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.




My question is about prepositions. I actually looked far for finding a more appropriate page to ask my question, but unfortunately I couldn't find such a page but this.

My question is about some bewildering prepositions that I even suspect if it's correct to name them prepositions! They're "but", "save" and "bar".

Let's first speak about "but" and a general rule on the English grammar:
"The verb after prepositions comes in the gerund-participle form, essentially always."

Now what about "but"?
Please take a look at these sentences:

1- He does nothing but eat.
2- Ed does nothing but drink beer all day.
3- If we want vehicles to be less polluting, then we have no choice but to find an alternative fuel.

As you see, neither "eat" nor "drink" or "to find" comes in gerund-participle. The same is for "save" and "bar" prepositions.

Now I have two questions:
1- Do you believe that "but", "save" and "bar" are actually prepositions?
2- If they're prepositions, are they exceptional cases for the general rule I mentioned above, please?

Thanks for much for your help.

Hello abbasi,

This is an unusual structure and it is the focus of some discussion amongst grammarians. It occurs only when certain forms are used in the first part of the sentence - specifically the verb do:

he does nothing but eat

he likes nothing but eating



You can find a discussion of this topic here.



The LearnEnglish Team


I am confused between" inspired by" and "inspired with" as in this sentence:
"Poets are normally inspired (by/with) beauty." Could you please explain the different meaning if I use either of this preposition? Thank you.

Hello Widescreen,

I'm not aware of any difference in meaning. The most common preposition to use is 'by'. 'With' is relatively uncommon and may sound odd in some contexts. You can see examples and the frequency of use of each preposition here.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear team
Which sentence is correct?
A) She has made a promise to her love.
B) She has made a promise with her love.

Actually she has promised her love for not doing something again.

Hello Marie,

'with' is not normally used with 'promise' -- 'to' or a clause beginning with 'that' are the most common forms. See the dictionary entry for 'promise' to see more examples.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you : )

Dear Kirk,
I'm confused about a form of a phrase: 'a spike in...' like 'a spike in gun crimes' or 'a spike in oil prices' etc. It clearly cannot be used with other prepositions than 'in', but is 'a spike in' actually a prepositional phrase as a form? As the pre-position is after the noun.. Or is this not even a prepositional phrase? but just a noun or noun phrase etc.?
Really appreciate your help in advance.

Best wishes

Hello amongerio,

A 'spike' in general is a shape, but is often used in the context of statistics to refer to a high level or price of something, since this is the shape you can see in a line graph. If you look at a graph of oil prices over the last 80 years, for example, the high points you see in February 1948, January 1974, April 1980, etc. all look like spikes.

As such, in the phrase 'a spike in oil prices', 'spike' is simply the head of a noun phrase that also includes the prepositional phrase 'in oil prices'.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Many thanks Kirk. The meaning is fine, I understood that, I was just confused about the form I had to analyse which is only given as 'a spike in'.. It's a bit odd given this way.. 'a spike in' isn't really one exact grammar form then.. I guess as far as analysis, that by itself would just be a noun phrase based on your note. As I don't have any part given following 'in' to analyse.. which would make the prepositional phrase part. Thanks again for the quick reply. Really appreciate it.

Best wishes