Prepositional Phrases

In a sentence prepositions show the relation of one word to another word. Prepositions require an object to complete them, typically a noun or a pronoun. A preposition and its object is called a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases can modify nouns, verbs, phrases, and complete clauses. 

Prepositional phrases are used as adjectives or adverbs:
A prepositional phrase acts as an adjective when it modifies (describes) a noun or a pronoun. When prepositional phrases are used as adjectives, the phrase comes immediately after the noun or pronoun it modifies. The phrase answers one of the following questions about the word it modifies: Which one? What kind of? How many? Whose?

A prepositional phrase acts as an adverb when it modifies (describes) a verb. When prepositional phrases are used as adverbs, they may be found in any place in the sentence. The adverb phrase tells: How, When, Where, or Under What Condition about a Verb, Adjective, or Adverb.

Melanie eats breakfast every day in the garden.

The prepositional phrase,“in the garden,” tells where Melanie ate breakfast.
The phrase is used as an adverb modifying the noun “garden.”

My check for the book is in the mail.                     
The prepositional phrase, "for the book,” tells which check.                                                                    
The phrase is used as an adjective modifying the noun "check."

The accountant at the bank seemed nervous. 

The prepositional phrase,“at the bank,” tells what condition (nervous) about the verb seemed.  
The phrase is used as an adverb modifying the verb seemed.

The following words are the most commonly used prepositions:
about                   out                         instead of             by
below                  until                       regarding             in
excepting            against                    despite                 at
off                       beyond                   because of           of
toward                outside                    through                to
above                  inside                     within
beneath               over                        down
except                 along                      without
near                    among                     before
under                  upon                       during
across                 around                    throughout
beside(s)             past                        with regard to
from                   up to                       with respect to
onto                   since                        behind
underneath         concerning               for
after                   in spite of                on
between             in front of                 like
with                   up                            into

Participial Phrases

It's a phrase that begins with a present participle (ending in-ing) or past participle (ending in -en or -ed). A participle is a type of verbal, it is a word formed from a verb that is used as an adjective to modify nouns, but functions as another part of speech. A participial phrase is made up of the participle, its modifiers, and other words needed to complete the idea begun by the participle. It commonly functions as an adjective.  

A participial phrase can be formed from relative clause, adverbial clause or a simple sentence. Besides, it can be in continuos form (being shown) or perfect form (having been shown).  

Like clauses, participial phrases can be restrictive or nonrestrictive. If the original clause is restrictive, the participial phrase formed from it will be also restrictive. Participial phrases are punctuated the same way as clauses; that is, it depends on whether the participial phrase is restrictive or nonrestrictive. A restrictive phrase is not punctuated with commas since it is necessary to correctly identify the noun phrase it modifies. However, a nonrestrictive phrase is punctuated by commas since it gives additional information about the noun it modifies. 

Working hard all year, the student finished his thesis by fall semester.  
   - Working is the participle (functioning as an adjective, describing the student).  

Stolen by the hackers, the passwords were changed at once.    
  - Stolen is the participle (functioning as an adjective) describing the passwords.

Actors which have competed in the Grammy awards can early attend the ceremony.      
  - (Perfect / restrictive participial phrase) 

The books, that were being distributed in class, support students with learning difficulties.  
  - (Continuos / nonrestrictive participial phrase)

Noun Phrases

A noun phrase consists of at least the following elements: a determiner and a noun.

A determiner is one of the following: an article (the, a, an, some, any), a quantifier (none, plenty of, a few, many, etc.), a possessive (my, your, whose, the man's, etc.), a demonstrative (this, that, these, those), a numeral (one, two, three etc.) or a question word (which, whose, how many, etc.).
Except in some very rare cases, a noun can only be preceded by ONE determiner.

A noun phrase can also contain one or more modifiers; a modifier is an adjective, an adjectival phrase, a secondary noun, a prepositional phrase or a relative clause. 

The principal noun in a noun phrase is called the head noun. Adjectives and adjective phrases are placed before the head noun, whereas prepositional phrases and relative clauses follow the head noun.  
Like a noun, a noun phrase can act as a subject, as the object of a verb or verbal, as a subject or object complement, or as the object of a preposition. 

Subject: Masters students often admit that they can’t finish their thesis by themselves.

Object of a verb: To forget quickly and usually is Melissa’s habit.

Subject complement: Neil Armstrong is the name of the astronaut not the scientist.

Object complement: I consider Emma my best friend.

Object of a preposition: The blue whale was found bleary near the beach.

Infinitive Phrases

An infinitive is a type of verbal. It is the basic form of a verb, usually with-to in front of it. The infinitive is the present-tense form of a verb. Since infinitives are derived from verbs, they do express actions or states of being. We can use different forms of the infinitive to show different times: The miners is thought to have been working at the time of the earthquake.

Infinitives can also be in a passive form: The house needs to be redecorated.

The infinitive phrase consists of an infinitive, its complement, its modifier, and the related words that follow it. 

Infinitive phrases may have their own subjects. The subject of an infinitive phrase is in the object form: Mary helped him to cut the tree.

The infinitive phrase can function as an adjective, adverb, or a noun. When infinitives function as adjectives and adverbs, they are usually found preceding nouns and pronouns in sentences, and when they function as nouns, they are used as subjects, direct objects and objects of prepositions. Infinitives (to + verb) should not be confused with prepositional phrases (to + noun or pronoun). Infinitives may occur as to + one verb, or they may be part of an infinitive phrase.

The book to review cautiously is on the shelf. 
(to review cautiously is the infinitive phrase that is functioning as an adjective).

 I am ready to walk hastily. 
(to walk hastily is the infinitive phrase that is functioning as an adverb).
The teacher came to help the students. 
(to help the students is the infinitive phrase that is functioning as a noun). 

Verb Phrases

A verb phrase is made up of a main verb and one or more helping verbs. 
A main verb can stand by itself as the simple predicate of a sentence while the helping verb cannot.

A helping verb (also called an auxiliary verb) is a verb that is used together with the main verb of the sentence to convey the action, so it helps the verb be more precise. The helping verb will often be a form of the verb (to be), or the verb (to have) or the verb (will) to show action in the future. When there is a helping verb, the main verb is often a gerund (a form of the verb that ends in –ing) or a past participle (a form of the verb which often ends in –ed, –n, or–en). 

On the other hand, the linking verb is a verb that connects the subject with an adjective or a noun that describes it.

Example: Anna got mad (the linking verb got connects the subject Anna with the adjective mad.

The student has been writing essays all day.                                                                                       (Helping verb: has been; Main verb: writing)   

Amanda may run in the park.                                                                                                                  (Helping verb: may; Main verb: run)

The man has gone.                                                                                                                              (Helping Verb: has; Main verb: gone)

Did you throw it?                                                                                                                                 (Helping Verb: did; Main Verb: throw)

Helping Verbs:
Be     Am        Is       Are      Was      Were      Being     Been
Have  Has     Had     Do       Does     Did        May       Might 
Must   Can   Could  Shall     Will     Should   Ought    Would

Gerund Phrases

The gerund phrase is a noun phrase that is introduced by a gerund. Gerunds are nouns formed from-ing verbs. The gerund phrase is made up of a gerund and all the words that can modify and complete it. The words or phrases that can modify a gerund are adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases, and direct objects. 

A gerund phrase can be used as follows:
1) Subject     
2) Predicate Nominative   
3) Object of a Preposition  
4) Direct Object 

Common verbs that can be followed by gerunds:
admit           appreciate          avoid                 deny             discuss 
enjoy           practice              consider            finish            give up   
delay           take up               understand        stop               recall

Subjects: The gerund can be the subject of a sentence.       
- Reading romantic novels is my plan this summer.

Predicate Nominative: The gerund completes the meaning by a linking verb.      
- Most of it was dazzling.

Direct Object: Direct object can be found by subject + verb + (who or what) direct object.   
- Cathy hates wearing her school uniform.

Object of a Preposition: The words after a preposition are said to be the object of the preposition.  
- When the toreador entered the bullring, we turned our attention toward bullfighting. 
  (bullfighting is the object of the preposition toward).

Difference between Phrases & Clauses

Learn to recognize phrases from clauses: 
There is an evident difference between phrases and clauses. 

Phrases: a phrase is a group of related words lacking a subject and a predicate. 

Clauses: a clause is a group of related words containing both a subject and a predicate.

Both phrases and clauses are main bases of constructing a sentence. When combined with other parts of speech, they help build an elaborate system that carry away your meaning. Recognizing the difference between the two main bases of a sentence is essential to build a correct and well composed sentences.

A phrase is often defined as a group of related words that lacks subject and verb integration and does not form a predicate. It can contain a noun or a verb. Mainly, a phrase can provide additional information or add more context to the sentences you write. A phrase can never stand alone as a sentence; however, a phrase can lodge itself inside clauses that are either complete sentences on their own or ones that are dependent on the rest of the sentence. When a phrase is within a clause, it functions as a part of speech. 

   Phrases are generally grouped as follows:
   - Verb Phrases                    - Infinitive Phrases
  - Noun Phrases                    - Participial Phrases
  - Gerund Phrases                 - Prepositional Phrases

Clauses are the building blocks of sentences. A clause is a group of related words containing a subject and a verb. It can be simply distinguished from a phrase, which is a group of related words that does not contain a subject-verb relationship, such as "in the evening" or "walking down the street" or "having grown used to this ill treatment.” Like phrases, clauses are also classified as restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. A nonrestrictive clause is not essential to the meaning of the sentence; it can be removed from the sentence without changing its basic meaning. 

There are two kinds of clauses: independent and dependent. Clauses are combined by three groups of words to form different kinds of sentences: coordinators, subordinators, conjunctive adverbs, and by means of a semicolon.

A more detailed study is found in my ebook "Sentence Structure Guide" which is  available on Apple iTunes and iBookstore.