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The Prepositional Complement in English Grammar

Prepositional complements are defined as the word, phrase, or clause that directly follows the preposition and completes the meaning of the prepositional phrase. Prepositional complements are also called objects of prepositions and complements of prepositions. Although noun phrases most frequently function as the prepositional complement in prepositional phrases, four grammatical forms can perform the grammatical function of prepositional complement in the English language. The four grammatical forms that can function as the prepositional complement are:

  1. Noun phrases
  2. Noun clauses
  3. Verb phrases
  4. Prepositional phrases

Noun Phrases as Prepositional Complements

The first grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of prepositional complement is the noun phrase. Noun phrases are defined as phrases formed by a noun or pronoun plus any determinatives, modifiers, and complements including determiners, adjectives, prepositions, and verbs. For example, the following italicized noun phrases function as prepositional complements:

  • The grammar books are on floor six.
  • Mothers often cry during the weddings of their children.
  • My children ran into the house.

Noun phrases most frequently function as prepositional complements.

Noun Clauses as Prepositional Complements

The second grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of prepositional complement is the noun clause. Noun clauses are defined as subordinate clauses formed by an independent clause preceded by a subordinating conjunction. For example, the following italicized noun clauses function as prepositional complements:

  • His parents will think about that he wants a new car for his birthday.
  • We will focus the investigation on whomever you identify as the perpetrator.
  • The teacher listened to what the students said happened.

Noun clauses frequently function as the prepositional complement of prepositional verbs.

Verb Phrases as Prepositional Complements

The third grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of prepositional complement is the verb phrase in the form of present participles. Verb phrases are defined as phrases that are formed by a verb and any modifiers, complements, infinitive markers, and particles. For example, the following italicized verb phrases function as prepositional complements:

  • The publisher thanks you for writing the book.
  • My parents have been looking at selling their summer house.
  • Your little brother took care of watering the garden while we were on vacation.

Traditional grammars generally refer to verb phrases functioning as prepositional complements as gerunds.

Prepositional Phrases as Prepositional Complements

The fourth grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of prepositional complement is the prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases are defined as phrases that are formed by a preposition directly followed by a prepositional complement. For example, the following italicized prepositional phrases function as prepositional complements:

  • My mother thought about under the bed.
  • She is worrying about in the morning.
  • The maid gawked at behind the refrigerator.

Prepositional phrases often function as the prepositional complement of prepositional verbs.

The four grammatical forms that can function as the prepositional complement of prepositional phrases in the English language are noun phrases, noun clauses, verb phrases, and prepositional phrases.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
O’Dwyer, Bernard T. 2000. Modern English structures: Form, function, and position. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press.

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