Difference Between Prepositional Phrase and Adverbial Phrase

Nov 20, 2023
Difference Between Prepositional Phrase and Adverbial Phrase

Prepositional Phrase and Adverbial Phrase: The main difference between adverbial phrases and prepositional phrases is that a prepositional expression can be used as either an adjective or adverb, whereas an adverbial expression will always act as an adverb.

Prepositional phrases are phrases that contain a preposition with its object. Adverbial phrases are phrases that act as adverbs in sentences. Prepositional phrases are used as adjectives and adverbs. Adverbial phrases include prepositional phrases which can also act as adverbs.

Definition of a prepositional phrase

prepositional phrase
prepositional phrase

Prepositional phrases are groupings of words that contain both a preposition and its object, as well as any modifiers, to add extra information about verbs, adverbs, adjectives, or pronouns in sentences. Prepositional phrases typically start off with prepositions such as in, on, and at followed by a noun or pronoun that is being modified by adding other words such as the preposition “on the” with its object “on the table. ” In this sentence, the prepositional expression “on the” refers to both parts together object + object + modifiers = extra information provided about verbs that need more information added as an adverb clause in sentences to provide extra detail about verbs that require additional details.

Definition of an adverbial phrase

adverbial phrase
adverbial phrase

Its Adverbial phrases are word groupings that function as an adverb within a sentence. They provide additional details regarding verbs, adverbs, or adjectives by providing time, place, or degree information about these elements of speech. Adverbial phrases differ from prepositional phrases by not including prepositional objects such as prepositionals; rather they consist of one or several adverbs working in combination to modify elements within sentences such as In “She sings joyfully”, for instance “with joy” describes her singing action, comprised by both an adverb and noun “joy”.

Importance of understanding the difference between the two

Understanding the distinctions between prepositional phrases and adverbial phrases helps writers properly structure sentences. Prepositional phrases serve as modifiers that provide additional details about a noun or pronoun, while adverbials modify verbs or adjectives by specifying time, place, manner, or degree aspects. By properly selecting and employing appropriate phrases in their sentences, they will remain grammatically accurate while conveying their intended message.

  • Clarity of Meaning: Adverbial and prepositional phrases add depth and dimension to a sentence, further clarifying its overall meaning. Understanding their differences will enable you to convey your message using the appropriate phrase type accurately; incorrect usage could result in confusion or ambiguity that hinders communication efforts.
  • Writing Style and Accuracy: Recognizing the differences among these phrase types helps writers improve their writing style and precision. Prepositional phrases provide specific details regarding locations, times, and purposes; while adverbial expressions provide details regarding degree, manner, or timing. Correct use of these phrases helps enrich language expression while more precisely communicating ideas and thoughts.
  • Sentence Complexity: Employing prepositional or adverbial phrases allows for more complex and varied sentences, using these to craft dynamic, engaging sentences that avoid repetitive or monotonous structures and increase reader interest in the text.
  • Recognizing Prepositional or Adverbial Expressions in Written Texts: Recognizing prepositional or adverbial expressions can greatly enhance reading comprehension. Being aware of how these phrases work allows readers to extract more information from a text, better interpret an author’s meaning, and understand its subtleties.

Understanding the differences between adverbial and prepositional phrases will assist in building grammatically-correct sentences, improving writing style, and expanding reading comprehension. Acknowledging and mastering these concepts will also enhance your communication skills as well as your overall language proficiency.

Prepositional Phrase

Prepositional phrases are groups of words consisting of a preposition and its object as well as any modifiers, often used to provide additional details about nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in sentences. They can be used either adjectively or adverbially within a sentence to provide more insight.

Here is an example of a prepositional phrase:

  • The cat’s on the table.
  • This sentence’s prepositional phrase is “on the desk.” This prepositional phrase gives information about where a cat may be found by providing its location on or in relation to something or somewhere on or in relation to something.
  • Prepositional phrases serve multiple functions in a sentence.

Depicting Location:

  • She sat by the lake.
  • Indicate an approximate meeting time – “I’ll see you after lunch.”
  • “He ran with great speed.” She visits the gym regularly in order to exercise.

Prepositional phrases are invaluable tools for providing context, clarifying relationships, and adding details to a sentence. Understanding prepositional phrases will allow you to craft more nuanced and descriptive sentences.

Adverbial Phrase

Adverbial phrases are groupings of words that function as an adverb within a sentence. They provide additional details regarding time, place, or manner in relation to verbs, adjectives, or adverbs in that sentence. Contrary to prepositional phrases, however, which contain prepositions with objects as their subject; rather, these consist of one or multiple adverbs and other words acting as adverbs that work together to modify verbs, adjectives, or adverbs within that sentence.

Here is an excellent example of an adjective phrase:

  • “She sings joyfully.”
  • This sentence’s adverbial phrase is, “with happiness.” This adverbial phrase describes her singing style; its structure includes two parts an adverb (“with”) and the noun “joy.”
  • Adverbial expressions can be employed in many different contexts.
  • Expression of time “He arrived early in the morning”.
  • They left the city.
  • She spoke softly but confidently.
  • Overnight, temperatures plummeted significantly.
  • Adverbial expressions provide additional details that expand and refine a sentence’s overall meaning, helping express ideas more precisely and intelligibly.
  • Understanding adverbial expressions allows writers to modify verbs or adjectives in ways that enhance both the depth and clarity of their writing.

Differences Between Prepositional Phrase and Adverbial Phrase

There are a few distinct differences between adverbial and prepositional expressions:

Structure and Composition:

  • Prepositional Phrase: A prepositional sentence consists of a preposition and its object; any modifiers to that object may also be included. The preposition begins the phrase; then follows the noun or pronouns representing this object.
  • Adverbial Phrases: Adverbial expressions consist of words acting as adverbs without including prepositions and objects as parts.

Function and Purpose :

  • Prepositional Phrases: Prepositional expressions can serve both as adjectives and adverbs within sentences, providing additional details about nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs such as relationships, time, place, or purpose.
  • Adverbial Phrases: Adverbial phrases serve as adverbs in sentences to provide details such as time and place.

Placement within a sentence:

  • Prepositional Phrases: Prepositional phrases serve as modifiers when placed before nouns, pronouns, and adjectives and can provide details regarding their location, timing, way, or purpose.
  • Adverbial Phrases: Adverbial phrases can be utilized in many positions in a sentence. They may modify adjectives or adverbs and appear either before or after them in order to provide more detail regarding the time, place, manner, or degree in which an action or state is described.

Prepositional phrases consist of a preposition and its object as well as modifiers; an adverbial phrase contains words acting like an adverb. Adverbial phrases function as adverbs by providing information about location, time, or manner while adjective-adverb combinations provide time and place details. Prepositional phrases should usually come before pronouns or nouns while an adverbial phrase can come before or after words to complete sentences.

Table Difference:

Aspect Prepositional Phrase Adverbial Phrase
Structure Consists of a preposition, its object, and any modifiers Composed of one or more adverbs or adverbial words
Function Functions as an adverb or adjective Functions as an adverb
Purpose Provides additional information about relationships, Provides additional information about time, place, manner, or degree
location, time, manner, or purpose
Placement in Often positioned before a noun or pronoun Can appear before or after the word they modify
a Sentence
Examples “In the park,” “On the table,” “With great excitement” “In the morning,” “Outside the house,” “With a gentle touch”

Similarities between Prepositional Phrases and Adverbial Phrases for 

Prepositional and adverbial modifiers can be combined in the same sentence to provide additional information about nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

  • Descriptive nature: Both types contribute to describing language by adding context and details that describe an expression or phrase, which can then convey information such as location, time, and manner or purpose.
  • Sentence Enhancement: Both types of sentence enhancement provide more information and clarity while adding depth and meaning to sentences, creating more precise and expressive expressions.
  • Compositional Elements: Both prepositional and adverbial phrases contain elements that work together to convey meaning. Prepositional phrases comprise verbs, objects, and any modifiers; an adverbial phrase can contain one or more words or adverbs that help express what its creator intended.

Although prepositional and adverbial phrases differ, understanding their similarities will help you grasp their role as modifiers.


In the end In conclusion, each of Verb Phrases as well as Phrasal Verbs play a crucial role within language. English language, enabling efficient communication in a variety of situations. While Verb Phrases give clarity and precision, Phrasal Verbs add color and depth to language which makes it more interesting and dynamic. As learners of languages, learning the proper use of both concepts will improve our proficiency and comprehension of English.