A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and ends with an object, which is usually a noun or a pronoun.
In the sentences below, the prepositional phrases are in italics and enclosed within brackets [ ___ ]. There is an asterisk (*) after each preposition.
Please open that door [beside* you].
Notice how the preposition in each sentence shows a relationship between the object and the word that the phrase modifies. Prepositions often show space or time relationships (as in the first three examples above) but sometimes they show other kinds of relationship (as in the fourth example above).
Thank goodness we bought that fan [by* the window].
We really needed it [during* the night].
We'd have been miserable [without* it].
Here is a list of some words that often act as prepositions.
Don't try to memorize this list. Once you get the feel of the relationships signaled by prepositions, you won't need lists like this any more.
|Expressing space relationships
| above||down||beyond* Dallas|
beside* the tracks
toward* every stoplight
under* the bridge
on* these trips
in* her steady good humor
| Expressing time relationships
| after||since ||until* the last moment|
during* the train ride
| before || until|
| during || |
| Expressing other relationships
| about || like
despite* the weather
about* my best friend
from* a small town
of* some forgotten old adventures
| for || without
| from ||
Between a preposition and its object there may be one or more single-word modifiers.
[before* the first play]
[of* Lewis's most important game]
A prepositional phrase always acts as a modifier.
The roads [beyond* Dallas] were in terrible shape. (Where?)
I remember that bumpy street [beside* the tracks]. (Which?)
You always bounced wildly [toward* every stoplight]. (Where?)
I certainly had doubts [about* my best friend] then. (What kind?)
Tip: No matter how many modifiers a prepositional phrase may contain, the phrase itself always acts as a unit which modifies some other word. For now, stop looking at what's inside the phrase and examine instead how the whole phrase works as a modifier.