Prepositional Phrases

UNIT 12 512 Phrases Lesson 12.1 Prepositional Phrases 513 Lesson 12.2 Appositives and Appositive Phrases 515 Lesson 12.3 Verbals and Ver...
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Prepositional Phrases




Appositives and Appositive Phrases




Verbals and Verbal Phrases




Absolute Phrases


Grammar Review


Writing Application



Prepositional Phrases

■ A phrase is a group of words that acts in a sentence as a single part of

speech. ■ A prepositional phrase is a group of words that begins with a preposition and usually ends with a noun or a pronoun, called the object of the preposition. I am going to the river. [River is the object of the preposition to.] That river is challenging for the canoeists. [Canoeists is the object of the preposition for.]

Adjectives and other modifiers may appear between the preposition and its object, and a preposition may have more than one object. He looked across the broad, serene river. [adjectives added] The view was to the east and the south. [two objects]

Prepositional phrases may also occur in a sequence. The door of the car with the skis on top is scratched. [series of prepositional phrases]


A prepositional phrase usually functions as an adjective or an adverb. When it is used as an adjective, it modifies a noun or a pronoun. When used as an adverb, it modifies a verb, an adjective, or an adverb. Please use the door in the rear. [adjective phrase modifying the noun door] One of these doors is locked. [adjective phrase modifying the pronoun one] Open the door at the head of the stairs. [adjective phrase modifying the noun door followed by an adjective phrase modifying the noun head] After work I will return this faulty lock to the store. [adverb phrases modifying the verb phrase will return] Automatic doors are commonplace in supermarkets. [adverb phrase modifying the adjective commonplace] The old door swings easily for its age. [adverb phrase modifying the adverb easily]

12.1 Prepositional Phrases


Exercise 1

Identifying Prepositional Phrases

Write each prepositional phrase that appears in the following sentences. (Some of these sentences have more than one prepositional phrase.)

Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice


1. In the late 1920s Thurgood Marshall pursued a law career. 2. He was denied admission by one law school because he was an African American, but then he was admitted to Howard University’s new law program. 3. Marshall graduated at the top of his class. 4. In 1936 he was hired as an assistant counsel to the NAACP. 5. He filed lawsuits challenging discrimination against African Americans in graduate programs and professional schools. 6. When he argued the case Brown v. Board of Education, Marshall challenged the practice of separate-but-equal education for African Americans and whites in the public schools. 7. The Court’s 1954 agreement with Marshall’s arguments changed the educational system throughout America. 8. Thirteen years later, during the administration of Lyndon Johnson, Marshall became a Supreme Court justice. 9. Throughout his years on the Court, Justice Marshall showed concern for the unempowered. 10. After twenty-four years of service, he resigned in 1991.

Exercise 2

Identifying Adjective and Adverb Phrases

Write the word or words each prepositional phrase in Exercise 1 modifies. Indicate whether each phrase is acting as an adjective or an adverb.

Exercise 3

Expanding Sentences with Prepositional Phrases

Expand the following sentences by adding at least one adjective phrase and one adverb phrase to each. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.


The revelers set off fireworks. Four nurses received awards. Anyone could have seen it. The spaceship transmitted messages. The ruler was broken. The mayor made a speech. The train was crowded. The students organized a meeting. The new coach met the players. The manager installed a computer system.

Unit 12 Phrases


Appositives and Appositive Phrases

■ An appositive is a noun or pronoun that is placed next to another noun or

pronoun to identify or give additional information about it. ■ An appositive phrase is an appositive plus any words that modify the appositive. My sister Amelia sells computer software. [The appositive Amelia identifies the noun sister.] She works for Softwarehouse, a new retail outlet. [The appositive phrase, a new retail outlet, identifies Softwarehouse.]

If an appositive is not essential to the meaning of a sentence, it should be set off by commas. Exercise 4

Identifying Appositives and Appositive Phrases

Write the appositive or appositive phrase.

Notable Sports Figures

12.2 Appositives and Appositive Phrases


1. Tara Lipinski, an Olympic figure skater, turned pro in 1998. 2. Walter Payton, star running back of the Chicago Bears, was nicknamed Sweetness. 3. Over his career, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson won seven World Series games and lost only two. 4. Tracie Ruiz, a swimmer in the 1984 Olympics, won gold medals in the solo synchronized event and, with her partner, Candy Costie, in the duet synchronized event. 5. One of the most versatile athletes ever was the Native American Jim Thorpe, who won gold medals in the pentathlon and the decathlon in the 1912 Olympics. 6. The golf star Nancy Lopez has been setting records since the 1970s. 7. Rebecca Lobo, a former college basketball star, began playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association in 1997. 8. Sammy Sosa, the former Cubs outfielder, hit sixty-six home runs in 1998. 9. Wilma Rudolph, a track star, had been sickly as a child and could not walk without an orthopedic shoe until age eleven. 10. In 1999 baseball players Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs each reached the three-thousand mark in hits. 11. In 1995 Miguel Indurain of Spain won the Tour de France, the most prestigious bicycle race in the world, for the fifth year in a row. 12. Pitcher Tom Seaver won 311 major league games. 13. Bonnie Blair, a double gold medal winner in speed skating, was the United States hero of the 1992 Winter Olympics. 14. Barry Sanders, a great running back, played football for the Detroit Lions. 15. Babe Ruth, one of baseball’s greatest home run hitters, was also a great pitcher. 16. Joe DiMaggio, one of the greatest outfielders in baseball history, played with the Yankees.


17. 18. 19. 20.

Jim Ryun, an American track star, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Babe Didrikson Zaharias, a track, golf, and basketball star, set many world records. One-time manager of the Cleveland team Frank Robinson had been a star outfielder. On one day in 1935, Olympic star Jesse Owens set four world records and tied another.

Exercise 5

Expanding Sentences with Appositive Phrases

On your paper expand the following sentences by adding an appositive phrase to each one. Be sure to use commas where necessary. SAMPLE ANSWER

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Mr. Díaz hired me to paint his fence. Mr. Díaz, my neighbor, hired me to paint his fence.

My friend mailed me a postcard from Madrid. The movie we saw last night starred two fine actresses. Mei Ying went to a concert featuring a new rock group. The announcer reported that our team had won the game. Daryl had no trouble winning the race.

Exercise 6

Combining Sentences by Using Appositive Phrases

Combine each pair of sentences into one sentence by using an appositive or an appositive phrase. Use commas where necessary.



The Wright brothers built their planes in a bicycle shop and a factory. They were the inventors of the first successful airplane. The Wright brothers, inventors of the first successful airplane, built their planes in a bicycle shop and a factory.

1. Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber when he spilled some rubber and sulfur. Charles Goodyear was a nineteenth-century American inventor. 2. Jack Kilby invented the first integrated circuit. An integrated circuit is the fundamental component of computers. 3. The Chinese or Babylonians probably invented the abacus. The abacus was one of the earliest adding machines. 4. Blaise Pascal was a French philosopher and mathematician. In 1642 he built an adding and subtracting machine. 5. The transistor was invented in the 1940s. The transistor is a device that amplifies electronic signals. 6. In 1901 Marconi succeeded in using radio waves to communicate across the Atlantic. Radio waves are pulses of electrical energy. 7. Thomas Edison designed the phonograph. The phonograph was one of the most important inventions in sound recording. 8. The kinetoscope was another invention of Edison’s. Film in a kinetoscope gave the impression of a moving picture. 9. Clarence Birdseye was a member of a U.S. government survey team in Labrador. He invented a way of freezing foods quickly. 10. Every inventor should apply for a patent. A patent is a document giving an inventor an exclusive right to make or sell an invention.


Unit 12 Phrases


Verbals and Verbal Phrases

■ A verbal is a verb form that functions in a sentence as a noun, an adjective,

or an adverb. ■ A verbal phrase is a verbal plus any complements and modifiers. Verbals include participles, gerunds, and infinitives. Each of these can be expanded into phrases.

Participles and Participial Phrases ■ A participle is a verb form that can function as an adjective.

Present participles always have an -ing ending. Past participles often end in -ed, but they can take other endings as well. Many commonly used adjectives are actually participles. Rising prices are inevitable. I cut my finger on the broken glass. The opening speech detailed many needed changes.

A participle that is part of a verb phrase is not acting as an adjective. The lost ship has been recovered. The warehouse had lost a big shipment.



■ A participial phrase contains a participle plus any complements and modifiers.

A participial phrase can function as an adjective, and therefore, like an adjective, it can appear in various positions in a sentence. When it appears at the beginning of a sentence, a participial phrase is followed by a comma. Preparing for the lunar eclipse, we set our alarm clocks. The full moon, suspended in the sky, was brilliant. Badly needing sleep but delighted by the spectacle, we maintained our vigil.

A past participle may be used with the present participle of the auxiliary verb have or be. (For more on the -ing form of a verb, see Unit 15.) Having read about the eclipse, we were anxious to see it. We watched the moon being consumed by shadow.

12.3 Verbals and Verbal Phrases


Exercise 7

Identifying Participles and Participial Phrases

Write the participle or the participial phrase that acts as an adjective in each of the following sentences. Then write the word each one modifies.

George Lucas, an Influential Filmmaker


1. George Lucas achieved international fame in 1977 with his stunning science fiction movie Star Wars. 2. Celebrated for its superb special effects and suspenseful story, Star Wars has become a classic. 3. Raised in California, Lucas developed an interest in movies. 4. Having competed against other students, he won a national film competition in 1967 at the age of twenty-three. 5. Lucas’s first major success was the popular American Graffiti (1973), a film portraying the lives of California teenagers in the 1960s. 6. Lucas worked on American Graffiti in two capacities, serving as both coauthor and director of the film. 7. By 1983, having produced The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi, Lucas again proved his great versatility. 8. That year Lucas produced the highly successful adventure film Raiders of the Lost Ark, directed by his longtime friend Steven Spielberg. 9. Many people in the film industry marveled at the huge profits of Raiders and the two films succeeding it—Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). 10. Freed from dependence upon film studios through his wealth and influence, Lucas can continue to pursue his personal artistic vision. Exercise 8

Expanding Sentences with Participial Phrases

On your paper expand the following sentences by adding a participle or participial phrase to each one. Use commas where necessary. SAMPLE ANSWER

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.


The campfire kept us warm. The blazing campfire kept us warm.

The driver slammed on his brakes. The strong wind knocked down power lines. The candidate finally acknowledged defeat. Huge crowds gathered around the astronauts. The skater completed her routine for the judges.

Unit 12 Phrases

Gerunds and Gerund Phrases ■ A gerund is a verb form that ends in -ing and is used in the same way a

noun is used. Training is essential. [gerund as subject] We considered flying. [gerund as direct object] We should give speaking more attention. [gerund as indirect object] Do all of us get credit for trying? [gerund as object of a preposition] Their passions were sailing and sculling. [gerunds as predicate nominatives] Two skills, reading and writing, are basic. [gerunds as appositives]

■ A gerund phrase is a gerund plus any complements and modifiers.

Actively participating in sports has many benefits. This suit shows expert tailoring.

Although both a present participle and a gerund end in -ing, they serve as different parts of speech. A present participle is used as an adjective in its sentence, whereas a gerund is used as a noun.

Exercise 9


Waiting in line, we grew impatient. [participial phrase] Waiting in line made us impatient. [gerund phrase]

Identifying Gerunds and Gerund Phrases

List the gerunds and gerund phrases.

A History of Sports 1. Hieroglyphics show that boxing was popular in Egypt’s Nile Valley as early as 4000 B.C. 2. Early inhabitants of Ireland are known for holding the first organized sports competition, the Tailltean Games, around 1800 B.C. 3. In Mexico, around 1000 B.C., the Olmecs enjoyed playing a game much like soccer. 4. The playing of soccer was outlawed in England in A.D. 1363. 5. In the 1400s, people in Italy and Germany began to enjoy fencing as a competitive sport.

12.3 Verbals and Verbal Phrases


Exercise 10

Distinguishing Between Participles and Gerunds

Each of the following sentences has a verbal or a verbal phrase. Copy the verbal (or verbal phrase) and tell whether it is a gerund (or gerund phrase) or a participle (or participial phrase).

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita


1. One of the most costly and devastating natural disasters in American history, Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans, in August 25 2005. 2. Beginning over the Bahamas, it moved across southern Florida as a Category 1 hurricane. 3. It caused death and flooding before strengthening and becoming one of the strongest hurricanes on record. 4. Winds blowing at hurricane strength soon grew to 175 miles an hour. 5. At the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Florida, the forecasters achieved nearimpossible accuracy by predicting landfall within 18 miles. 6. The director at the hurricane center had long warned Gulf Coast residents about the necessity of preparing for a major hurricane. 7. Remaining at their posts around the clock, the forecasters hardly slept. 8. The center’s director at the time, Max Mayfield, called the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana, informing them of the hurricane’s approach. 9. Heeding emergency and evacuation warnings, thousands of people fled their homes. 10. People credit the relief agencies for responding to a disaster of epic proportions. 11. Residents of the Gulf Coast were helpless as they saw their property destroyed by the hurricane. 12. TV viewers were horrified to see New Orleanians wading through chest-high waters. 13. The total damage from the storm in Mississippi and Louisiana, including the destruction of an estimated 300,000 homes in the Gulf Coast region, is estimated at about 100 billion dollars. 14. Devastated beyond recognition by the hurricane winds and floodwaters, much of the city of New Orleans came to resemble a bombed-out war ruin. 15. Following on the heels of Katrina, Hurricane Rita inflicted even more damage. 16. Finding themselves homeless after the hurricane, Louisianans fled to such cities as Baton Rouge, Houston, and Atlanta. 17. The suffering of the Gulf Coast’s residents moved the rest of the nation, and volunteers poured into the area. 18. Hundreds of volunteers cooked meals, provided medical assistance, and found shelter for the stricken residents. 19. Mobilizing itself to begin the rebuilding process, the Army Corps of Engineers worked to shore up the damaged levee system. 20. Determined that a stronger and more hurricane-proof region will result, Gulf Coast residents soon began the long and massive job of rebuilding their region. Exercise 11

Creating Sentences with Gerunds

Select five of the gerunds that you identified in Exercise 10, and write an original sentence for each one. Make sure you use the -ing word as a gerund, not as a present participle.


Unit 12 Phrases

Infinitives and Infinitive Phrases ■ An infinitive is a verb form that is usually preceded by the word to and is

used as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. The word to used before the base form of a verb is part of the infinitive form of the verb, not a preposition. To exercise at least twenty minutes each day is healthful. [infinitive as subject] No one wishes to volunteer. [infinitive as direct object] Their decision was to merge. [infinitive as predicate nominative] I felt a need to call. [infinitive as adjective] Everyone was prepared to sacrifice. [infinitive as adverb] ■ An infinitive phrase contains an infinitive plus any complements and

modifiers. The lawyers want to continue working on the case as long as possible. Would you prefer to sleep until noon? To speak clearly and slowly is most important. Phrases

Occasionally an infinitive may have its own subject. Such a construction is called an infinitive clause. Circumstances forced the gentlemen to duel. [Gentlemen is the subject of the infinitive to duel. The entire infinitive clause the gentlemen to duel acts as the direct object of the sentence.] The teacher asked Maria to give a speech. [Maria is the subject of the infinitive to give. The entire infinitive clause Maria to give a speech acts as the direct object of the sentence.]

Note that the subject of the infinitive phrase comes between the main verb and the infinitive. The subject of an infinitive phrase always follows an action verb. Sometimes the word to is dropped before an infinitive. We could have heard a pin [to] drop. They watched the troupe [to] dance.

12.3 Verbals and Verbal Phrases


Exercise 12

Identifying Infinitive Phrases

Write the infinitive phrase that appears in each of the following sentences. (One sentence has two infinitive phrases.)

Art in Winston-Salem 1. Art has come to play a major role in the life of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 2. The city has two famous museums known to attract visitors from all over the country. 3. For those who wish to see nineteenth-century southern decorative art, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts is the place to explore thoroughly. 4. Over the years art lovers who have wanted to learn more about American painting have visited Reynolda House. 5. The Southeast Center for Contemporary Arts (SECCA) was founded to encourage new southern artists. 6. Thus, what people come to view in this gallery is almost exclusively the work of unrecognized artists. 7. Exhibits change often, perhaps because SECCA never intended to acquire a permanent collection. 8. Each year, to foster talent, SECCA awards fellowships to seven artists from the southeastern United States. 9. To win one of these fellowships is a great honor. 10. To judge the works of the Southeast Seven artists is the job of a group of experts. Exercise 13

Recognizing the Function of Infinitive Phrases


Write the infinitive phrase and tell whether it functions as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. If the phrase is used as a noun, identify its function by writing subject, direct object, predicate nominative, or object of a preposition.

Mountains Under the Sea 1. To measure the depths of the oceans has long been a challenge to scientists. 2. About a century ago, scientists began to unlock the secrets of the ocean floor. 3. One technological breakthrough was sonar, which used sound waves to measure ocean depths. 4. The limitations of this new technique spurred scientists to develop even better measures. 5. By the years after World War II, oceanographers could use sonar to chart the ocean’s depths with great accuracy. 6. At that time, scientists created machines to record sonar signals automatically and continuously. 7. A stylus recorded sonar signals on a moving strip of paper to chart a continuous profile of the ocean floor. 8. Oceanographers produced maps to show the world our undersea landscape. 9. Brude T. Heezen and Marie Tharp were among the first to develop these new maps. 10. One important result of the new maps was to show underwater mountains higher than the tallest peaks on continental land. Exercise 14

Creating Sentences with Infinitives

Write five action verbs. Then make up a sentence using each verb in an infinitive phrase. Underline the infinitive phrases.


Unit 12 Phrases


Absolute Phrases

■ An absolute phrase, also known as a nominative absolute, consists of a

noun or a pronoun that is modified by a participle or a participial phrase. An absolute phrase has no grammatical relation to the rest of the sentence. An absolute phrase belongs neither to the complete subject nor to the complete predicate of a sentence. It stands “absolutely” by itself in relation to the rest of the sentence. Its wings being damaged by the storm, the aircraft crashed.

In some absolute phrases the participle being is understood rather than stated. We took off on schedule, the weather [being] perfect.

Exercise 15

Identifying Absolute Phrases

Write on your paper the absolute phrase in each of the following sentences.

9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

I spend many hours in the backyard, gardening being my favorite activity. The soil rich in nutrients, everything grows quickly. The radishes and beans having been planted a week ago, I now await the first growth. The plan of my vegetable garden is strictly geometric, everything laid out in neat rows. The flower bed is more informal, the plants arranged mainly by color. The climate mild and rainy, many wild plants bloom beautifully. I planted a bog garden, one corner of my yard being somewhat low and wet. My hose already leaking, I punched more holes in it and used it as a soaker hose for the shrubs in front. I conserve as much water as I can, drought being a problem in the summer. His roses overtaken by wild ferns, my neighbor has become enthusiastic about collecting different kinds of ferns. The begonias now thriving, I no longer regret the shady front yard. The soil retains moisture for a long time, the ground covered with leaves and grass. It’s easy to get the whole family involved in gardening, children showing great interest in their own plantings. The yard having been cleared of weeds, most of the hard work was behind us. I decided against a new lawn, mowing grass not being one of my favorite pastimes. Our apple trees loaded with fruit, we picked as many as we could and made cider. My luck with roses running out, I tried lilac and hydrangea bushes against our side fence. We decided not to plant daylilies, our garden being somewhat formal. A late frost sure to come, we covered the shrubs with tarps. Potted plants need a regular supply of nutrients, their roots trapped in limited soil.

12.4 Absolute Phrases


1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.


Exercise 16

Identifying Verbal Phrases and Absolute Phrases

Write each of the verbal phrases and absolute phrases. (Five sentences have more than one verbal phrase or a verbal and an absolute phrase.) Write participial phrase, gerund phrase, infinitive phrase, or absolute phrase to identify each phrase. (Remember: An absolute phrase has within it a participle or a participial phrase.)

The Hmong


1. Have you ever seen paj ntaub, the beautiful cloths stitched by Hmong women? 2. Cutting material in intricate designs and embroidering bold patterns with fine stitches, the Hmong women make their beautiful needlework. 3. From an early age, Hmong girls learn the art of needlework, sewing without pins or patterns. 4. Serving more than decorative purposes, some of the cloths record village scenes, celebrations, and ceremonies of Hmong culture. 5. Over the past two thousand years, the Hmong people have migrated from China, their ancestral home, to settle in the mountains of Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. 6. The strategic location of their mountain homeland, overlooking North Vietnam, forced the Hmong into the conflict between communist and anticommunist forces. 7. During the Vietnam War, the United States government gave the Hmong military supplies and financial assistance to fight the North Vietnamese. 8. Unfortunately, supporting the Americans in the Vietnam War cost many Hmong their homes and lives. 9. Their allies having withdrawn from Vietnam, the Hmong fled the area. 10. Their traditional economy destroyed, many Hmong left their villages for the security of refugee camps. 11. Attacked even in Laotian refugee camps, the Hmong made their way toward Thailand. 12. One possible means of escape was the trek hundreds of miles to the Mekong River, crossing it in rafts. 13. The United States began to admit thousands of Hmong refugees during the 1970s, initially resettling them in various cities across the country. 14. Building a new life in the United States has not been easy for a people with an alien language and culture. 15. Hearing of the prosperous agriculture of California's Central Valley, many Hmong took up farming there. 16. In large cities, the Hmong experienced the greatest possible contrast to their agricultural way of life, but the efforts of the Hmong to settle in smaller cities have been more successful. 17. One means that the Hmong have used for preserving their traditions has been the telling of age-old Hmong stories and legends. 18. Still placing special emphasis on traditional dress and fabrics, many Hmong see clothing as an important symbol of ethnic identity. 19. At street fairs and in small shops, some Hmong sell their own paj ntaub as well as needlework sent from relatives still in Asia. 20. Today the directors of Hmong craft centers work to keep the ancient and beautiful art of paj ntaub alive in a new country.


Unit 12 Phrases

Exercise 17

Identifying Verbal Phrases and Absolute Phrases

Copy two absolute phrases and three verbal phrases from the passage below. Write absolute phrase, participial phrase, gerund phrase, or infinitive phrase to identify each.

adapted from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens With drooping heads and tremulous tails, they mashed their way through the thick mud, floundering and stumbling between whiles, as if they were falling to pieces at the larger joints. As often as the driver rested them and brought them to a stand, with a wary “Wo-ho! so-ho then!” the near leader violently shook his head and everything upon it—like an unusually emphatic horse, denying that the coach could be got up the hill. . . . The mist steaming in all the hollows, it had roamed in its forlornness up the hill, like an evil spirit, seeking rest and finding none. A clammy and intensely cold mist, it made its slow way through the air in ripples that visibly followed and overspread one another, as the waves of an unwholesome sea might do. It was dense enough to shut out everything from the light of the coach-lamps but these its own workings and a few yards of road; and the reek of the laboring horses steamed into it, as if they had made it all. Two other passengers, besides the one, were plodding up the hill by the side of the mail. All three were wrapped to the cheek-bones and over the ears, and wore jack-boots. Each hidden under almost as many wrappers from the eyes of the mind, as from the eyes of the body, not one of the three could have said, from anything he saw, what either of the other two was like. Using Phrases in Sentences


Exercise 18

Follow the directions below for writing sentences of your own. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

Use running quickly as an adjective in a sentence. Use the skies becoming darker each minute as an absolute phrase in a sentence. Use to win first prize as the predicate nominative in a sentence. Use to play basketball as an adverb in a sentence. Use the alarm having stopped ringing as an absolute phrase in a sentence. Use dancing in the school musical as a direct object in a sentence. Use to increase our stamina as an adjective in a sentence. Use the last of the tourists having left as an absolute phrase in a sentence. Use to find a job as the subject in a sentence. Use finding the building empty as an adjective in a sentence. Use carefully drawn as an adjective in a sentence. Use learning another language as the subject in a sentence. Use eating in a hurry as an adjective in a sentence. Use eating in a hurry as the direct object in a sentence. Use covered with snow as an adjective in a sentence. Use the fog reducing visibility to almost zero as an absolute phrase in a sentence. Use waiting for the train as the direct object in a sentence. Use waiting for the train as an adjective in a sentence. Use prepared for a long delay as an adjective in a sentence. Use to signal their need for help as an adverb in a sentence. 12.4 Absolute Phrases



Grammar Review PHRASES The following passages are taken from a classic American novel, The Red Badge of Courage. Each passage has been annotated to show how Stephen Crane used the kinds of phrases taught in this unit. The novel is the story of a young man who finds himself caught up in the violence of the Civil War and who faces up to his feelings of self-doubt.

Literature Model from The

Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane


Participial Phrase

Prepositional Phrase

Infinitive Phrase

Prepositional Phrase


Unit 12 Phrases


house standing placidly in distant fields had to him an ominous look. The shadows of the woods were formidable. He was certain that in this vista there lurked fierce-eyed hosts. The swift thought came to him that the generals did not know what they were about. It was all a trap. Suddenly those close forests would bristle with rifle barrels. Ironlike brigades would appear in the rear. They were all going to be sacrificed. The generals were stupids. The enemy would presently swallow the whole command. He glared about him, expecting to see the stealthy approach of his death. He thought that he must break from the ranks and harangue his comrades. They must not all be killed like pigs; and he was sure it would come to pass unless they were informed of these dangers. The generals were idiots to send them marching into a regular pen. There was but one pair of eyes in the corps. He would step forth and make a speech. Shrill and passionate words came to his lips. The line, broken into moving fragments by the ground, went calmly on through fields and woods. The youth looked at the men nearest him, and saw, for the most part, expressions of deep interest, as if they were investigating something that had fascinated them. One or two stepped with overvaliant airs as if they were already plunged into war. Others walked as upon thin ice.

Grammar Review The greater part of the untested men appeared quiet and absorbed. They were going to look at war, the red animal—war, the bloodswollen god. And they were deeply engrossed in this march. ❦ Some one cried, “Here they come!” There was rustling and muttering among the men. They displayed a feverish desire to have every possible cartridge ready to their hands. The boxes were pulled around into various positions, and adjusted with great care. It was as if seven hundred new bonnets were being tried on. The tall soldier, having prepared his rifle, produced a red handkerchief of some kind. He was engaged in knitting it about his throat with exquisite attention to its position, when the cry was repeated up and down the line in a muffled roar of sound. “Here they come! Here they come!” Gun locks clicked.

Review: Exercise 1

Gerund Phrase


❦ When the woods again began to pour forth the dark-hued masses of the enemy the youth felt serene self-confidence. He smiled briefly when he saw men dodge and duck at the long screechings of shells that were thrown in giant handfuls over them. He stood, erect and tranquil, watching the attack begin against a part of the line that made a blue curve along the side of an adjacent hill. His vision being unmolested by smoke from the rifles of his companions he had opportunities to see parts of the hard fight. It was a relief to perceive at last from whence came some of these noises which had been roared into his ears.

Appositive Phrase

Absolute Phrase

Elaborating Sentences with Prepositional Phrases

The following sentences describe an imaginary battle scene. Read through the sentences quickly to get an idea of the scene, and then rewrite each sentence, adding at least one prepositional phrase—an adjective phrase or an adverb phrase—to each sentence. You do not have to describe a scene from the Civil War, as Stephen Crane did; you can imagine any scene that you wish. SAMPLE ANSWER

1. 2. 3. 4.

The struggle was over quickly. The struggle between the soldiers was over quickly.

The attack began early. Mist enveloped the valley. Only a few rays penetrated the fog. The men advanced silently.

(continued) Grammar Review


Grammar Review 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

The leader signaled a halt. Suddenly they heard a shout. The enemy had seen them. The men raced forward. They met fierce resistance. Several men fell wounded. Others ran desperately. The enemy outnumbered the men. The men thought they were doomed. The leader shouted. Never had they seen such confusion. The noise was deafening. Fear paralyzed some. Three men led the assault. They fought a pitched battle. The leader was wounded.

Review: Exercise 2

Elaborating Sentences with Appositives


Rewrite each sentence, incorporating the words in parentheses so that they form an appositive phrase. Be sure to use commas where necessary. SAMPLE ANSWER

The battle was indecisive. (a brief skirmish) The battle, a brief skirmish, was indecisive.

1. The soldier saw the house. (an island of calm in the midst of chaos) 2. The house had an ominous look. (a dilapidated clapboard building) 3. Dark shapes obscured the building. (the shadows of giant elms) 4. Perhaps the enemy lurked within those shadows. (grim soldiers in gray) 5. The soldier felt trapped. (a young boy named Henry Fleming) 6. Never in all his life had he felt so frightened. (a mere sixteen years) 7. He had a flash of insight. (an awful premonition) 8. He and all his fellow soldiers were going to be sacrificed. (the entire regiment) 9. Anger swelled within him. (an uncontrollable tide) 10. The line advanced through the fields. (an unwavering column of blue)


Unit 12 Phrases

Grammar Review Review: Exercise 3

Elaborating Sentences with Participial Phrases

Each of the sentences below elaborates upon an idea suggested by the passages from The Red Badge of Courage. Combine the sentences, changing the sentence in parentheses into a participial phrase. Be sure to place the participial phrase close to the word in the first sentence that it modifies. SAMPLE ANSWER

The boy feared the troops. (The troops were hiding in the woods.) The boy feared the troops hiding in the woods.


1. The house had an ominous look. (The house was bordering the woods.) 2. The shadows were dense and foreboding. (The shadows were engulfing the house.) 3. The boy feared the enemy. (The enemy was lurking in the shadows.) 4. He imagined the woods. (The woods were bristling with artillery.) 5. The boy shivered. (The boy was disturbed by the thought.) 6. He was filled with anger. (He was convinced of the futility of his situation.) 7. The generals were going to sacrifice their troops! (The generals were commanding the Union Army.) 8. He advanced through the woods. (He was casting baleful glances around him.) 9. He resolved to warn his comrades. (He was rousing his courage.) 10. He decided he would make a speech to stir the men. (He was setting his fears aside.) 11. His comrades would realize the folly of the assault. (His comrades were shaken by his words.) 12. His brave resolve soon disappeared. (His resolve was diminished by his fears.) 13. The line of Union soldiers advanced steadily toward their opponents. (The line was unwavering in the dim light.) 14. Some men marched jauntily. (The men were putting on a show of valor.) 15. Others walked stealthily. (They were glancing fearfully from side to side.) 16. The men seemed subdued and serious. (The men were untested in battle.)

(continued) Grammar Review


Grammar Review 17. The enemy looked like a dull gray river. (The enemy was pouring out of the woods.) 18. Suddenly the boy felt a wave of calm. (The calm was breaking over him.) 19. His eyes took in the entire scene. (His eyes were unobscured by the dust and smoke of battle.) 20. The sounds of battle brought him a curious sense of relief. (The sounds were surging toward him.) Review: Exercise 4

Creating Sentences with Gerund Phrases

For each item write a sentence that answers the question, using the words in parentheses as a gerund phrase. SAMPLE ANSWER


1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

What is patriotic? (defending one’s country) Defending one’s country is patriotic.

What is part of every soldier’s life? (being afraid) What is essential in battle? (having courage) What do few soldiers find easy? (being brave) What is the boy’s goal? (warning his fellow soldiers) What do soldiers dread? (being slaughtered)

Review: Exercise 5

Elaborating Sentences with Infinitive Phrases

For each item write a sentence that answers the question, using the words in parentheses as an infinitive phrase. SAMPLE ANSWER

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

What is the goal of every soldier? (to fight bravely and steadfastly) The goal of every soldier is to fight bravely and steadfastly.

What has war often threatened? (to destroy nations) What did the Civil War almost manage to do? (to divide our country) What was a goal of the Confederates? (to maintain the Southern way of life) What was the aim of the North? (to preserve the Union) What do most history books tend to do? (to side with the North)

Review: Exercise 6

Elaborating Sentences with Absolute Phrases

Rewrite each of the following sentences, making the words in italics into an absolute phrase. SAMPLE ANSWER

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.


Unit 12 Phrases

Because war is common, many children are forced to endure it. War being common, many children are forced to endure it.

Since their experience is limited, children understand little about war. Nevertheless, because they have few choices, many children live in war zones. Children are strongly affected by conflict, as their minds are impressionable. Because turmoil has filled their lives, the children are forced to adapt. Since their resilience is great, these children often survive remarkably well.

Grammar Review Review: Exercise 7

Proofreading The following passage describes the artist Winslow Homer, whose painting appears on this page. Rewrite the passage, correcting the errors in spelling, grammar, and usage. Add any missing punctuation. There are ten errors.

Winslow Homer 1


Winslow Homer (1836–1910) one of America’s greatest artists, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. 2Having reached the age of six Homer, along with his family, moved to the nearby town of Cambridge, where the boy learned to love the outdoors. 3 Homer worked as a magazene illustrator for seventeen years. 4Trained as an illustrator he bringed a clear and unsentimental eye to his famous illustrations of the Civil War. 5Photography still being a primitive art at the time illustrators like Homer played a valuable role in relaying images of the war to the public. 6 Homer receives wide recognition in 1866 for Prisoners from the Front the painting shown here. 7Homer witnessing the war firsthand painted what he saw; Stephen Crane, on the other hand, born after the war ended, relied on secondary reports and his powerful imagination in writing The Red Badge of Courage.

Winslow Homer, Prisoners from the Front, 1866 Grammar Review


Grammar Review Review: Exercise 8

Mixed Review Below is a brief biographical sketch of Stephen Crane followed by ten sentences. Use the facts in the sketch to expand the ten sentences, following the guidelines that appear in parentheses. Be sure to place the phrases you add close to the word they modify.

Stephen Crane


Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1871. When he was a young man, he was restless and rebellious. He studied briefly at Syracuse University. Then he moved to New York City and became a reporter. He worked for several syndicates. When he wrote The Red Badge of Courage, he was only twenty-one, and he finished it within ten days. The novel describes a young Union soldier’s disillusionment with war. Critics praised The Red Badge of Courage. They applauded its unflinching realism. Later Crane was a war correspondent. He covered the Cuban front of the Spanish-American War and won praise for his courage. War provided an ideal context for the drama of testing oneself in situations of extreme danger or violence. Crane looked for the meaning of life in such situations. In this respect, he resembles other modern writers. In 1895 Crane went on a trip to the far West. There he wrote two of his best stories. These stories were “The Blue Hotel” and “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.” The West made a superb backdrop for Crane’s mixture of fantasy and realism. Crane also wrote two volumes of poetry. His poetry is remarkably original. Few critics have tried to assess Crane’s poetry in the context of poetic tradition. Crane died in Germany in 1900. The cause of his death was tuberculosis. His clear and ironic prose influenced a generation of American authors, among them Ernest Hemingway. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.


Unit 12 Phrases

Stephen Crane wrote a powerful novel. (Add an appositive phrase.) Crane studied at Syracuse University. (Add an adverb phrase.) He later became a reporter. (Add an adjective phrase.) He wrote The Red Badge of Courage. (Add an adverb phrase.) The novel describes the disenchantment. (Add an adjective phrase.) Critics praised The Red Badge of Courage. (Add an adverb phrase.) Crane went to Cuba. (Add an infinitive phrase.) Crane was not afraid. (Add an absolute phrase.) Crane died in 1900. (Add an adverb phrase.) His prose influenced many writers. (Add a participial phrase.)

Writing Application Phrases in Writing

Techniques with Phrases

By using a variety of phrases, writers can create sentences that are vividly detailed and rhythmically expressive. In this excerpt from The Women of Brewster Place, Gloria Naylor uses modifying phrases to expand the statement “Kiswana could see.” As you read the passage, notice how Naylor underscores the steady bustle of the scene by piling phrase atop phrase in long, rhythmic sentences.

Try to apply some of Gloria Naylor’s writing techniques when you write and revise your own work. 1 Use phrases to create vivid detail.

Compare the following. LACKING DETAIL Kiswana could see the busy avenue that lay just north of Brewster Place. NAYLOR’S VERSION From the window of her sixth-floor studio apartment, Kiswana could see over the wall at the end of the street to the busy avenue that lay just north of Brewster Place.

2 Use phrases to give your sentences a

smooth rhythm. CHOPPY RHYTHM They clutched their packages against their bodies. They were guarding themselves from sudden bursts of the cold autumn wind. NAYLOR’S VERSION . . .clutching their packages against their bodies to guard them from sudden bursts of the cold autumn wind. . .


From the window of her sixth-floor studio apartment, Kiswana could see over the wall at the end of the street to the busy avenue that lay just north of Brewster Place. The late-afternoon shoppers looked like brightly clad marionettes as they moved between the congested traffic, clutching their packages against their bodies to guard them from sudden bursts of the cold autumn wind. A portly mailman had abandoned his cart and was bumping into indignant windowshoppers as he puffed behind the cap that the wind had snatched from his head. Kiswana leaned over to see if he was going to be successful, but the edge of the building cut him off from her view.

For more about the writing process, see TIME Facing the Blank Page, pages 111–121.


Revise the following passage on a separate sheet of paper. Combine choppy, awkward sentences by turning some of them into phrases that give the passage a smooth rhythm. Use a variety of phrases: prepositional, participial, infinitive, appositive, gerund, and absolute.

It was March. The year was 1513. Ponce de Leon boldly entered Florida’s waters. His hopes were as high as the tall ship’s mast. The mast was casting its shadow over him. He had been appointed governor of Puerto Rico several years before. He had heard legends. The legends described a fountain. The fountain had miraculous healing powers. He was dreaming of glory. He had left Puerto Rico and sailed far. He had crossed treacherous seas. He had journeyed to Florida’s waters. His purpose was that here he would find the Fountain of Youth.

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