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Prepositional phrase

From Academic Kids

A prepositional phrase is a linguistic term for a phrase whose head is a preposition. The term is used in syntax. For example:

  • To the store1
  • From the house
  • Under the fence

In languages with postpositions, such as Basque, Finnish and Japanese, the morpheme that corresponds to an English preposition occurs after its complement. They could therefore instead be referred to as postpositional phrases. Adposition is a common term for both prepositions and postpositions. Hence, a common term for both prepositional and postpositional phrases are adpositional phrases.

Prepositional phrases generally act as complements and adjuncts of noun phrases and verb phrases. For example:

  • The cat from China was ill. (Adjunct of a noun phrase)
  • She ran under him. (Adjunct of a verb phrase)
  • He gave money to the cause. (Oblique complement of a verb phrase)
  • A student of physics. (Complement of a noun phrase)
  • She argued with him. (Complement of a verb phrase)

A prepositional phrase should not be confused with the object of a phrasal verb, as in turn on the light. Though they appear superficially similar, they are syntactically distinct constructions.


1. Prepositional "to" as used here is semantically and syntactically different from "to" used as a verbal auxiliary in English infinitival constructions (see also infinitive).

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