional phrase is a group of words with a preposition at the beginning and a noun or pronoun at the end.

The noun or pronoun at the end of the phrase is called the object of the preposition. The object of the preposition answers the question what? or whom? in relation to the preposition. To locate the object of the preposition, read the preposition and then ask "what?" or "whom?"

Note that many prepositions show time or place or direction. Some word groups are considered a single preposition. Note also that to plus the simple present (base) form of a verb is an infinitive rather than a prepositional phrase (for example, to walk and to run are infinitives).

Some Commonly Used Prepositions
about above accompanied by according to  across
 after against   along along with among 
 around  as as long as as much as as well as 
at  away from  because of  before behind
 below  beneath beside between beyond
by down during except for 
from  in in addition to in spite of  including
inside   instead of into  like  near 
of  off on onto   out 
out of outside over past since
through throughout  to together with toward 
under  underneath until  up   up to
upon with within without


To Find Prepositional Phrases

  1. Ask "what?" or "whom?"
  2. Restate the preposition with the answer to the question

Preposition Question Answer:

  1. Prepositional Phrase for "or what?" for dinner
  2. in "In what?" in the afternoon
  3. by "By what?" by building a house
  4. with "With whom?" with Harold and his brother

Purposes of Prepositional Phrases

  1. To tell when: before dawn, during the day, in the Medieval period
  2. To tell where: beneath the table, under the rug
  3. To tell why: for joy, because of his allergy, in order to discover the truth
  4. To tell how or in what way: by bending the edges, by machine, in attitude, with strength and endurance

In the sentences below, the prepositional phrases are enclosed in brackets.

  1.  Harold McGruber lived [in Mrs. Smith's house.]
  2. [After dark], the cat [in the alley] prowls [throughout the neighborhood].
  3. [For many years] we lived [in a small but cozy apartment] [near the river].
  4. [During lunch], Mr. Smith quit his job [because of an argument] that he had [with his boss].
  5. [Until morning] the vampires who reside [in my garden] remain silent; however [at dawn] they moan and beg [for me] to remove the garlic [from the row].

Last revision: August 4, 2003