Prepositional Phrases and Collocations


What is a Prepositional Phrase (or prepositional clause)?

A prepositional clause is one that includes a preposition and an object (and has certain words that modify the object). These can be divided up into adverbial phrases and adjectival phrases (adjective phrases). We all find prepositions confusing – even native English speakers, and prepositional phrases even more so. Here are some explanations of prepositional phrases which we hope will make things easier.



There are some prepositions used in phrases (prepositional phrases/clauses) and collocations (preposition expressions) that you have to learn by heart as they don’t follow any set rules.

Prepositional Phrase/Collocation Meaning Examples
1.       At first = in the beginning

= originally

  • At first John was patient with his son.
  • It was hard to find the shop at first, but after walking around the area they saw it.
2.       At once = immediately
  • You must go to the doctor at once if you aren’t feeling well.
  • We must pay the fine at once or we will get a penalty.
3.       At last = finally

= in the end

= after a long time

  • I’ve passed my exam at last!
  • At last, they have delivered my book.
4.       By far = by a great amount


  • This is the best book by far.
  • We saw by far the best film we’ve seen in ages.
5.       On purpose = something done intentionally

= something you mean to do

  • I bought two tickets to the concert on purpose.
  • The children were being loud on purpose.
6.       By mistake = accidentally,

= not meaning to do something error

  • We turned the wrong way by mistake and got lost.
  • By mistake, I added salt instead of sugar to the lemonade.
7.       On (or by) foot = walking somewhere (as opposed to going by car or other transport) ·       I went to school on foot this morning.

·       By foot it takes three hours to get there.

·       As the meeting was nearby we didn’t go by car but went on foot.

8.       On time (for); also, in time (to do something) = exactly at the correct time

= punctual

= just before the time to do something

·       We were on time for the start of the concert

·       We made it in time to catch our flight.

9.       At all = to any degree, extent

= in any way

 = (usually used with negative or in questions)

·       I don’t like coffee at all.

·       I don’t have anything to do at all.

·       What at all is the matter?

10.   In a hurry = rushed

= eager to get something done quickly

·       Let’s talk later as I am in a hurry right now.

·       John is always in a hurry to finish his work, which is why he makes so many mistakes.

11.   Out of order = not working properly

= not in sequence

= not according to the rules


·       The coffee machine is out of order.

·       The scenes in the movie were out of order.

·       The judge ruled the regulations were out of order.

12.   In advance = ahead in time ·       The restaurant is so busy you should book weeks in advance.

·       We need to prepare in advance for the meeting next week.

13.   By chance = something that is not planned ·       Last night I bumped into Sarah at the station by chance.

·       By chance I found those jeans I was looking for in the second-hand shop.

14.   Out of the question = something impossible

= something not feasible/doable/achievable

·       Dad told me that it was out of the question for me to borrow the car this weekend.

·       Don’t ask me to do that again – it’s out of the question!

15.   In no time = very quickly

= very soon

The directions were excellent and we found the house in no time.
16.   In common (with) = In the same way as We have a lot in common.
17.   Used to = accustomed to

= not new to

= familiar with

= in the habit of

I am used to having coffee in the morning.

I am used to studying English.