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prepositional phrase

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prepositional phrase

There are four prepositional phrases in the opening sentence of The Cricket in Times Square (1960), a children's book by George Selden.

Definition:

A group of words made up of a preposition, its object, and any of the object's modifiers.

Prepositional phrases can modify nouns, verbs, phrases, and complete clauses. As demonstrated by several of the examples below, prepositional phrases can be embedded inside other prepositional phrases.

See also:

 

Exercises:

 

Examples:

  • "I will not obey the voices in my head."
    (Bart Simpson, The Simpsons, 2000)

  • "Above the trees and rooftops the dingy glare of the London sky faded upwards into weak violet heights."
    (Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty. Picador, 2004)

  • "On the counter near the stove in a silvery pan was a deep-dish berry cobbler."
    (Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970)

  • "With spry jingles of the bell on her handlebars, a woman sped by in a crimson smock and a witchy black hat."
    (Martin Amis, Lionel Asbo: State of England. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)

  • "Behind the school, down a slope of briars and jungle-like vegetation, was the 'crick'--the wide, often muddy, fast-moving Tonawanda Creek, where pupils were forbidden to play or explore."
    (Joyce Carol Oates, "District School #7: Niagara County, New York." Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art. HarperCollins, 2003)

  • "To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself. . . . Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph."
    (Mark Twain, letter to Emeline B. Beach, February 10, 1868. Mark Twain's Letters: 1867-1868, ed. by Harriet Elinor Smith and Richard Bucci. University of California Press, 1990)

  • "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher."
    (Flannery O'Connor)

  • "We walked out of the gallows yard, past the condemned cells with their waiting prisoners, into the big central yard of the prison."
    (George Orwell, "A Hanging," 1931)

  • "A young woman with long hair and a short white halter dress walks through the casino at the Riviera in Las Vegas at one in the morning. . . . It was precisely this moment that made Play It As It Lays begin to tell itself to me."
    (Joan Didion, "Why I Write." The New York Times, December 5, 1976)

  • "Shortly after dawn, or what would have been dawn in a normal sky, Mr. Artur Sammler with his bushy eye took in the books and papers of his West Side bedroom and suspected strongly that they were the wrong books, the wrong papers."
    (Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler's Planet. Viking, 1970)

  • "East of my grandmother's house, south of the pecan grove, there is buried a woman in a beautiful dress."
    (N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain, 1969)

  • "When I went off to college, my father gave me, as part of my tuition, fifty pounds of moose meat."
    (Brenda Peterson, "Growing Up Game")

  • "Next morning early I started afoot for Walden, out Main Street and down Thoreau, past the depot and the Minuteman Chevrolet Company. The morning was fresh, and in a bean field along the way I flushed an agriculturalist, quietly studying his beans."
    (E.B. White, "Walden," June 1939)

  • "She had pewter-colored hair set in a ruthless permanent, a hard beak, and large moist eyes with the sympathetic expression of wet stones."
    (Raymond Chandler, The High Window, 1942)

  • "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
    (Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford, 1830)

  • "As proud parents sat open-mouthed on the surrounding benches, she came hurtling out of the back annexe, along the corridor, through the connecting door, into the hall, up to the springboard and into space. She drove me into the floor like a tack."
    (Clive James, Unreliable Memoirs. Jonathan Cape, 1980)

 

Observations:

  • "Academic writing is particularly packed with prepositional phrases because they allow a writer to structure a great deal of information compactly. In fact several adverbial phrases can occur in one sentence, and often they do. . . . [P]repositional phrases are flexible in their syntactic roles, modifying functions, and sentence positions. The extraordinarily high frequency of prepositional phrases, combined with their flexibility, is the reason that students have to learn to recognize prepositional phrases and use them appropriately in their writing."
    (Eli Hinkel, Teaching Academic ESL Writing: Practical Techniques in Vocabulary and Grammar. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004)

  • The Lighter Side of Prepositional Phrases
    "Marge, there's an empty spot I've always had inside me. I tried to fill it with family, religion, community service, but those were dead ends! I think this chair is the answer."
    (Homer Simpson in The Simpsons)

 

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