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Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 22, 2011

Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases

From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.

WINSTON CHURCHILL (1874–1965)

BRITISH STATESMAN

You'd be surprised by the number of OOPs we find in sentences. First, you will learn what OOPs actually are and then you'll learn how and where to find them.

A preposition is a word that expresses a relationship between some words in a sentence, usually in regard to time (when) or space (where), much like an adverb. In order for a word to be considered a preposition, it must be part of a prepositional phrase—a group of words, that begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or a pronoun. The noun or pronoun at the end of the phrase is called the object of the preposition, or OOP. Here are a few prepositional phrases:

      across the street
      over the top
      beyond her comprehension
      around the corner

Since adverbs also tell where and when about words, telling the difference between a preposition and an adverb can be tricky. Just remember that a preposition must always be part of a prepositional phrase, and in fact must always be the first word in the phrase. If it does not begin a phrase, it is an adverb. For example, the words underneath and around in the following sentences are adverbs, because they do not begin a prepositional phrase:

I lifted the log carefully, looked underneath, and saw a centipede.
When Julie heard a strange noise, she turned around.

Notice how the words underneath and around stand by themselves in the sentences. Adverbs can do that.

In the next two sentences, underneath and around are prepositions. Each is followed by an OOP, making a prepositional phrase:

Sally found her mother's slippers underneath the bed.
Ken looked around the corner before proceeding.

A grammar exercise for this concept can be found at Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases Practice Exercise.

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