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Prepositional Phrases as Modifiers


Sometimes a whole group of words acts to modify, or describe another word in a sentence. A phrase is a group of words that contains either a noun (pronoun) or a verb, but not both. A phrase also includes some other words that describe the noun or verb that ties the group of words to the rest of the sentence.

Prepositional phrases is group of words that begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or pronoun. In a sentence a prepositional phrase acts as an adjective or an adverb. When it serves as an adjective, it modifies a noun or pronoun.

The water in the pool is clear.

When a prepositional phrase is used as an adverb, it modifies a verb, an adjective, or an adverb.

Sarah jumped off the high board.

She is skillful at diving.

Sarah began diving soon after her older sister.

Hint: A prepositional phrase can be placed either before or after the word it modifies. However, the sentence will be clearer if the phrase is close to the word it modifies.

Confusing: Sarah teaches children to jump off the low board from the middle school.

Better: Sarah teaches children from the middle school to jump off the low board.

Verb Phrases:

Another group of words that acts as a modifier is the verb phrase. A verb phrase begins with a verb form.

Tired after a long day, Juan took his dog for a walk.

Juan used a leash to walk his dog.

Breaking the leash, the dog was free.


A modifying phrase is often used to begin a sentence. Use a comma or a pair of comma to separate the introductory phrase from the rest of the sentence. Commas are not always needed if the introductory sentence occurs somewhere else in the sentence.

Stumbling over the curb, Wendy almost fell. (Use a comma to separate the modifying phrase at the end of the sentence)

The teacher, an American native, enjoyed teaching in African countries. (Use a pair of commas to separate the modifying phrase after the subject). See appositives.



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