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.

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Examples

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.