A prepositional phrase is made up of a preposition and a noun phrase. We use prepositional phrases for many purposes, for example:

- as adverbials of time and place:

We will be back in a few days.
They drove to Glasgow

.- as a postmodifier in a noun phrase:

Helen is the girl in the red dress
We’ve got a new television with a thirty one inch screen.

- to show who did something:

The lion was killed by the hunter
I saw a wonderful painting by Van Gogh

- with double object verbs like give and get:

We gave five pounds to the woman on the corner.
They got a drink for me.

- after certain verbs, nouns and adjectives:

The book belongs to me.
I had an argument with my brother.
I feel sorry for you.

Exercise

Comments

Hello JakiGeh,

The combinations of verbs (or adjectives) and prepositions that you ask about are not idioms. An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood only from the meanings of the words in it; it has a meaning of its own. A few examples of idioms are:

to 'pull someone's leg' (to tell sb sth that is not true as a way of joking with them)
'a can of worms' (a situation that causes lots of problems)
to 'rub someone the wrong way' (to annoy sb without intending to)

The idiom is in inverted commas and the meaning in brackets. You can't really understand the meaning just from the idiom. A good resource for finding the meanings of idioms is the Cambridge Dictionary.

The examples in your comment are verb + preposition or adjective + preposition combinations. Although, like idioms, they are standard combinations of words, these are not idioms because the meaning can be inferred by looking at the meaning of the parts.

You should still definitely learn these – I'd recommend you keep a notebook with a list of them, with example sentences. There are a lot of them in English, and the more you read and listen to it, the more you will see and learn.

I hope that clarifies it for you. If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

''I have difficulty in/with''

What is the difference between difficulty in and with?

I could say I have difficulty in sth as well as I have difficulty with, and it seems they both have the same meaning.

''She claimed responsibility for taking the thing for which he was convicted.''

If a subordinate clause is short, could I place preposition at the end and should't the preposition be ''of'' instead?

Thank you.

Hello JamlMakav,

The meaning is very close and I can't think of any cases where only one of 'with' or 'in' would be possible. 'With' seems to me to suggest that the speaker is trying to do it and is finding it difficult, while 'in' might have a more general meaning. However, I am not sure this is a true distinction and the two may be interchangeable.

Your second example is problematic and I would agree that 'of' is better. However, the sentence has other problems. A person is convicted to a crime, not of an act. Your sentence suggests the person was convicted of taking something, which is not the way we use the word. They may be convicted of theft because that is the crime, not of taking something.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

I have some queries on dependent prepositions that are followed by particular verbs, nouns, or adjectives.

I just want to know if there is a way that gives information on how to search sufficiently for particular preposition? Should I search by a verb or preposition?

Is the best way to learn those prepositions reading?

I want to say that something adds emphasis '' '' something. I found I should use ''to,'' expressing this meaning. I've checked the preposition could be ''in'' or ''to.''

Is it true that a meaning determines what preposition it takes and a preposition doesn't have any influence. In other words, a dictionary would say general use of a preposition but not working as a dependent one.

Thank you much.

Helli JamiMakav,

I think there is a little confusion in your comment. Prepositions are not followed by those words, but rather those words can be followed by prepositions.

Prepositions are followed by objects, which are usually nouns but can be other forms too (clauses and infinitives, for example).

When there is a preposition it contributes to the meaning of the phrase and there may be multiple prepositions possible after a given item. For example, you can say

give emphasis to

put emphasis on

show emphasis by

I don't think it's useful to try to separate which parts are responsible for meaning changes here. While there are core concepts behind prepositions (movemement, location, cause etc) I don't think these are useful in terms of constructing these phrases. You simply need to learn them.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hey. My question is after a copula we have a subject complement, in this sentence : Joe felt ready in front of a big crowd, phrases after the adjective ready which is a subject complement can also function as complement? What kind ? Ty

Hello lfg16,

Our site here is not a linguistics site but a site for language learners and this question, which is about parsing sentences, falls outside of that.

There are online parsing sites which you might find useful:

http://nlp.stanford.edu:8080/parser/index.jsp

http://zzcad.com/cgi-bin/webparse.exe

http://www.link.cs.cmu.edu/link/submit-sentence-4.html

There are also plenty of online linguistics fora you might try.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I would like to ask some questions about following:

I went to the movies with Sarah, David, and Tom.
(what type of modifier is prepositional phrase(with...) here?)

Think of the pressure (that) she was under
(Is ''under pressure'' dependent preposition + noun, and why can it be used here?)

It is a great position to be in
(what connection preposition ''in'' has in this sentence, and what type of modifier is prepositional phrase '' to be..'' here?)

Thank you

Hello MCWSL,

I'm afraid these question fall outside of the scope of our site. LearnEnglish is a site for learners of English and our goal is to help them to use the language better. Your questions deal with language analysis and the terminology of language, which are questions of linguistics, not language learning. You can find many sites which deal with linguistics and linguistic terminology, often with very lively discussion boards, and I think these are a better place for you to look for this kind of information.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

If you think of a sentence as a story, prepositional phrases supply the context or setting of the story. They relate the surrounding circumstances, conditions and elements of the story by answering the questions Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Which? and Whose? For example [my comments in brackets]:
Columbus sailed the ocean blue [the story]
in 1492 [When? What year?]
from September 6 [When? What start date?]
to October12 [When? What end date?]
from Europe [Where? What starting location?]
to America [Where? What ending location?]
with three crews [Who else sailed?]
aboard the three ships [What else was involved?]
of Juan Niño and Juan de la Cosa [Whose ships?]
for the queen [Why did Columbus sail?]
of Spain [Which queen?]
by heading west [How did he get to America?].
The eleven prepositions above (in, from, to, from, to, with, aboard, of, for, of, by) are actually context links, that attach the various context/setting items to the story of Columbus (the main character) sailing the ocean (the plot). The purpose of prepositional phrases is to provide context, so that the reader can grasp the big picture behind the story.

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