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Teaching Tip: Misplaced Prepositional Phrases


It is not uncommon for students to misplace a prepositional phrase when they write a sentence. Emphasize to your students that a prepositional phrase must clearly indicate the word in the sentence that it modifies (the word that is modified is typically a noun). A misplaced prepositional phrase often results in a sentence that is humorous if taken literally, but is grammatically incorrect nonetheless. Use the following sentence as an example of a misplaced prepositional phrase:
In the refrigerator, Sally found the custard.
Obviously, Sally was not in the refrigerator when she found the custard. This sentence should have been written as follows:
Sally found the custard in the refrigerator.
Each of the following sentences contains a misplaced prepositional phrase. Have your students rewrite each sentence correctly.
  1. At the bottom of the fish tank, Billy saw the catfish. (Billy saw the catfish at the bottom of the fish tank.)
  2. A committee of students and teachers planned Homecoming in the library. (In the library, a committee of students and teachers planned Homecoming.)
  3. We talked about the basketball game in the stands. (In the stands, we talked about the basketball game.)
  4. We read about the lost kitten that was found in the local newspaper. (We read in the local newspaper about the lost kitten that was found.)
  5. Tom's father saw the driver of the car that had almost hit him in the supermarket. (In the supermarket, Tom's father saw the driver of the car that had almost hit him.)
If you really want to go for humor, use Groucho Marx's timeless joke: "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know."
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