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Prepositional Phrases Help

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Aug 22, 2011

Prepositional Phrases

Prepositions link or relate nouns, pronouns, and phrases to other words in a sentence. The word or phrase the preposition introduces is called the prepositional phrase. In the phrase, you find the object of the preposition.

To write sentences correctly, you need to have one very important fact in mind: the subject of a verb will never be part of a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition, such as in, on, at, between, or among, and ends with a noun, pronoun, or gerund. Look at the following examples of prepositional phrases:

      in the dirty pail
      on the smooth highway
      at home
      between us
      among the empty pizza boxes
      without crying

Sometimes a prepositional phrase seems to be either the subject itself or part of the subject. Read the example that follows:

Neither of these boys wants a low-paying job this summer.

In this sentence, the boys seem to be the ones who do not want the low-paying job, but because they are part of a prepositional phrase, of these boys, they are not the subject. The word Neither is the actual subject. Here is another example:

    My dog, along with her seven puppies, has chewed all of the stuffing out of the sofa cushions.

In this sentence, both my dog and her seven puppies are chewing on the sofa, but because the puppies are part of the prepositional phrase along with her seven puppies, the only word that counts as the subject is dog.

Prepositional phrases are the source of common mistakes in sentences because they come between the subject and the verb, causing errors in agreement between subject and verb. For example:

    The bottles inside the carton (is/are) all broken.

How do you correctly choose the verb in this sentence? Start by placing parentheses around the prepositional phrase inside the carton:

    The bottles (inside the carton) is/are all broken.

The prepositional phrase does not determine the number—singular or plural—of the verb. Rather, identify the subject of the sentence, which is bottles. Does the subject bottles need a singular or plural verb? The answer, of course, is plural. Now you can choose the verb form are.

Prepositional Phrases Practice and Answers

Practice

In each of the following sentences, place parentheses around the prepositional phrase. Then find the subject and correct the verb form.

  1. The bottles inside the carton is all broken.
  2. The newspaper between the doors are old.
  3. The paint cans against the walls was left open.
  4. My friend among all my classmates are the smartest.
  5. The most exciting movies in the list is adventure movies.
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