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Prepositional phrase

A prepositional phrase is, in languages with prepositions, a phrase whose head is a preposition. For example:

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

In languages with postpositions, the morpheme that corresponds to an English preposition occurs after its complement. (They could therefore be referred to as "postpositional phrases".) For example, Basque, Japanese, and Tamil would have literal translations of the above examples akin to:

  • The store to
  • The house from
  • The fence under

(Where we treat "The X" as a single word in these examples.)

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.


See also noun phrase, verb phrase, linguistics, transformational-generative grammar; structural linguistics[?], syntax, semantics.


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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