22 Oct 2014

A prepositional phrase

In previous posts I talked about modifiers which come before a noun to create a noun phrase. Now, I will discuss those modifiers which come after a noun and a prepositional phrase is one of them.

It starts with a preposition and ends with an object of that preposition; the object itself can be preceded by its modifiers. Objects of prepositions are nouns and pronouns and take an objective case.

  • over the bridge
  • over the lovely bridge
  • in the park
  • across the road
  • next door

There is never the subject of a sentence in a prepositional phrase.

The most commonly used prepositions are: about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, besides, between, beyond, but (when it means except), by, concerning, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, out, outside, over, past, since, through, to, toward, under, until, up, upon, with, within, and without.
We have to remember that these words above may be used as other parts of speech, for example ‘up’ may also be used as an: adjective, adverb, particle, preposition, verb and noun. A particle is a part of a phrasal verb or an idiom.

  • Put this book up on the shelf. (adverb, modifying a verb put)
  • Where the network is going to be up again? (adjective, modifying the network)
  • The sales upped twice this year. (verb, informal)
  • He followed her up the stairs to the attic. (preposition of the object 'stairs')
  • Do not give up! (particle, part of a phrasal verb)
  • The ups and downs in life. (noun)

To be sure whether a certain word acts as a preposition in a prepositional phrase we need to find its object. If there is not – this is neither a preposition, nor a prepositional phrase.

Finally, prepositional phrases may function in a sentence as an adjective or an adverb; therefore, there are two types of prepositional phrases: adjectival prepositional phrases and adverbial prepositional phrases.

  • He went to visit his aunt, who lives in the countryside. (where? In the countryside, adverbial, modifying a verb 'lives'.
  • A big, fat cat jumped into the room. (Where? Into the room, adverbial prepositional phrase.)
  • The book on the table in the classroom is mine.  (Which one? On the table; what table? in the classroom, two adjectival prepositional phrases.)
  • Living in the countryside has a great deal of positive effects. (adjectival, modifying the act of living, therefore a noun) 

An adjectival prepositional phrase comes directly after a noun as its modifier or after another adjectival prepositional phrase modifying an object from the first phrase.

  • Peter’s old red car from Japan, in Asia, cost a fortune.
There are two simple adjectival prepositional phrases in this sentence: ‘from Japan’ which modifies a car and ‘in Asia’ modifying Japan.

In the next post I will try to use more prepositions to show how we can join noun phrases with adjectival prepositional phrases to get the effect of the complex and interesting writing.