Prepositional phrases usually provide additional information, which can make sentences more descriptive and clear.

However, when too many prepositional phrases are packed into a sentence, we could get the opposite result: confusing run-ons.

Learn how to use prepositional phrases efficiently in order to make your writing more detailed without sacrificing elegance.

What Is a Prepositional Phrase?

To understand prepositional phrases, you’ll first need to understand prepositions.

A preposition is a word that indicates a relation to another word or element, and usually precedes the noun or pronoun that it modifies. Examples of common prepositions include in, to, out, on, before, and after.

Prepositional phrases, then, consist of a preposition and the object it governs (a noun, gerund, or clause).

For example: My sister lives by the lake.

In the sentence above, “by” is the preposition, and “by the lake” is the entire prepositional phrase.

Prepositional Phrases Examples

Below are examples of several different types of prepositional phrases.

Prepositional Phrases That Modify Nouns

Prepositional phrases that modify nouns are also called adjectival phrases, since adjectives modify nouns.

Notice in the examples below that the prepositional phrases (in bold) tell us more about the nouns they modify.

  • My sister lives in a house by the beach.
  • I like the dog on the left best.
  • The church is located in the main square.

Prepositional Phrases That Modify Verbs

Prepositional phrases that modify verbs are also called adverbial phrases, since adverbs modify verbs.

Notice in the examples below that the prepositional phrases tell us more about how an action was performed.

  • She finished her lunch in a hurry.
  • He looked behind him to see if anyone was listening,
  • You drank the water with hesitation.

Prepositional Phrases That Act as Nouns

Occasionally, prepositional phrases can act as nouns. See the examples below.

  • During the movie is a bad time to check your phone.
  • After class is too late to turn in the assignment.

Avoid Excessive Prepositions

Sometimes, a sentence can include too many prepositional phrases. While this is usually an attempt to add more descriptive information, it’s always best to strive for more simple, economical structure in your writing.

For example:

  • He has served in leadership positions in Christian communities in Arizona.

The sentence above contains 3 “in’s”. As a general rule, more than one prepositional phrase every 10–15 words is a good indication that the sentence can be rewritten more efficiently.

A more concise and elegant way to rewrite the example sentence would be:

  • He has held leadership positions in many of Arizona’s Christian communities.

More Tips for Efficient Writing

Besides avoiding excessive prepositions, you can make your writing more effective and efficient by eliminating weasel words and crutch words.

You can find more helpful tips like these right here on our website under Writing Tips.

Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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