Prepositional phrases

Prepositional phrases occur with a range of functions, including:

  • adverbial (how, when, where) in clause structure (for example, ‘on the train’ in ‘We met on the train').
  • modifier in noun group/phrase structure (for example, ‘with two children’ in ‘a couple with two children’).
  • modifier in adjective group/phrase structure (for example, ‘with red hair’ in ‘the boy with red hair’).

Note: see previous teaching strategies for more information on adverbial and adjectival phrases.

The preposition works together with its object to form the prepositional phrase (prepositional phrase = preposition + object of the preposition), for example:

Paul walked to the primary school at the end of the block on Monday evening during a very heavy thunderstorm.

Punctuation of prepositional phrases

Initial position

Prepositional phrases in the initial position are set off from the base clause by a comma. For example:

On Monday evening, Paul walked to the primary school at the end of the block during a very heavy thunderstorm.

OR

Paul walked to the primary school at the end of the block, on Monday evening, during a very heavy thunderstorm.

Medial position

Prepositional phrases in the medial position should interrupt the subject from its verb:

Paul, on Monday evening, walked to the primary school at the end of the block, during a very heavy thunderstorm.

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: prepositional phrase identification

Search for prepositional phrases in authentic texts. Use classroom reading texts or choose online texts. Some are listed below in Online Resources under Kids News Websites.

For example, a sentence chosen from student’s own writing:

The group of students placed the diving apparatus on their excited faces and plunged into the deep water.

Activity 2: prepositional phrase innovation on texts

Search for prepositional phrases in authentic texts

Model using a short text such as The tree of life (see below), to develop more descriptive and more interesting writing.

"The coconut, according to scientists, is actually the seed at the top of a coconut palm tree. It was given its name by Spanish sailors, between the fifteenth and sixteenth century, who likened the three dents on the shell’s base to a smiling monkey and named it ‘coco’ meaning monkey face".

Students complete the rest of the text with small groups.

"A large part of the world’s population depends on the coconut. The stringy tough brown husk (coir) can be woven into ropes and yarns for household goods. Jewelry and musical instruments can be created from the hardened shell. After it’s dried, the tasty coconut meat is called copra. This copra produces oil which is used for cooking and beauty products, soap and animal feed. People also use coconut oil for its health benefits. The clear coconut water from fresh green coconuts is a delicious sweet drink.

It’s not surprising that the coconut palm is called ‘the tree of life".

Choose other current classroom texts to search for, add to or innovate and change prepositional phrases.

Activity 3: using quality texts to discern sentence complexity

Provide oral and written models in quality texts that show the wide range of information to be unpacked from simple sentences in nonfiction and fiction texts. Students need to reflect on and discuss meaning gathering.

For example, the following sentence could be used as a model:

"The RSPCA is strongly opposed to the introduction of safari style hunting in the Northern Territory".

Students examine the subject, verb group and then the object “the introduction of safari style hunting in the Northern Territory.” in terms of “… the introduction of safari style hunting” and its implications and then opening the next packet of information “… the Northern Territory.”

Example of a simple sentence with dense content

The object contains complex information that needs to be unpacked for deep comprehension.

SubjectVerbObjectEmbedded prepositional phrase
The RSPCAis strongly opposedto the introduction of safari style huntingin the Northern Territory.

Activity 3: prepositional phrase development in own texts

In small groups students (4–5) select a piece of writing. Students add prepositional phrases. These are group corrected and rewritten to develop the best piece of work.

References

Australian curriculum

ACELA1523: Text structure and organisation: Understand how ideas can be expanded and sharpened through careful choice of verbs, elaborated tenses and a range of adverb groups/phrases.

NSW syllabus

EN3-6B: Outcome 6: uses knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary to respond to and compose clear and cohesive texts in different media and technologies  (EN3-6B) - Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features: understand how ideas can be expanded and sharpened through careful choice of verbs, elaborated tenses and a range of adverb groups/phrases

NSW literacy continuum

REA C12M3, COM C12M7:

Online resources

Kids’ news websites – writing stimuli:

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