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Learn how to recognize prepositions and prepositional phrases as well as how to properly incorporate them into sentences. Starting and ending sentences with prepositions can be correct as long as you do it the right way!

Understanding a Preposition

If sentences were puzzles, prepositions would be the parts that link each piece together.

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A preposition answers where something is, when something happens, and how things are related. An easy way to remember the kinds of words that are prepositions is to ask: ‘How can a ghost hide?’We could answer with:

  • Over
  • Under
  • Until
  • Through
  • Across
  • With
  • In

For example, we could say:

  • A ghost can hide in a castle wall.
    • The word ‘in’ is the preposition.

Another important thing to remember about a preposition is that it will usually come before the thing that it’s describing, called the object of the preposition. To figure out what the object of the preposition is, simply ask ‘what?’So, ask ‘How can a ghost hide?’ Let’s say the answer is:

  • A ghost can hide across the deserted field.
    • The preposition is ‘across.

      ‘ So, ask, ‘across what?’ The answer is ‘across the field.’ The object of the preposition is ‘field.’

The descriptive words that come in between the preposition and its object are called modifiers. Take a look at this table to better understand:

Preposition Modifiers Object of the Preposition
over the red door
around the haunted house
until the early morning
through the willow trees
across the deserted field
with a spooky goblin
in a castle wall

When these three elements are put together, like a puzzle, we get a prepositional phrase.

  • A ghost can hide under a large bed.

  • A ghost can hide around the haunted house.
  • A ghost can hide with a spooky goblin.

Here’s the formula:

Prepositional Phrase
Prepositional Phrase

Prepositions in Sentences

It has been said that prepositions should never start or end a sentence. This is not true, but there are right and wrong ways to do this. Look at the following examples to get a better idea of how to properly incorporate prepositions into a sentence.The best way to start a sentence with a preposition is in an introductory phrase.

When you do this, you should usually place a comma after the phrase. For example:

  • After my English test, I ate a huge lunch.
  • During the night, my mom decorated for my birthday.

The wrong way to start a sentence with a preposition is when it sounds awkward.

For example, instead of saying:

  • Next to the lamp I found my glasses.

You should say:

  • I found my glasses next to the lamp.

Which one sounds best?

  • The duckling cuddled with the pig all night long.
  • With the pig the duckling cuddled all night long.

‘The ducking cuddled with the pig all night long’ sounds the least awkward and most natural.

  • After the winter dance, I’m going to stay at my friend’s house.
  • I’m going to stay at my friends house after the winter dance.

Either of these options would work, just don’t forget that comma when it’s needed!While ending a sentence with a preposition, sometimes called a stranded preposition, isn’t always correct, there are times when it would sound overly formal to try and avoid doing this.

Stranded Preposition Preposition Before the Object
Even though the thunder was loud, we knew there was nothing to be afraid of. Even though the thunder was loud, we knew there was nothing of which to be afraid.
What are you working on? On what are you working?
There is a lot to get excited about! There is a lot about which to get excited!
Who is that man she’s sitting beside? Who is that man beside whom she is sitting?

In each of those examples, the stranded preposition sounds much more natural than trying to ‘fix’ the sentence.

However, if you find that you can remove the preposition from the end of the sentence and the sentence still works, you don’t need to use the preposition. For example, instead of:

  • Where are you going to?

You should say:

  • Where are you going?

Lesson Summary

Prepositions are words that link sentences together. Starting a sentence with an introductory phrase that begins with a preposition and ending a sentence with a stranded preposition can be grammatically correct. Trying to avoid this can often result in awkward sounding sentences, but it is important to incorporate prepositions into sentences properly. Remember to use commas when necessary, and ensure that the preposition fits where it has been placed: just like a puzzle piece!

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