What are prepositional phrases?

Prepositional phrases are groups of words beginning with a preposition and ending with an object of the preposition.

Psst! Object of the preposition is just a fancy name for the noun or pronoun that follows the preposition.

near hotels, for Isaac, at Kyle's bowling ball

The whole phrase comes together to function as one part of speech. These guys usually act as adjectives or adverbs. Notice that the phrases above all begin with prepositions (near, for, at) and end with nouns or pronouns (hotels, Isaac, bowling ball).

David pointed at Kyle's bowling ball.

These phrases must have a preposition and an object of the preposition, and they may also have other words in them. They may have adjectives that describe the object of the preposition.

near fancy hotels

at Kyle's bowling ball

across the large bedroom

They may also have adverbs modifying the adjectives.

near extremely fancy hotels

across the rather large bedroom

Prepositional Phrases Act As Single Parts of Speech

This seems sort of funny, but all of the words in a prepositional phrase come together to act as one part of speech.

Each word within the phrase has its own job, but the words also work together to perform one job. Cool, huh?

Prepositional phrases usually function as adjectives and adverbs. Let's check out some examples!

I'll even throw in some sentence diagrams to help you understand this better.

The cake with nuts fell onto the floor.

With nuts is a prepositional phrase. It begins with the preposition with, and it ends with the noun nuts.

The whole phrase is telling us more about the cake. Cake is a noun. It tells us which cake fell.

Since it is answering one of the adjective questions, it is acting as an adjective modifying the noun cake.

Onto the floor is telling us more about where the cake fell. Fell is a verb.

Since it is answering one of the adverb questions, it is acting as an adverb modifying the verb fell.

with nuts = prepositional phrase acting as adjective (modifying cake)

with = preposition

nuts = object of the preposition (noun)

onto the floor = prepositional phrase acting as adverb (modifying fell)

onto = preposition

floor = object of the preposition (noun)

the = adjective modifying floor

More Sentence Diagramming, Please!

The sentence diagram below shows you more about diagramming these guys. Notice that one of the phrases is branching off the subject (a noun or pronoun) and one is branching off of the verb.

Remember that adjectives modify nouns and pronouns and adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Can you guess which phrase is acting as an adjective and which is acting as an adverb?

You're getting so smart that I'm sure you can figure it out!

Hello! I'm Elizabeth O'Brien, and my goal is to get you jazzed about grammar.

Thanks again for keeping your material fresh and accessible to a very wide audience.
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For more help with these guys, see the prepositions page.