How to Learn Prepositional Phrases as Adjectives and Adverbs

by Kiran Gaunle

A preposition is a word that has little meaning on its own, but describes the relationship between other elements in a sentence. They are words like “in, on, of, above, in front of, against, during, until and throughout.” You can form a prepositional phrase by adding information about a noun, pronoun, verb, or an adverb after a preposition. There are countless prepositional phrases, but all act either as an adjective or an adverb.

Learn to recognize a prepositional phrase when you read one. A prepositional phrase is made of a preposition followed by a determiner, an adjective and a noun or a pronoun that acts as the object of the preposition. Determiners are words that precede and modify a noun, such as “a,” “the” or “several.” For example, look at the sentence, “The noodles at the Vietnamese restaurant taste delicious.” The preposition “at” is followed by the determiner “the,” an adjective “Vietnamese,” and a noun “restaurant,” which makes “at the Vietnamese restaurant” a prepositional phrase modifying the noun “noodles.”

Determine if the prepositional phrase acts as an adjective, once you have recognized it. An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun. In the example, “at the Vietnamese restaurant” modifies the noun “noodles.” Therefore, the prepositional phrase in the sentence acts as an adjective. Ask yourself “Which one?” If the prepositional phrase answers the question, it’s an adjective phrase.

Check if the prepositional phrase acts as an adverb. An adverb modifies a verb or another adverb. In the sentence “he worked in the afternoon when it was quiet,” the prepositional phrase “in the afternoon” modifies the verb “worked.” A prepositional adverb answers tell us how, when or where an action took place.

Find a book or a newspaper and underline prepositional phrases acting as adjectives and adverbs.

About the Author

Kiran Gaunle is a freelancer based in New York. He started writing professionally in 2006. He has written research reports for the UN Development Programme and the "Kathmandu Post." Gaunle is working on a book of short stories and a novel. He holds a Master of Arts in international political economy and development from Fordham University.

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