Prepositional phrases with at-by-for-in-out-under |Learn English Today

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 English Grammar for ESL learners 


Set phrases or groups of words, introduced by a preposition:

Prepositional phrases are set phrases or groups of words introduced by a preposition.

Prepositional phrases usually act just like an adjective or adverb, i.e. they provide more information.
For example, if a girl is 'in tears', 'in' is a preposition and 'tears' is the object of the preposition.
The two words together form a prepositional phrase which gives more information about the girl.

Below are some examples of commonly-used propositional phrases with their meaning and a sentence showing how they are used.

Preposition Prepositional phrase Meaning Example
AT At an advantage In a favourable position that makes success more likely Sophie's computer skills puts her at an advantage.
At a disadvantage In an unfavourable position that reduces the chances of success Without computer skills Eva is at a disadvantage.
At any rate anyway; anyhow Nobody knew much about the problem. At any rate Tom didn't.
At most At the maximum It will cost you 50€ at the most.
At the latest No later than The boss wants the report by Friday at the latest.
At risk In danger The house is at risk if the river overflows.
At short notice A short time beforehand I can't change the arrangements at (such) short notice.
BY By accident Unintentionally; by chance I found my ring by accident when tidying the wardrobe.
By all accounts According to what people say I've made enquiries, and by all accounts this is the best hotel in the area.
By all means Of course;  certainly If you'd like a copy you may have one by all means.
By and by After a short while; eventually You will get used to the lifestyle by and by.
By and large In general; on the whole By and large our trip was very enjoyable.
By appointment You must arrange a time  beforehand In the off-season you can visit the castle by appointment.
By chance Unintentionally; without plan or intent He met her by chance in a bookshop.
By hand By a person, not a machine The dresses and jackets are embroidered by hand.
By heart By memorisation At school we had to learn multiplication tables by heart.
By invitation (only) Only possible if you receive an invitation. It's strictly private. Membership is by invitation only.
By law A rule that is legally imposed. Restaurants are required by law to display their prices outside.
By mistake Not deliberately; in error. The letter was sent by mistake to the wrong address.
By nature Inborn or hereditary characteristics She is optimistic by nature. She always sees the bright side of things.
By no means Not at all It is by no means easy to adapt to a new country.
By now Before this moment Dad's getting worried. Lucy should be home by now.
FOR For ages For a long time I haven't been downtown for ages!
For a change To do something different Let's go hiking for a change.
For the sake of For the purpose of; in the interest of They stayed together for the sake of their children.
For instance To give an example John works late. For instance, yesterday he left the office at 9 pm.
For now Until a later time That's all the information we have for now.
For sale/rent/hire Something offered to people to buy/rent/hire ... That red car is for sale.
For better or worse Whatever the consequences Anyway, I accepted the job, for better or worse.
IN In brief In a few words Well, in brief, the family get-together was a disaster!
In detail Thoroughly; item by item; He described in detail how the accident happened.
In difficulty Having problems Don't hesitate to call if you find yourself in difficulty.
In disguise Wearing a disguise; wearing something that makes you look like something else Two men in disguise attacked the bank in broad daylight.
In exchange for Giving one thing and receiving another in return. The boy mows the lawn in exchange for his pocket money.
In fact Expression used to emphasise the truth of something said. I don't mind walking. In fact I'm a keen walker.
In moderation Without excess; within reasonable limits. I don't diet; I just eat and drink in moderation.
In no time Very quickly. If we walk faster we'll get there in no time.
In pain Suffering physically The injured soldier was obviously in pain.
In private Without the presence of other people I'd like to speak to you in private.
In return To compensate for what you receive. He helps with the garden and my mother gives him vegetables in return.
In secret Without others knowing Laura told me in secret that she had found a new job.
In tears Crying The child fell and came home in tears.
In the air A feeling that something is happening There was panic in the air immediately after the blast.
In the end Finally; on reflection In the end he acknowledged his error.
In the meantime Meanwhile; during the time before something happens. Tom''s computer will be repaired tomorrow. In the meantime he can use mine.
In person Actually present The actor will be there in person to receive the prize.
In stock Available for sale or use. When an article is in stock, it is available in the store or warehouse for purchase now.
OUT Out of bounds Beyond the limits.
A prohibited area.
Paul sent the ball out of bounds.
The ballroom is out of bounds.
Out of breath To breathe with difficulty. Julia ran all the way home and arrived out of breath.
Out of character Not typical of a person; unusual behaviour. Andy is acting out of character today.
Out of control Unmanageable The children were totally out of control.
Out of danger No longer at risk. The patient is out of danger now.
Out of hand Uncontrollable. We must deal with the situation before it gets out of hand.
Out of luck Unlucky; unfortunate. You’re out of luck today. We don't have any left.
Out of necessity Because it's necessary. Alex has two jobs out of necessity.
Out of order Does not work. The phone is out of order.
Out of the question Inconceivable; cannot be envisaged. Private medical care is out of the question.
Out of place Inappropriate. Jeans are out of place at a formal dinner.
Out of practice Have not been exercising a skill. I can’t play the piano any more. I’m out of practice.
Out of print No longer available from publisher I’m afraid the book is out of print.
Out of reach Too high to reach. The jug was out of reach on the top shelf.
Out of season No longer in season. Strawberries are out of season now.
Out of sight No longer visible. She waved until he was out of sight.
Out of sorts Feeling unwell or upset. Paula looks out of sorts today.
Out of touch Not aware of events; not in contact. I’ve been travelling for six months so I’m completely out of touch with everything.
Out of tune Not the right notes. It’s awful. She’s singing out of tune.
Out of turn Not in the correct order. Please wait. Don’t speak out of turn.
Out of work Not have a job. Many people are out of work in this area.
UNDER Under age Legally too young to do something In this country children under 18 are under age. They cannot vote.
Under consideration Being discussed or thought about at the moment The boss said that her proposal was under consideration.
Under control Being handled or managed successfully. There were some violent protests but the situation is now under control.
Under discussion Being currently discussed A new wage agreement is under discussion.
Under guarantee If something goes wrong it will be repaired or replaced. Our refrigerator is under guarantee until the end of the year.
Under obligation A moral or legal requirement to do something. The customer is under no obligation to accept the offer.
Under suspicion Be suspected; be possibly guilty of something A senior member is under suspicion of fraud.
Under way Has already started; is in operation Work on the new road is under way.

See also: Prepositions

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