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Prepositional Phrase vs. Adverbial Phrase — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on November 29, 2023
A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and includes an object. An adverbial phrase modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb, providing additional information.
Prepositional Phrase vs. Adverbial Phrase — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Prepositional Phrase and Adverbial Phrase

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Key Differences

A prepositional phrase is a linguistic structure that starts with a preposition and is followed by a noun or pronoun, referred to as the object of the preposition. The prepositional phrase gives more information about other words in a sentence, typically describing location, direction, or time. For example, the prepositional phrase "on the table" provides specifics regarding where something is placed.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023
On the contrary, an adverbial phrase functions primarily to modify a verb and provide the reader or listener with more details about how, when, where, why, or how much an action occurs. The adverbial phrase "very quickly" in the sentence "She ran very quickly," for instance, offers additional information about the manner of the action denoted by the verb "ran."
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023
Prepositional phrases can act as either adverbial or adjectival phrases. An example where it acts adverbially might be: "He works on weekends," where "on weekends" describes when he works. However, it’s critical to note that not all adverbial phrases are prepositional. For example, the adverbial phrase "too slowly" modifies a verb but isn’t prepositional.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023
While both prepositional and adverbial phrases serve the purpose of adding information to sentences, the type of information and the way they modify sentence elements differ distinctly. A single prepositional phrase can function adjectivally or adverbially, whereas an adverbial phrase delivers further insight into the verbs, adjectives, or adverbs.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023
The distinction between prepositional and adverbial phrases thereby hinges on their construction and function. Recognizing their roles in a sentence is vital for crafting comprehensive and precise expressions in language, enhancing clarity, and facilitating a deeper understanding of the content.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Basic Structure

Preposition + Object
Modifies verb, adjective, or adverb
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Nov 29, 2023

Function in Sentence

Can act adverbially or adjectivally
Specifically modifies verbs
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Nov 29, 2023

Example

In the garden
Quite slowly
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Modifies

Nouns or verbs
Verbs, adjectives, or adverbs
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Additional Info

Gives info about place, time, etc.
Provides details how/when/where, etc.
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Nov 29, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Prepositional Phrase

A prepositional phrase acts to modify nouns, verbs, or clauses.
The letter from John made her day.
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Oct 08, 2023

Adverbial Phrase

They describe the manner, place, time, frequency, degree, or reason of the action.
The bird sang beautifully.
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Oct 08, 2023

Prepositional Phrase

Prepositional phrases start with a preposition and have a noun or pronoun object.
The cat slept on the sofa.
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Oct 08, 2023

Adverbial Phrase

It can be a group of words that collectively functions as an adverb.
They lived happily ever after.
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Oct 08, 2023

Prepositional Phrase

They typically provide context regarding "where," "when," or "in what manner."
The books are under the table.
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Adverbial Phrase

An adverbial phrase isn’t bound to a particular structure like prepositional phrases.
She finished the task quite efficiently.
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Oct 08, 2023

Prepositional Phrase

Prepositional phrases can function as adjectives or adverbs in sentences.
The gift inside the box is for you.
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Oct 08, 2023

Adverbial Phrase

Adverbial phrases modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, providing more details.
She walks extremely fast.
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Oct 08, 2023

Prepositional Phrase

They provide additional information, often related to time, place, or manner.
We went to the store after dinner.
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Adverbial Phrase

Adverbial phrases can be placed at various positions in a sentence.
The children played outside.
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Common Curiosities

Can a prepositional phrase function adverbially?

Yes, prepositional phrases can function both adverbially and adjectivally in sentences.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023

What is the primary function of an adverbial phrase?

An adverbial phrase primarily modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb, providing additional information.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023

What is a prepositional phrase?

A prepositional phrase is a group of words beginning with a preposition and usually followed by a noun or pronoun.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023

What is the structure of a prepositional phrase?

A prepositional phrase is structured with a preposition followed by its object (a noun or pronoun).
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023

What can adverbial phrases modify?

Adverbial phrases can modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.
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Nov 29, 2023

Are all prepositional phrases also adverbial phrases?

No, while prepositional phrases can act as adverbial phrases, they can also function as adjectival phrases.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023

Can adverbial phrases appear anywhere in a sentence?

Yes, adverbial phrases can be positioned at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence.
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Nov 29, 2023

How does a prepositional phrase provide additional information?

It can clarify details regarding location, time, or manner concerning other words in a sentence.
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Nov 29, 2023

Do adverbial phrases have a fixed position in a sentence?

No, adverbial phrases can be placed flexibly within sentences based on the desired emphasis.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023

Can an adverbial phrase begin with a preposition?

Yes, some adverbial phrases start with a preposition, but not all of them do.
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Nov 29, 2023

Can a sentence have multiple prepositional phrases?

Yes, a sentence can contain more than one prepositional phrase.
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Are adverbial phrases crucial in sentence formation?

While not always essential, adverbial phrases enrich sentences by providing additional details.
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Is it possible for an adverbial phrase to consist of one word?

Yes, adverbial phrases can be single adverbs or a group of words functioning as an adverb.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023

What roles do prepositional phrases play in sentence construction?

Prepositional phrases can act as adjectives or adverbs, modifying nouns, verbs, or clauses.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 29, 2023

Can a sentence exist without a prepositional phrase?

Absolutely, prepositional phrases enhance details but are not mandatory for sentence construction.
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Nov 29, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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