What Are Prepositional Phrases?

Prepositional phrases are the kinds of things you use all the time without thinking about them. They’re groups of words that begin with a preposition and end with an object. Prepositions are words like about, across, after, for, and in. You’ll see them in simple prepositional phrases, like about zebras, after school, and with friends.

Objects of Prepositions

When we say object, we mean the thing being affected or referenced by the preposition. It’s usually a noun or noun phrase. The whole prepositional phrase also includes any articles and modifiers between the preposition and object. Here’s an example: “We sat beside the aqua blue sea.” In this case, beside is the preposition, and sea is the object. The is an article, and aqua blue is a modifier. You could say that the object of this prepositional phrase is the noun phrase “the aqua blue sea.”

Sometimes, a prepositional phrase will have a compound object, as in beyond the river and the mountains.

Nouns aren’t the only part of speech that can be used as objects. Pronouns, gerunds, and noun clauses can also be the objects of a preposition.

A gerund is a verb form ending in -ing that’s used as a noun, as in “They were talking about running.”

A noun clause is a group of words that contains a subject and verb, and is used as a noun. An example is “She went to sleep after she went home.”

Both personal object pronouns and indefinite pronouns can also be the object of a preposition. Personal object pronouns are words like me, him, her, and them. You’ll see them in prepositional phrases like, “They were with me.” You’ll see indefinite pronouns, like one and both in phrases like “I was thinking about both.”

Can I End a Sentence With a Prepositional Phrase?

First: A prepositional phrase can be in almost any place in a sentence. It’s generally acceptable to end a sentence with a prepositional phrase.

You’ve probably heard people say that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition itself. For example, some grammarians argue that the question “Where are you from?” is grammatically incorrect, and should instead be phrased as “From where are you?” As you can see, this can lead to some awkward-sounding constructions. In informal English, it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition. The best thing to do is go with what sounds right when you read it out loud.

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