The Parts of Speech: PrepositionsThe Parts of Speech: Prepositions
and Their Phrasesand Their Phrases
Griffin Technical College
Learning Support Center
Written by Cynthia L. Baynham
• The Job of a Preposition
• A List of Prepositions
• Memorizing Prepositions
• Identifying Prepositions
• Is it a Preposition: A Test Sentence
• What is a Prepositional Phrase?
• Prepositional Pitfalls
As tendons connect muscle to bone,
prepositions connect their objects to another
part of the sentence.
We left after the movie.
The flock of birds ate all the berries.
Sue and Tim met in the moonlit garden
A short list of the most common prepositions can beA short list of the most common prepositions can be
found atfound at
Click on this link and print off the list of prepositionsClick on this link and print off the list of prepositions
and begin memorizing them one column at a time.and begin memorizing them one column at a time.
So how can you locate prepositional phrases? First you
must memorize the most common prepositions, so you
can recognize them when you see them.
Memory and Learning TipsMemory and Learning Tips
Break the material down into bite-sized pieces.Break the material down into bite-sized pieces.
(With the list of prepositions, learn one column at(With the list of prepositions, learn one column at
a time.)a time.)
Expose yourself to the material in a variety ofExpose yourself to the material in a variety of
ways: read it, recite it, read it aloud, and write it.ways: read it, recite it, read it aloud, and write it.
Review what you have learned daily so you don’tReview what you have learned daily so you don’t
forget it and have to relearn it.forget it and have to relearn it.
If you are learning a concept or a rule, explainIf you are learning a concept or a rule, explain
the material to yourself as if you are both studentthe material to yourself as if you are both student
and teacher.and teacher.
Some preSome prepositionpositions give a position ins give a position in
space or time:space or time:
We left after the movie.
Time – The phrase
tells when we left.
Sue and Tim met in the moonlit garden.
Space – The
phrase tells where
Some, but not all prepositions will fit intoSome, but not all prepositions will fit into
this sentence:this sentence:
The plane flew _____________ the
The plane flew over the clouds.
The plane flew under the clouds.
The plane flew through the clouds.
The plane flew above the clouds.
However, some prepositions don’t fit in the
The plane flew of the clouds.
The plane flew except the clouds.
So what makesup aprepositional phrase?So what makesup aprepositional phrase?
A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and ends with the lastA prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and ends with the last
object of the preposition, which can be a noun or a pronoun.object of the preposition, which can be a noun or a pronoun.
The preposition can have more than one object:
…with Tom and me…
The prepositional phrase also includes anyThe prepositional phrase also includes any
modifiers that go with the objectmodifiers that go with the object
A modifier for a noun is called an adjective. AdjectivesA modifier for a noun is called an adjective. Adjectives
answer the questions:answer the questions: Whi ch ki nd?Whi ch ki nd? Whi ch one?Whi ch one?
How Many?How Many? andand Whos e?Whos e?
Preposition + Modifiers + Object(s)
in the moonlit garden
after the long, boring movie
among the white fluffy clouds
Remember, prepositional phrases begin with
prepositions and end with the last object. You
can’t find prepositional phrases unless you
memorize your prepositions.
Why are prepositions and theirWhy are prepositions and their
phrases important?phrases important?
Read this paragraph from Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea with all of the
prepositional phrases left in place:
“The sun rose thinly from the sea and the old man could see the other boats, low on the water and well in toward the
shore, spread out across the current. Then the sun was brighter and the glare came on the water and then, as it rose
clear, the flat sea sent it back at his eyes so that it hurt sharply and he rowed without looking into it. He looked down
into the water and watched the lines that went straight down into the dark of the water. He kept them straighter than
anyone did, so that at each level in the darkness of the stream there would be a bait waiting exactly where he wished it
to be for any fish that swam there. Others let them drift with the current and sometimes they were at sixty fathoms
when the fishermen thought they were at a hundred.”
Now read it without the prepositional phrases:
The sun rose thinly and the old man could see the other boats, low and well, spread out. Then the sun was brighter
and the glare came and then as it rose clear, the flat sea sent it back so that it hurt sharply and he rowed. He looked
down and watched the lines that went straight down. He kept them straighter than anyone did, so that there would be
a bait waiting exactly where he wished it to be. Others let them drift and sometimes they were… when the fisherman
thought they were….
Doesn’t the text lose much of its meaning without the prepositional phrases?
DangerDanger : While prepositional phrases are very: While prepositional phrases are very
important to the meaning of the sentence, they canimportant to the meaning of the sentence, they can
cause grammatical errors.cause grammatical errors.
Danger 1 : They can come between a subject and a verb. The
problem occurs when the writer thinks the object of the preposition is
the subject of the sentence. The object of the preposition can NEVER
be the subject of the sentence!
If you said paintings then you are right. Museum is the object of the
preposition in. Because the subject, paintings, is plural, we must use the
plural verb, are.
What isthesubject of thefollowing sentenceand what verb agreeswith it?
Paintings in a museum (is/are) available for all to see.
Danger Two: Many t imes people will mist akenly use t he subj ect ive case pronoun
as t he obj ect of a preposit ion. A pronoun that is the object of a preposition
must be in the OBJECTIVE case.
The objective case pronouns are me, us, you, him, her, it, them.
This error most commonly occurs when the object of the preposition is compound.
Wrong: The Galloways are going to the beach with Tom and I.
Correct: The Galloways are going to the beach with Tom and me.
We wouldn’t say, “The Galloways are going to the beach with I,” would we?
Tip: When you have a compound object, and you are trying to decide which
pronoun to use, try eliminating the other part of the compounded object of the
preposition. If you use pronouns as the single object of the preposition correctly, you
should have no problems choosing the pronoun to use in the compound object.
For example, Mike bought tickets for Zoe and (I/me) becomes Mike bought tickets
for I, or Mike bought tickets for me.
Clearly, the second choice, me, is the correct answer.
This trick doesn’t work with the preposition between because, logically, between
requires two objects. Always fall back on the rule:
Pronoun objects of the preposition must be in the objective case.