Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Prepositional Phrase or Phrasal Verb?

A sentence diagram that contains a prepositional phrase and a phrasal verb, "called off."
Is the preposition part of a prepositional phrase or phrasal verb?
Sometimes when we diagram sentences we must determine if a preposition that appears in the sentence is part of a prepositional phrase or part of a phrasal verb.  Our interpretation of the preposition's purpose in the sentence will change the diagram.

What's a Prepositional Phrase?

A prepositional phrase modifies a verb or a noun.  It's made up of the preposition, the object of the preposition, and any words that modify the object of the preposition.


For example, the following sentences contain prepositional phrases.  The prepositions are in orange, and the entire prepositional phrase is underlined.  The noun that acts as the object of the preposition is in purpleAs an additional note, in order to find the object of the preposition remember that it will always be a person, place, thing, or idea.

At noon, the girls left to go on vacation.
The tomatoes from the farmer’s market are better than the tomatoes from the grocery store.
In spite of her mother’s wishes, she is leaving at noon.

What's a Phrasal Verb?

A phrasal verb is a verb made up of more than one word, and the final word is always a preposition. Phrasal verbs are often idiomatic, meaning that we know what the verbs mean because we've been taught to know what they mean; they do not necessarily make logical sense.

For example, the following sentences contain phrasal verbs.  The prepositions are in orange, and the entire phrasal verb is underlined.  Any objects of the preposition are still in purple.  Notice that nouns that follow phrasal verbs are direct objects, and nouns that follow prepositions are the object of the preposition.

If you come upon a snake while hiking, back away slowly.
We called off the hike because of the frigid weather.
If she doesn't eat on time, she might pass out.

An Exercise for Identifying Prepositional Phrases and Phrasal Verbs


Which of the following sentences contain prepositional phrases, and which contain phrasal verbs? Identify each sentence as containing a PP or PV. Next, go back and circle all of the complete prepositional phrases.

1.
Let’s log in and check our profiles.
2.
The passengers are aboard the airplane.
3.
Because of the storm, we are running late.
4.
The baby in front of me is sleeping peacefully.
5.
According to the captain, we will take off shortly.
6.
We are running against the clock.
7.
He got caught, so he made up a lie.
8.
Until dinner, I will be hungry.
9.
He will drop by later.
10.
I ran into him yesterday.
11.
We just flew past my house!
12.
There are birds outside my window.
13.
Despite the delay, we will get there by tomorrow.
14.
All of our luggage is in the cargo hold beneath us.
15.
His poker face gave away nothing.



Answer Key:


So, how'd you do?  Were you able to correctly identify the phrasal verbs and prepositional phrases? Were you able to find all of the complete prepositional phrases?  If so, great!  If not, try, try again. Memorize common prepositions, and remember that a prepositional phrase is a modifier, and a phrasal verb is an action.

Happy Learning!

Want to read more about diagramming sentences?  


Try my complete textbook, Diagramming Sentences: A Playful Way to Analyze Everyday Language. Already have it?  Try my supplemental materials text, Additional Exercises for Diagramming Sentences!







Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Contact the author for permission to republish.


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