Check out yesterday’s post for the introduction for “why learn prepositions.” Then read on for information that might help you as a student, parent, teacher, or anyone who wants to write with proper subject-verb agreement.
A preposition is a word that shows position or time between one item and another. It is the first word of the prepositional phrase.
A prepositional phrase is a group of words that begins with a preposition and ends with the object of the preposition—the word that shows the “position” from or to. In the prepositional phrase, “the angel flew into the clouds,” clouds is the object of the preposition.
Again, we learn prepositional phrases so that we can mentally eliminate them in order to match our sentence’s subject with its correct verb. Recognizing and mentally removing prepositional phrases is a truly “writing worthy” skill as it will help a person write more grammatically correct.
Consider the sentences below that have the prepositional phrases isolated with parentheses. Once you mentally eliminate these prepositional phrases, you can easily match the sentences’ subjects with their verbs.
- The boy (in the woods) was lost.
- Isolating “in the woods” with parentheses keeps the writer from thinking that the sentence’s subject is woods—and keeps the writer from writing “woods were,” which is not correct.
- The sentence’s real subject is boy and needs the singular verb was.
- (On the outskirts) (of town,) a little house fell down.
- This sentence contains a double prepositional phrase.
- This double prepositional phrase is used as a sentence opener—coming before the sentence’s real subject and real verb.
- By isolating both prepositional phrase openers with parentheses, we find that the sentence’s real subject is house (or a little house—some grammarians consider the one word subject and some consider the entire subject with its describers) and the sentence’s verb is fell.
- The blonde girl (out of all the girls) was (on key.)
- This sentence contains two prepositional phrases
i. Out of all the girls
ii. On key
- By isolating them with parentheses (and thus, not considering them when we find our subject and verb), we can see that the sentence’s subject is girl and verb is was.
- If we did not isolate “out of all the girls,” we might be tempted to think that “girls” is our subject and use the plural verb “were.”
Re-read the sample sentences carefully. Without isolating the prepositional phrases, would you have been tempted to use the wrong verbs? Isolating prepositional phrases is one of the most helpful beginning writing skills that a writer can learn. It helps eliminate one of the most common sentence writing errors—that of mismatched subjects and verbs.
That’s enough for today! Join us tomorrow for many tricks and tips to help you and/or your students memorize many of the one hundred-plus prepositions.