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English Grammar: Prepositional Phrases

Common prepositions are: about, above, across, after, along, around, at, before, behind, below, beside, beyond, by, for, down, from, in, inside, like, near, next to, off, on, over, outside, to, through, under, up, upon, with, within, without.

A preposition is a small word that comes before a noun. The prepositional phrase (preposition + noun) describes a noun or verb in a sentence. The prepositional phrase starts with a preposition and ends with a noun, the very next one after the preposition. Other small words or adjectives are often inside the phrase (between preposition and noun). The chart shows some examples.

Time Place People
After work, I went home.
We drove about town.
The package is from your sister.
It looks like rain.
By 10:00, he was already tired.
The freeway entrance is near the bridge.
This is for you.
He was standing in the pouring rain without a hat or coat. *
Within 5 minutes, she woke up.
The men are smoking outside the front door.
She is going with her teenage daughter.
The woman with the cane is my aunt.
* This sentence has 2 prepositional phrases. "Pouring" is a verbal--see below--in this sentence, the verb "pouring" acts as an adjective.

Having Fun with Prepositions

Using a lot of prepositions in one sentence creates a fun effect.

Multiple Prepositions
The dog chased the squirrel out of the yard, along the road, behind the library, through the woods and over a fence. Finally, the squirrel went up a tree.
Look in the cupboard. The flour is on the right shelf above the shelf with the bags of rice, and it's next to the sugar.

Participles and Participial Phrases

A participle is a verbal ending in -ed or -ing that is used to describe. A verbal is any verb that functions as a different part of speech. A participial phrase begins with the participle (the verbal) and can end with different parts of speech. A participial phrase can be removed from a sentence--it's purpose is to add detail. This how you can recognize it and how it differs from a gerund. Also notice: unlike other dependent clauses, you need a comma before a participle that comes at the end.

Feeling very good, Ben started home.
Ben, feeling very good, started home.
Ben started home, feeling very good.
Pleased with her new job, my mother smiled and laughed.
My mother, pleased with her new job, smiled and laughed.
My mother smiled and laughed, pleased with her new job.
Crying softly, the woman left the room.
The woman, crying softly, left the room.
The woman left the room, crying softly.

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