These pesky little words show how one noun or phrase relates to another noun, phrase, clause, or sentence.

Prepositional phrases (preposition plus object) can tell the reader more about where, when, why, or how something happened.

Place – Billy lives IN Seattle.
Origin – Billy came FROM Cleveland.
Movement – Billy drove ACROSS the bridge.
Time – Billy ran IN the morning.
Purpose – Billy brought a pencil FOR the test.
Cause – Billy went to school FOR the test.
Manner – Billy ran WITH speed.

They can give us more information about who did something or what was used to make or do something

Agent – Bob was hit BY Billy.
Material – Billy has a house OF straw.
Instrument – Billy hit Bob WITH a bat.
Means – Billy went to school BY bus.

They can tell us all sorts of information

Comparison – Billy looks LIKE Bob.
Possession – The tale OF Billy the Kid.
Recipient – I gave the cake TO Billy.
Price – Billy sold the bike FOR ten dollars.

Most prepositions can fall into more than one category. Some of the more common prepositions include

about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, but, by, down, during, for, from, in, inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, onto, out, outside, over, past, through, to, toward, under, underneath, until, up, upon, with, without

Why does it matter?
Along with adjectives and adverbs, prepositions and prepositional phrases can often be cut to increase pace and flow in writing. A sentence like “she sat DOWN ON the chair IN the kitchen” can be simplified to “she sat ON the kitchen chair” or even “she sat IN the kitchen.”

Any questions? 

Read more of my Grammar Guide.


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