For optimal viewing on a mobile device, tilt your device to landscape mode.

5 MORE Preposition Tips From Language Lady



Use Two Preposition Check Sentences to Introduce Prepositional Phrases

I talked about these in last week’s slideshow for Teaching Beginning Prepositions, but they work wonderfully for teaching prepositional phrases as well as lists of prepositions. The first Preposition Check Sentence that I teach is one that is focused on spatial relationships: The plane flew XXXX the clouds (under the clouds, through the clouds, over the clouds, in the clouds, between the clouds, atop the clouds, etc.). The second one that I teach is focused on time: The boys played XXXX the break (during the break, after the break, , before the break, etc.). These Check Sentences are amazingly efficient for helping students memorize long lists of prepositions while focusing on the PURPOSE of prepositions (showing spatial or time relationships).

Besides being invaluable for memorizing prepositions, these Check Sentences also teach students indirectly what a prepositional phrase is. The Check Sentences themselves contain prepositional phrases, so as students memorize prepositions, they are actually using prepositional phrases (under the clouds, through the clouds, over the clouds, in the clouds, between the clouds, during the break, after the break, , before the break, etc.). It is a natural progression to show students that in the Check Sentences, the object that the plane is underoverthrough, etc., is the object of the prepositional phrase.



Isolate Prepositional Phrases With Parentheses

After using these Preposition Check Sentences with students, they are able to start finding prepositional phrases easily. They can HEAR the object because the Check Sentences have taught them the purpose of prepositions (not just a list of them). I use a Teach-Practice-Apply method in my books and classes, so as we go through practice sentences finding prepositional phrases together, we start out by highlighting all of the prepositions that they can find. Then I tell them which words they should have highlighted as prepositions, and on each one, I ask them PREPOSITION WHAT? or PREPOSITION WHOM? So when I come to by, I ask them “by WHAT?” I do this with every preposition they have highlighted: “to WHOM?” “for WHAT?” “over WHAT?” “from WHOM?” “under WHAT?”

THEN, we are ready to learn to isolate prepositional phrases with parentheses. This is an important step in the next point–we place parentheses around all prepositional phrases with the beginning parenthesis before the preposition and the closing parenthesis after the object of the preposition: (For example,) (in a given sentence), we place parentheses (around words) (like this). We do this after they have highlighted all of the words that they think are prepositions. This might sound laborious, but it becomes second nature very quickly–and is crucial for the REASONS for learning prepositional phrases: (1) To ignore them so you can match subjects and verbs; (2) To use as sentence openers (and punctuate them properly).



Teach the Reasons for Learning Prepositional Phrases

The first reason that I teach students for learning prepositional phrases is the easier one (and one that they are familiar with because of my Checklist Challenge for their reports, stories, and essays) is to use them as sentence openers. Sentence openers are also called introductory material or non-essential information. Prepositional phrases make great sentence openers, and students need to learn how to locate them easily and punctuate them correctly. Therefore, once they can spot prepositional phrases quickly, they can use them in their writing–and place commas in the correct spots.

The second reason that I teach students for learning prepositional phrases is more difficult–but super important. They isolate all of their prepositional phrases with parentheses at first and then mentally later because the sentence’s main subject (and usually ANY subject) and main verb (and usually ANY verb) are not found within a prepositional phrase. This is crucial for subject verb agreement. Consider the isolation and main subjects and main verbs in the sentences below and the difference it makes when you don’t have the option of considering the prepositional phrase’s object in subject verb agreement:

  1. Thegirls (along with the one boy) WERE happy today.
  2. Thebaby (with the other kids) WAS cranky.


 Teach That the Word TO Can Be a Preposition or the Beginning of an Infinitive (Special Verb)

There are many prepositions that are also other parts of speech. One of those is the word TO. The word TO is a preposition when it has an object following it (to the storeto Mom, etc.). The word TO is not a preposition when it has a verb with it (TO run, TO jumpTO be). Obviously, all “exceptions” and “special circumstances”  in grammar and usage can be confusing, but this one is especially challenging because TO is a high utility word, and prepositional phrases need to be located so that students are not tripped up in the aforementioned subject-verb agreement scenarios. 

I teach that TO + a verb is a special verb very early (second grade during our beginning preposition practice). It’s okay if they don’t know if it is called an infinitive. Once they know their BHL verbs (Be, a Helper, Link verbs) and have their Preposition Practice Pal, they are ready to NOT highlight TO as a preposition when it has a verb following it. At first, this is low key: “To run….can you do that? Then it’s not a prep!” Lessons, of just finding infinitives (to+verb) for a while then lessons telling when TO is used as a prep and when it is used as a special verb called an infinitive quickly follow that. This might sound difficult for second and third graders, but interacting with sentences is something we do every day in my classes and books (and applying these to their writing is something they do every week in the Checklist Challenge), so it becomes a natural response for them and something that we have many discussions about. 



Teach That Some Prepositions Are Also Adverbs and Some Are Also Subordinators

As previously mentioned, all usage exceptions are complicated to teach. However, the ones that students encounter early and often must be given special priority. Such is the case for prepositions that are used as other parts of speech different times. In addition to the to+verb=infinitive situation, some prepositions are also adverbs, and some are also subordinators.  I talk them through these: “Up is a preposition. But remember that in order for a preposition to be a preposition, it must have an object following it. So in the sentence He woke up, UP tells how he woke and is an adverb. However, in the sentence The squirrel ran up the tree, UP is a preposition and the PP is UP the tree.” Prepositions that are also used as adverbs are those that sometimes follow a verb but do not have objects of the preposition with them: He woke UP; She slid DOWN; He shouted OUT; They fell DOWN.

Prepositions are also sometimes subordinators. As a matter of fact, there are so many prepositions that are also subordinators that I teach an entire group of them as students learn preps and subs (in my books and in the Think Fast Grammar Quiz downloadable packet). A subordinator is a word that is found at the beginning of a subordinate clause. We teachers and parents often learned this group of words as a dependent clause. I use that word sometimes as well, but I try to teach with a content-based focus, so I call them subordinate clauses because they contain subordinators at the beginning of them, and they are subordinate to the rest of the sentence (i.e. lesser). Subordinators that are also prepositions usually have to do with time relationships, such as during, after, as, before, etc. These are used as prepositions when they have objects (during the break, after the break, before the break, etc.). They are used as subordinators when they have subjects and verbs following them (and create subordinate clauses): After we left class; Before she resigned; As he bought groceries.

Thanks for Joining Donna to Learn About Grammar and Writing!

Check Out Other “5 Tips From Language Lady” slideshows!

5 Places to Find Language Lady/Donna Reish Teaching Grammar and Writing

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This