Prepositional Phrases Help (page 2)
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
In each of the following sentences, place parentheses around the prepositional phrase. Then find the subject and correct the verb form.
- The bottles inside the carton is all broken.
- The newspaper between the doors are old.
- The paint cans against the walls was left open.
- My friend among all my classmates are the smartest.
- The most exciting movies in the list is adventure movies.
1. (inside the carton) bottles are 2. (between the doors) newspaper is 3. (against the walls) cans were 4. (among all my classmates) friend is 5. (in the list) movies are
Another common error has to do with the placement of a prepositional phrase in a sentence. Which of the following two sentences is the more precise one?
- The boy ran down the stairs in the yellow boots.
- The boy in the yellow boots ran down the stairs.
The answer, of course, depends on whether the stairs are actually wearing yellow boots. If not, the second sentence is correct. What general rule can you conclude from this error? Place a prepositional phrase as close as possible to the word it describes. For example:
- The man was late for his train on the cell phone.
Logic tells us that the train was not on a cell phone, but the sentence is not that clear. How can you make it clear that the man is using a cell phone? Simply place the prepositional phrase where it belongs:
- The man on the cell phone was late for his train.
Prepositional Phrases Additional Practice and Answers
In each of the following sentences, put the prepositional phrases in the correct place.
- I did not see down the road a huge crash.
- The hamster belongs to Tommy with the shortest legs.
- That antique roadster is in the garage with 50,000 miles on it.
- The prospective voters on the table completed their registration for the election.
- You should hang on the wall some of your new artwork.
- The banana-nut bread smells wonderful in the oven.
- Ned, under the deck, lined up furniture and boxes.
- You probably received a letter about the dangers of contaminated water in the mail.
- We drove along the endless highway toward the setting sun in a red convertible.
- Remove the filter from the furnace with the pliers.
1. I did not see a huge crash… 2. The hamster with the shortest legs… 3. That antique roadster with 50,000 miles on it… 4. The prospective voters completed their registration for the election on the table. 5. You should hang some of your new artwork on the wall. 6. The banana-nut bread in the oven smells wonderful. 7. Ned lined up furniture and boxes under the deck. 8. You probably received a letter in the mail about the dangers of contaminated water. 9. We drove in a red convertible along the endless highway toward the setting sun. 10. With the pliers, remove the filter from the furnace.
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