Prepositions are orienting words, helping you understand how one word connects to another in time, space, and relationship. Examples of prepositions:
It can sometimes help to think of a preposition as “anywhere a mouse can go,” such as the following:
This “mouse” hint doesn’t always work, though, for the following are also prepositions:
Below are some of the most common prepositions:
A prepositional phrase is a group of words that contains the preposition along with the object of that preposition. In other words, it is the preposition plus “the what” or “the when” the preposition is directing. In the prepositional phrase across the table, the preposition is across, and the object of the preposition is the table.
Examples of Prepositional Phrases (with the preposition underlined and the object italicized):
- along the street
- in the cave
- with your friends
- during the storm
- around some zombies
- under the bridge
- through the waterfall
- above the nuclear explosion at the hour of his doom in space right before the commercial
Why start with prepositional phrases if we are learning grammar? Why not start with subjects and verbs? These are very good questions. It’s true that the ability to identify subjects and verbs is the most fundamental skill for grammar, but prepositions get in the way. That’s because prepositions can sometimes seem like subjects, and sometimes seem like verbs, but note the following grammar rules:
- The sentence’s subject will never be inside a prepositional phrase.
- The sentence’s verb will never be inside a prepositional phrase.
So identifying prepositional phrases allows you to eliminate the wrong answers and distractions, making identifying the real subjects and verbs much easier.
In the following example, all sorts of words cause distractions in trying to identify the sentence’s subject and verb:
But if we cross out the prepositional phrases, which never contain the sentence’s subject or verb, then we can see the right answers much more easily:
The only options remaining are he and laughed, which happen to be the sentence’s subject and verb.
The following example includes several sentences, and the prepositional phrases are circled in each.