How Prepositions Work
A preposition precedes a noun or noun phrase and connects it to other parts of the sentence. These are mostly single words (of, to, for, with, on, at, from), but can be short phrases (as far as, in front of, according to). Prepositions are commonly used to indicate direction, location, time, reason, purpose, etc. For example:
- I rarely have dinner at 6:00 p.m.
- Fido does tricks for his dog pals.
- Professor Wilson conducts class lectures in front of a large audience.
Prepositional phrases are groups of related words that start with a preposition and end with a noun or pronoun. The ending noun or pronoun is the object of the preposition. For example:
- The guests at the wedding were toasting the happy couple.
In this sentence, at is the preposition and wedding is the noun serving as the object of the preposition.
- The players on the field tried to catch the ball.
In this sentence, on is the preposition and field is the noun serving as the object of the preposition.
(Remember: The subject and the verb of a sentence will never be a part of a prepositional phrase.)
Prepositional Phrases as Adjectives
Prepositional phrases can serve as adjectives. Similar to a regular adjective, these prepositional phrases can describe a noun or pronoun and address the following questions: Whose? What kind? Which one? How many? For example:
- An artist from Brooklyn showcased her work at the annual art show.
The prepositional phrase from Brooklyn is an adjective that describes the subject artist. It also answers the question,
- Please get me a coffee with cream and sugar.
The prepositional phrase with cream and sugar is an adjective that describes the noun coffee. It also answers the question,
What kind of coffee?
Prepositional Phrases as Adverbs
Prepositional phrases can serve as adverbs. However, unlike regular adverbs, which can describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs, prepositional phrases serving as adverbs can only describe verbs. They can answer the following questions (same as regular adverbs): How? How often? Why? When? Where?
- Cynthia purchased a jacket with her credit card.
In this sentence, the prepositional phrase with her credit card is an adverb that describes the verb purchased and answers
the question, How did she purchase the jacket?
- He submitted a short story to the literary competition.
In this sentence, the prepositional phrase to the literary competition is an adverb that describes the verb submitted and
answers the question, Where did he submit the short story?