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Set 2 - Lesson 9 ( Go to the Answer Key )


Lesson 9, Prepositional Phrases Do the Work of Adjectives and Adverbs

It would be very difficult to carry on a conversation or write a letter in English without using prepositional phrases.  They tell us where, when, why, or how actions take place, the same as adverbs do.  They tell us what kind or which one of the nouns performs the action, the same as an adjective would.  They can be found in any part of a sentence.  They look like this:

  • preposition + object (noun or pronoun)  NOTE: an article and one or more adjectives can come between the preposition and the noun.

Examples: to the store,  of the tree,  with Mary,  beside the table,  under the car,  during supper,  after the meeting,  through the tunnel,  from the bank,  without my car keys.

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What exactly are prepositions?   They describe a location relationship between the object of the preposition and something else in the sentence: under, over, beside, between, in, to, from, etc.  They describe a time relationship between different events: after, before, since, during, until, etc.  They point out a relationship in general between the object of the preposition and something else in the sentence: of, about, for, with, without, by.  They can be confusing, but they are very important.

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Here are several sentences which contain prepositional phrases.  Try to pick them out on your own and ask yourself what job they are doing in the sentence - modifying the verb (when? where? why? how?) or modifying the noun (which one? what kind?).  Then read our comments following the sentences and compare them to your own thoughts.

  1. Michael did his homework in the morning.
  2. One of the horses was walking with a limp.
  3. Mrs. Jones set her purse on the hall table.
  4. The men under the bridge fished for carp.
  5. After school, three of the teachers ran from their classrooms.

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  • 1. in the morning tells us when he did his homework, an adverb's job.
  • 2. of the horses tells us which group 'One' is a part of, an adjective's job.  with a limp tells us  how the horse was walking, an adverb's job.
  • 3. on the hall table tells us where the purse was set, an adverb's job.
  • 4. under the bridge tells us which men were fishing - not the men 'in the boat' or the men 'with yellow raincoats' . This prepositional phrase was doing the job of an adjective.  The same words in a different sentence could have a different meaning : 'The men were fishing under the bridge.'  Now the words 'under the bridge' tell us where the men were fishing, an adverb's job.  for carp tells us why the men were fishing, an adverb's job.
  • 5. After school tells us when the teachers ran.  The subject of the sentence is 'three', but we don't know what or who the 'three' are without the prepositional phrase of the teachers giving us more information. The phrase from their classroom tells us where they were running.

Here are some more examples of the uses of Prepositional Phrases. They will be underlined.

  1. In the morning, I want to plant a flat of marigolds along the front of the garden.
  2. The captain of the baseball team chose nine of his best players to start the game Saturday.
  3. Besides my friend, George, eight of us went for a hike in the state park.
  4. From his position under the car, Frank's voice could barely be heard.
  5. The kids from the neighborhood played a game of baseball in the field behind the school.

From these examples, you can see that sentences would not be very interesting and wouldn't carry very much information without prepositional phrases.


A Preposition is not always a single word.  There are many commonly-used prepositions that consist of two or more words.  These are called Compound Prepositions or Phrasal Prepositions.  No matter how many parts they have, these prepositions are still treated as single units - that is, as if they had only one word.  Here is a list of the most common ones:

according to by way of in consideration of instead of

along side of

contrary to

in apposition with

on account of

along with

for the sake of

in front of

out of

because of

in addition to

in regard to

with reference to

by means of

in accordance with

in respect to

with regard to

by reason of

in case of

in spite of

with respect to

These are some examples of the uses of Compound Prepositions:

A. According to my teacher, global warming has happened many time in the Earth's history.

B. Danny and Jim, along with their little brothers, went fishing in the farmer's pond.

C. I was late getting to work because of a traffic accident that blocked the highway.

D. Contrary to her parents' opinion, Jane's friends behaved very well at the concert.

E. In consideration of all the hard work John put into the school play, he was given a standing ovation by the audience.

Exercise A: Replace each preposition in the following sentences with a different one.  Notice how it can change the meaning of the sentence.  Example: The man sat in his car.   The man sat under his car.  The man sat beside his car.  The man sat on his car.   

1. The nurse in a white dress walked her dog through the park.


2. After supper, my friend bought a newspaper at the drugstore.


3. Tony's wife of two weeks visited her cousin at the beach.


4. A dog in the park has chased the mailman into the street..


5. During the movie, John put his hand near the girl's arm.



Exercise B: In each of the sentences below, you are given a choice of two prepositional phrases.  Circle the one that you think fits best in the sentence.  Write the complete sentence on the line.

1. The motorcycle jumped (over the car) (from the car).


2. (In the morning) (By the morning), the cook made blueberry pancakes.


3. Tina threw seeds (at the birds) (to the birds).


4. The little boys (in the playground) (outside the playground) played tag.


5. Many people put tomatoes (with their salad) (in their salad).


Exercise C: Complete the following sentences with any of the prepositions mentioned earlier in this lesson.

1. _________ the morning,  Betty decided to drive ___________ school, _______________________her mother's warning.

2. Rick went _______ work _____ the gas station _____________ a need ________ extra money.

3. ________________ his fellow scientists, Dr. Barlow proceeded to destroy the case they had built ______________ global warming.

4. _________________ a snow storm, the area schools often cancel classes ____________________ safety regulations.

5. _____________ the early days ________ our country, many citizens lived and worked ______ farms or _______ small towns _____________ big cities.

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Examination:  Add prepositional phrases to the sentences below to make them more interesting.  Write the new sentences on the lines.

1. The tall young woman dived.


2. Two black cats climbed the tall pine tree.


3. Martha likes Henry.


4. The soldiers fired their rifles.


5. My brother drives a truck.


6. Some girls walk.


-The End-

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