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What Is a Preposition?

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A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that the preposition introduces is called the object of the preposition.

A preposition usually indicates the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence.

In each of the following sentences, a preposition locates the noun book in space or in time:

  • The book is on the table.
  • The book is beneath the table.
  • The book is leaning against the table.
  • The book is beside the table.
  • She held the book over the table.
  • She read the book during class.

A prepositional phrase is made up of a preposition, its object and any associated adjectives or adverbs. A prepositional phrase can function as a noun, an adjective or an adverb. The most common prepositions are about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, but, by, despite, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, onto, out, outside, over, past, since, through, throughout, till, to, toward, under, underneath, until, up, upon, with, within and without.

Each of the highlighted words in the following examples is a preposition.

  • The climbers rappelled the mountain face without fear.

In this sentence, the preposition without introduces the noun fear. The prepositional phrase without fear functions as an adverb describing how the climbers rappelled.

  • There was rejoicing throughout the country when Canada won a gold medal in hockey.

Here the preposition throughout introduces the noun phrase the country. The prepositional phrase throughout the country acts as an adverb describing the location of the rejoicing.

  • The spider crawled slowly along the banister.

The preposition along introduces the noun phrase the banister and the prepositional phrase along the banister acts as an adverb, describing where the spider crawled.

  • The dog is hiding under the porch because it knows it will be punished for chewing up a new pair of shoes.

Here the preposition under introduces the prepositional phrase under the porch, which acts as an adverb modifying the compound verb is hiding.

  • The screenwriter searched for the manuscript everywhere in his office.

Here the preposition in introduces the prepositional phrase in his office, which acts as an adverb describing the location of the missing papers.


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