What is a Prepositional Phrase And How To Use It

Whether you’re trying to score in the 99th percentile on the SAT or ACT, you’re trying to get an “A” in your English class, or you’re revising your essays for your college applications, you’ll need to know about prepositional phrases.

When you have a strong command of prepositional phrases, you will be sure to score higher on Writing and Language tests and many of your grammar quizzes in high school.

What is a prepositional phrase?

A prepositional phrase is a phrase that includes a preposition and whichever object the preposition is governing. Prepositional phrases can also include any potential modifiers of this object.

You’re probably already familiar with prepositions, which are words used to express the relationship between different words.

There are roughly 150 prepositions in the English language. Some common prepositions include in, out, on, under, over, through, until, without, outside, around, into, across, toward, from, upon, with, within, by, between, and among.

A prepositional phrase is simply taking one of the prepositions and adding an object.

For example, you might say, “The boy rode in a car.” In this example, the preposition is “in” and the object is “car.”

Another example would be the question, “Are you going out with her?” For this example, the prepositional phrase consists of the preposition “with” and the object “her.”

Types of prepositional phrases

There are two main types of preposition phrases: adjectival phrases and adverbial phrases. You will need to know the difference between these two types of phrases and how to identify them if you see them on a test or a quiz.

Adjectival phrases

Adjectival phrases occur when the prepositional phrase is modifying a noun. These phrases are aptly named because adjectives modify nouns.

The following sentence would be an example of an adjectival phrase:

Can you pass me the book on the left of the table?

The prepositional phrase “on the left” is describing the noun “book,” making it an adjectival phrase.

Another example of an adjectival phrase would be the following sentence:

Tighten the handle under the faucet.

In this case, the prepositional phrase “under the faucet” is modifying the noun “handle,” which makes it an adjectival phrase.

Adverbial phrases

Adverbial phrases are similar to adjectival phrases except they modify verbs instead of nouns. 

Here is an example of an adverbial phrase:

The taxi driver zoomed around the corner.

 In this example, the prepositional phrase “around the corner” is modifying the verb “zoomed.”

Another example of an adverbial phrase can be seen in the sentence below:

She thanked him for his service with appreciation.

For this example, the prepositional phrase “with appreciation” is used to modify the verb “thanked.”

Using prepositional phrases in writing

In addition to being able to identify different types of prepositional phrases for tests and quizzes, you should also know how to use them when writing.

Here are a few tips to help you:

  • Don’t overuse prepositional phrases. Instead of saying, “She shook his hand with vigor,” you could say “she shook his hand vigorously.” Instead of saying “The sandwich was made by the man,” you could say “the man made the sandwich.”
  • Check your target word. Make sure when you use prepositional phrases that you are modifying the correct word.
  • Try to avoid using passive voice. Sometimes using prepositional phrases leads to passive voice instead of active voice. Aim to use active voice whenever possible.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you use prepositional phrases effectively when you are writing personal statements and college essays.

Getting help with prepositional phrases

If you’re struggling to identify or use prepositional phrases, you’re not alone. This grammar concept is tricky for countless students.

It can be difficult to know the difference between adjectival and adverbial phrases, and it can be even more challenging to use these phrases when writing.

That’s one of the reasons why Prep Expert offers private tutoring for English subjects. 

With the expert instructors available through Prep Expert, you can get the tips, tricks, and practice you need to understand prepositional phrases and any other grammar concept that is giving you trouble.

Whether you are having trouble grasping a particular concept, like preposition phrases, or they want to get ahead in their classes, private tutoring can help.

Sign up for private tutoring through Prep Expert today.