Students understanding the complexity of language

Chapter 01-13: Prepositions


chapter 1: prepositions

Prepositions are structure-class words that precede a nominal, which  is the object of the preposition. A preposition can be simple or  phrasal. Together, the preposition and its object form a phrasal unit that can  function either adjectivally or adverbially to modify words, other phrases, clauses, or whole sentences.  To repeat, a preposition followed by a nominal functioning as its object  is a prepositional phrase.
Simple prepositions consist of one word. English has many prepositions. Common simple prepositions include 
  • about
  • across
  • after
  • against
  • among
  • around
  • as
  • at
  • before
  • beside
  • between
  • by
  • concerning
  • during
  • for
  • from
  • in
  • into
  • including
  • like
  • near
  • on
  • of
  • opposite
  • out
  • over
  • pending
  • regarding
  • since
  • to
  • through
  • under
  • until
  • via
  • with
  • without

Many of these words can also do double duty as subordinators, so be sure you can tell the difference.

Phrasal prepositions consist of two or more words. Common phrasal prepositions include
  • according  to
  • apart from
  • because of
  • by virtue of
  • down from
  • except for
  • instead of
  • off  of
  • outside of
  • regardless of
  • short of
  • together with
  • up to

Prepositions occur before a nominal (word, phrase, or clause) (in the  “pre-position”). A preposition must have a nominal object to be a  prepositional phrase.

  • under the blanket
  • over the top
  • in the green shirt
 Prepositions connect their object to other words or phrases or clauses in a sentence. This connection modifies the other words or phrases:
We hurried to the store.
  • The prepositional phrase to the store modifies OUR HURRYING adverbially by telling you where we hurried to.
 We drove without concern for the speed limit.
  • The prepositional phrase without concern  modifies OUR DRIVING adverbially and for the speed limit modifies CONCERN adjectivally. Be particularly aware that if two or more prepositional phrases are “stacked” up, the second will most often modify the nominal object in the previous prepositional phrase.
 We needed a bucket of that ice cream with the Snickers bars mixed in.
  • of that ice cream modifies A BUCKET adjectivally.
  • with the Snickers bars mixed in modifies THAT ICE CREAM adjectivally.
 For this chapter, we are primarily concerned with identifying prepositions. We will look more closely at prepositional phrases and how to determine their function in Chapter 4.