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How to Find a Prepositional Phrase

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

In English, words are classified by parts of speech. One part of speech is the preposition. Prepositions usually appear in phrases. In this lesson, you will learn about prepositions, prepositional phrases and how they are used in sentences.

What Is a Preposition?

Have you ever been to a family reunion where everyone wears nametags with words like aunt, uncle, cousin, grandma, and grandpa? These nametags express the relationships between the people at the reunion. Just as family titles are used to show people's relationships, a preposition is a word that relates. The job of a preposition is to show the relationship of two words in the sentence. Look at the illustration for some examples of prepositions. Notice that some prepositions are compound, which means they are made up of two or more words.

Examples of Prepositions.
prepositions

Ingredients of a Prepositional Phrase

A preposition will always appear in a prepositional phrase, so let's find out more about prepositional phrases. The prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and ends with its object.

The object of the preposition can be a noun - a person, place, thing, or idea. It can also be a word or a group of words acting as a noun, such as a pronoun, verb phrase or clause. The object of the preposition completes the phrase, often answering the question 'what'.

For example: He jumped on the bed. On what? On the bed.

A prepositional phrase can also have adjectives that modify the object.

Check out the prepositional phrases in the picture.

prepositional phrases

Functions of a Prepositional Phrase

The preposition relates words within the sentence. The prepositional phrase also performs a job in the sentence. You will find that prepositions can act either as adjectives or as adverbs in a sentence.

Adjective

When a prepositional phrase is functioning as an adjective, it modifies or describes a noun or pronoun.

When a prepositional phrase is used as an adjective, it is called an adjective phrase. It will answer one of these questions about the word it modifies:

  • What kind?
  • Which one?
  • How many?
  • How much?

Adverb

When a prepositional phrase is functioning as an adverb, it modifies or describes a verb, adjective, or other adverb. Remember, a verb is a word that expresses action or being.

When a prepositional phrase is used as an adverb, it is called an adverb phrase. It will answer one of these questions about the word it modifies:

  • When?
  • Where?
  • In what manner?
  • To what extent?
  • Under what condition?
  • Why?

Finding Prepositional Phrases

Now that we have an idea about what prepositional phrases are, let's see how many prepositional phrases we can find in this excerpt from a cooking blog.

. . . Last week, my son asked me to make Grandma's oatmeal cookies. I know Grandma gave that recipe to me and my sister, but where could it be? Before calling my sister, I searched the house. I looked between the cabinets, in my recipe box, behind the refrigerator, and even under my bed. Alas, the recipe for Grandma's cookies was lost. I called and told my sister about my problem. She suggested I use the recipe on the container of oatmeal. I think I found the secret of Grandma's cookies...

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