Phrasal Prepositions

Phrasal prepositions are a series of words or phrases (get it?) that link and relate the object of the preposition (a noun or a pronoun) to the rest of the sentence.

Phrasal prepositions are also known as compound prepositions. And—although this has absolutely no bearing on your grammar education—we think the word "phrasal" sounds like either a decongestant or a really tacky off-brand perfume.

Just saying.

Examples of phrasal prepositions include:
- as well as
- because of
- in addition to
- instead of
- out of
- with respect to

 

Examples

"According to my Aunt Judy, if you don't wait an hour after eating to go swimming, your colon will explode."

While we can't vouch for Aunt Judy's understanding of how the human body works, we can say with complete confidence that according to is a phrasal preposition that links dear old Aunt Judy, the object of the preposition, to the rest of the sentence.

"Harlan can't go through the metal detector at the airport on account of the metal plates in his head."

What a hassle. And what a phrasal preposition! In this example, on account of links its object, plates, to the rest of the sentence.

"Dominic loaded his plate with pancakes in spite of his New Year's resolution to stop eating circular foods."

Here, in spite of is a phrasal preposition that links its object, New Year's resolution, to the rest of the sentence.

 

Common mistakes

Sometimes you can optionally leave out prepositions in a phrasal preposition pair. The of in off of is one of the most common.

If you take the word out of the sentence and see if it still makes sense. If so, it's extraneous. We won't go so far as to say that the "of" in "off of" is completely unnecessary (and semantically void); we're just saying that this is an example of a reduced form.

Kind of like how you can leave out "that" in relative clauses: "a boy I like" vs. "a boy that I like."

Examples:

"My neck and back are pretty mad at me for jumping off of that 50-foot cliff."

"My neck and back are pretty mad at me for jumping off that 50-foot cliff."

Both of these sentences are grammatically correct, but there's some debate about whether "of" should always be excluded. Pay attention to this. We certainly don't mind either way, but your English teacher might.

If you're a grammar purist, you might argue that you should only use due to after a verb like is, but most people accept that using it after other verbs is okay.

Normal Person:

"Jeff Probst thinks that people get voted off the island because of their inability to play a good social game."

OR

"Jeff Probst thinks that people get voted off the island due to their inability to play a good social game."

Grammar Purist:

"Jeff Probst thinks that people get voted off the island because of their inability to play a good social game."

As you may well know, you can put prepositions in two places, like so:

"To whom would you like to speak?"

"Whom would you like to speak to?"

All we're going to say is…don't put the same preposition twice:

"To whom would you like to speak to?"

Wrong, wrong, wrong. This is a very common mistake. Pay attention to where you put your prepositions and you'll be golden.

 

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