Prepositional phrases are one of the most common teaching strategies used in the grammar. Used as a coordinate and topic marker, they allow learners to associate one idea with another. The idea behind a topic mark is to associate ideas that are related in sentence structure, and thereby facilitate understanding. A prepositional phrase is used as a topic marker over one or more words that may be associated with the main topic.
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A prepositional phrase often serves as a coordinating verb (an active verb taking an object as a complement), or it can stand as an independent verb. This makes it a very flexible strategy for organizing content and helping learners understand. With the many ways prepositional phrases can be used, it stands to reason that they should also be varied and chosen wisely.
It’s important to note that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to selecting prepositional phrases. The choice is up to the teacher and depends on the direction of the class and the particular goal. Some teachers prefer to keep the list very simple, with just the topic, verb, and tense. Others want to include everything but omit the topic. Still others encourage students to “hide” prepositions or use them only when absolutely necessary.
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Regardless of how they are used, prepositional phrases provide a means for helping students understand the subject and verb they will be dealing with throughout the lesson. While not all prepositions are appropriate in all situations, there are some that stand out. These include the following:
– Commas are often used as topic markers, even in simple sentences. Commas are used to indicate a continuous action, such as “I am eating.” However, a comma can also indicate an action that has taken place but is going to be finished, as in “I am going to the store.” Even though this example is fairly straightforward, it illustrates the importance of being aware of where your Comma’s ends. Using a comma to mark a prepositional phrase ensures that students don’t get the idea that a sentence must have a beginning and an end in order for it to be understood.
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– H pronouns (such as I, you, he, she, etc.) make great topic markers, especially when used in the first person. Using “you” or “he” when needed helps to ensure that the rest of the sentence makes sense, as in “He is playing catch-up to your party plans.”
– Adverbs are another great tool to help teach your students prepositional phrases. “The girl is smart” is better expressed with “inda is pretty smart.” As with subject pronouns, an adverb should not be used when the action is the same as the verb. “She’s really pretty” is much better expressed with “inda is pretty smart.”
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As you can see, using prepositional phrases is a great way to teach your students about placement of objects, time, and subject and object pronouns. In addition, it is a great way to teach them how sentences are structured and how to build a vocabulary without the use of books or other resources. And prepositional phrases are easy enough to teach yourself, so you can enjoy learning them as well. It will just take a little bit of extra patience.
One thing to keep in mind is that prepositions do have particular sound properties. You’ll find that they are differently worded depending on the tense in which they occur. For example, while ‘drink’ and ‘drink from’ are the most common prepositions, ‘the glass’ has a slightly different sound to it when used as a preposition than when it’s used as an adverb. Check out the examples below. Notice the differences between the word ‘the’ and its complement ‘is’ and the word ‘the glass’ and its complement ‘the table’ (notice that ‘the glass’ is singular while ‘the table’ is plural). Paired with the right word pair, prepositions can make any sentence more clear.
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What do you think about these prepositional phrases? Do they make things less clear for you? Do they make your lessons easier? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear what other people think.
Prepositional phrases don’t always need to be used to describe actions. In fact, sometimes it can be a bad idea to use them. However, if you’re teaching English at school, and you need a quick and easy way to explain something to your students, or you want to use one of your favorite past tense verbs to give a more direct answer to a question, then using a prepositional phrase can help you with both.
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