What is a Prepositional Phrase (Definition & Examples)

What is a Prepositional Phrase? (Definition & Examples)

Hello! Welcome to this page. Do you know that learning is very refreshing? Great! I believe you know about Prepositions; that is obvious. You may however not be too sure about what a Prepositional Phrase is. You are in the right place. Let me show you from the post “What is a Prepositional Phrase? (Definition & Examples)” all you need to know about Prepositional Phrase and the functions it performs.

What is a Prepositional Phrase?

A prepositional phrase is a phrase that begins with a preposition and ends with a noun phrase. An adjunct, a syntactic element of the sentence structure, can be a prepositional phrase. You may ask, what is a noun phrase? A noun phrase performs the same function as a noun but the head in the phrase must be a noun! Adjuncts, another name for adverbials, can also be a prepositional phrase. Read more about Adjuncts.

Examples of Prepositional Phrase

Consider the following sentences

  • I saw him in the bank.
  • She gave the book to the man.
  • The policeman in charge of the case was absent.
  • My sister lives in a big house.
  • I got a letter from the President.
  • My friend took me to his new apartment.
  • The cat hid under the table.
  • She ate the cake in the fridge.
  • The ball went over the bar.
  • The woman locked her children inside the house.

Examples of prepositional phrases are endless. You may try to generate some. All the underlined words are prepositional phrases. Now it is not just enough to know what prepositional phrases are and their examples, it is important to know the functions they perform. When you know their functions, you will be able to identify them easily and also use them correctly and appropriately. Let us consider some of the functions of prepositional phrases:

Functions of a Prepositional Phrase

We shall examine 5 distinct functions of prepositional phrases:

As an adverb phrase/adverbial group

An adverb phrase is a phrase that performs the same function as an adverb. We have adverb-headed adverb phrase or adverbial group as Functional Grammar renders it while we also have prepositional-headed adverb phrase; that is, a preposition begins the adverb phrase or group.

You will notice that all the 10 examples given above fall into this category because a preposition heads each of the underlined phrases. Consider this:

  • I saw him in the park.

The phrase “in the park” answers the question “where” which is an adverb of place.

As a Disjunct

I have on written this. See more about Disjunct for clearer understanding. Let me give you three examples of a prepositional phrase functioning as a disjunct:

  • In all honesty, that is all I know about him.
  • In spite of all I told him, he still went ahead with the plan.
  • Frankly speaking, I dislike travelling at night.

As an adjective

Read more on Adjectives. If you read the post on adjectives, you will see that they are words that the basic work of an adjective is to modify or qualify a noun. In other words, an adjective pre-modifiers or post-modifiers. Because a prepositional phrase gives us more information about the noun that precedes it, it functions well as an adjective.

Considers the following examples:

  • That lady in a blue blouse is my friend.

(“in a blue blouse”, as a prepositional phrase, post-modifies the noun phrase “the lady”)

  • The news of his promotion made us wild with excitement.

(The prepositional phrase “of his promotion” post-modifies “the news”)

  • Those cupcakes on the table are yours.

(The prepositional phrase “on the table” post-modifies “those cupcakes”)

You should take note that the prepositional phrases functioning as an adjective in the examples given above are parenthetical. In other words, they are optional and their removal will not affect the correctness of the sentences in which they occur.

Let us see how the 3 sentences will turn out if we remove the prepositional phrases:

  • That lady is my friend.
  • The news made us wild with excitement.
  • Those cupcakes are yours.

So you can see the adjectival role a prepositional phrase performs more explicitly. Let us see another function of prepositional phrases:

As Complement of the Verb

Sometimes some verbs take objects. Such verbs are called Transitive Verbs, while those that do not take direct objects are called Intransitive Verbs. Make sure you mouse over and click on the two types of verbs to know more.

Now, let me inform you that sometimes a transitive verb may take the prepositional phrase, not as its direct object because it cannot, but as its complement. In other words, the prepositional phrase completes the action expressed in the verb. Let us explain with the following sentences:

  • We trust in God.
  • She voted for him.
  • I believe in what they stand for.
  • I am sure of the package we collected.
  • They wandered through the motley crowds.

As Complement of an Adjective

By now, an adjective or a complement should not be strange to you. Prepositional phrases function equally as the complement of an adjective, just like they do for verbs. Let us consider the following examples:

  • We are sure of his victory. (Complement of the adjective “sure”)
  • He is cautious about the case. (Complement of the adjective “cautious”)
  • The children are proud of their parents. (Complement of the adjective “proud”)
  • My father is uncomfortable with my decisions. (Complement of the adjective “uncomfortable”)
  • She is careful among her colleagues. (Complement of the adjective “careful”)

Wow! I am certain you have learnt something tangible by this post and you can explain to your friends what a Prepositional Phrase is alongside the definition and types of preposition. Let me see you get into action. Do not forget to drop your comments. Before you leave, it is vital that you know this: Prepositional Complement. What does it mean?

Prepositional Complement

A prepositional complement is defined simply as the grammatical element which follows a preposition in a prepositional phrase. When you delete the preposition item in a prepositional phrase, the remaining item is called prepositional complement.

The noun phrase is one grammatical element which often follows a preposition. However, the grammatical element could be any of the following grammatical items:

  1. A pronoun, e.g. I came for him;
  2. It could be a ‘wh-clause’ e. g. She is the lady for whose party we came;
  3. An ‘–ing’ clause, e. g. I slept on getting to my apartment
  4. An adjective, e. g. The nice fellow in a white shirt is here.

In the other way round, the preposition, together with its complement, is referred to as Prepositional Phrase! Do you understand? I believe you do! Thank you for taking time to follow me through this lecture. Do well to check some other informative posts like Phrasal Verbs and the likes. See you around!

4 Comments

  1. In all honesty, that is all I know about him.
    In spite of all I told him, he still went ahead with the plan.
    Frankly speaking, I dislike travelling at night.

    What are the categories of these sentences? (SIMPLE , COMPLEX, etc…)

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