What is a Prepositional Phrase? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition of a…
  • 1:01 Preposition
  • 2:05 Object of the Preposition
  • 3:16 Example of a Preposition
  • 4:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ben Nickol
In this lesson, we will examine the prepositional phrase, a grammatical tool that acts very much like an adjective or adverb. In other words, this type of phrase provides additional information about a noun or verb. Read on to learn how it works.

Definition of a Prepositional Phrase

Two of the most basic grammatical concepts we learn in grade school are adjectives and adverbs. An adjective is a word that describes a noun (such as 'big,' 'small,' 'hard,' 'soft,' etc.), while an adverb describes a verb, or action (such as 'slowly,' 'quickly,' 'bravely,' 'intelligently,' etc.).

We also learn about prepositional phrases, although these can be harder to remember. The first thing to know about a prepositional phrase though is that it acts just like an adjective or adverb. That is to say that its job is to provide more information about a noun or verb. In this lesson, we'll go into the specifics of prepositional phrases and how they operate, but keep in mind that basic function: a prepositional phrase gives more information about a verb or noun.

A prepositional phrase is comprised of two parts: a preposition and an object of the preposition. Together, they form the prepositional phrase that is then inserted in a sentence to modify some noun or verb.


A preposition is a category of words that describe relationships. For instance, if you lower a can of soda until it meets a table and the can remains on that table by itself, you have placed the soda 'on' the table. 'On' is a preposition, because it describes the relationship you've established between can and table (can is 'on' table).

Likewise, if you lift the can and take a sip, you have sipped 'from' the can. 'From' also is a preposition. It describes the relationship between the sip and the sip's place of origin, where it came 'from.'

The English language has countless prepositions, but here is a list of some of the more common ones:

  • Above
  • Against
  • At
  • Around
  • Before
  • Behind
  • Below
  • Besides
  • Between
  • By
  • For
  • In
  • Of
  • Off
  • On
  • Over
  • Through
  • To
  • Under
  • With

The Object of the Preposition

A preposition cannot stand on its own, however. For instance, how can a thing be 'in' without being in something? How can a thing be 'against' without having something to be against?

The word that completes the preposition then and makes it a coherent prepositional phrase is what's called the object of the preposition. It's the thing that is related to.

For example, if a person is 'in mourning,' 'in' is the preposition, 'mourning' is the object of that preposition, and 'in mourning' is the prepositional phrase that modifies that person.

If an activist is 'against inequality,' 'against' is the preposition, 'inequality' is the object of the preposition, and 'against inequality' is the prepositional phrase that modifies the activist.

There are countless objects of a preposition (anything that's a noun can be used as an object of a preposition), but every prepositional phrase will have one. And always, it will answer the question that preposition asks. The object of the preposition 'above' will always answer: 'above what?' The object of the preposition 'from' will always answer: 'from what?'

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