Instructional Systems
Traditional English Grammar

Unit One
Parts of Speech Continued:
Prepositions, Conjunctions, and Interjections


The word preposition literally means "placed" (position) "before" (pre-). Thus the preposition is placed before a noun or pronoun which is called its object. The preposition and object together make a prepositional phrase. This prepositional phrase then functions as a separate, distinct part of the sentence, usually as a modifier. Some prepositions even consist of two or more words. Here are some commonly used prepositions with noun or pronoun objects:

AFTER Murgatroid
TO Europe
UNDER the starry sky
WITH cherries and chocolate syrup
OVER the rainbow
BY the seaside
OF the people OUTSIDE my experience
DURING the long Alaskan winter
INTO the dark forest
WITHOUT much money
FOR God and Country
BEFORE the final exam
IN ADDITION TO you and me
TOGETHER WITH Igor and Ignats

Many prepositions that we use today are made up of several words. However, a number of these compounds, throughout and without for example, have come together at some time in the past.

Sometimes the preposition and its object are separated. In this case the preposition comes at the end of the sentence and its object is somewhere before it. Consider the following examples:

Whom did you go with?
(WITH whom did you go?)

What are they whispering about?
(ABOUT what are they whispering?)

Although a preposition does not usually end a sentence, sometimes it is less clumsy there than in natural order. Which of the sentences below is more natural?

That is something which I will not put up with.
That is something up with which I will not put.

A WORD OF CAUTION ABOUT TO: The word to is used as the sign of the infinitive (e.g. to run, to play, to read, etc.) and although it is not always used with this verbal (see next lesson), it is very common in English. Be careful not to confuse this use with the prepositional use which always takes a noun object. Notice the two uses in this sentence: "I like to drive when I go to town."


A conjunction, as its name indicates, joins words, phrases, and clauses: con (together) and junction (Join). There are two kinds of conjunctions: coordinating and subordinating.

Coordinating Conjunctions

The coordinating conjunctions in English are, by frequency of use, and, or, but, for, nor, yet, and so. For, but, and so have several other uses each--but and for as prepositions primarily, and so, when it means "so that" or "in order to," as a subordinating conjunction. So, when it is used as a coordinating conjunction, has the meaning of "therefore."

The coordinating conjunction joins elements of equal grammatical rank:


The hero was tall and handsome. (two adjectives)

Too much television may result in big eyes and little brains. (two nouns)

You may have cake or pie for dessert. (two nouns)

The detective examined the room carefully but found no evidence. (two verbs)


We walked across the field and into the forest. (two prepositional phrases)

Doing the research and writing the paper will take several hours. (two gerund phrases)


Dudley was majoring in law, but his brother Mugwert wanted to be a doctor. (two independent clauses)

Hortense didn't know where she was or what she was doing. (two dependent clauses)

1. Correlative Conjunctions.-- Correlative conjunctions are coordinating. They are used in pairs:

Either you or your mother must sign this form.
Both French and Spanish are Romance languages.
Neither Yellowstone nor Yosemite is on our itinerary.
He not only wrote the lyrics but also composed the music.

2. Conjunctive Adverbs.-- Although not a true conjunction because it functions in the sentence as an adverb modifying the clause to which it belongs, a conjunctive adverb serves in the place of a coordinating conjunction. When these adverbs occur between independent clauses, they join independent clauses. Common conjunctive adverbs are however, nevertheless, moreover, consequently, then, in fact, thus, therefore, hence, and accordingly.

I read the novel carefully; however, I did not see all the symbolism.
The child lied; therefore, he deserved his punishment.
The defendant admitted his guilt; nevertheless, he was given a light sentence.

NOTE: Place a semicolon before the conjunctive adverb when it comes between independent clauses. A comma here creates a comma splice. A conjunctive adverb differs from a coordinating conjunction in that it is used as a modifier. It differs from a subordinating conjunction in that it can be shifted around in its clause while a subordinating conjunction cannot be shifted. If these same conjunctive adverb words are placed in the middle of a clause instead of between two clauses, the punctuation is different, and the word is merely an adverb.

I read the novel; I did not, however, see all the symbolism.
The child lied; he, therefore, deserved his punishment.
The defendant admitted his guilt; he was, nevertheless, given a light sentence.

In the sentences above, the conjunctive adverb becomes a parenthetical expression and is usually set off with commas.

Subordinating Conjunctions

The subordinating conjunction joins two clauses of unequal rank--a dependent and an independent clause.

The audience gasped when the dog began to speak.
Call me if you need help.
After the war ended, our country began to rebuild Germany and Japan.

Some of the subordinating conjunctions are when, while, after, before, if, as, since, because, until, unless and although. Notice that these words cannot be shifted around in the clause: "Call me you if need help" or "The war after ended" makes no sense. This inability to be shifted around will help you to distinguish between subordinating conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs which can be shifted around. Note also that some of these conjunctions may act as prepositions (after, before, as, since, until, etc.) when they are given noun objects: "After the war, our country began to rebuild Germany and Japan."


The interjection is a word that expresses strong feeling. However, it has no grammatical relationship with the rest of the sentence.

Well, don't expect any help from me.
Oh, I wouldn't worry about that small error.
Please, can I have some attention?
Help! I'm drowning!
Alas! What will the helpless maiden do?

Note that a weak interjection is set off by a comma, a strong interjection by an exclamation mark.

To take the first quiz, click here.

To return to Chapter One assignments, click here.

To return to Traditional Grammar Main Menu, click here.

To visit the Instructional Systems site for links to additional grammar instruction, click here. [NOTE: You must be on the internet to visit the i S i site.]

To visit Instructional Systems "Cookie Jar" for grammar, spelling, ESL, and composition instruction, click here. [NOTE: You must be on the internet to visit the "Cookie Jar."]

To visit Instructional Systems other free resources and links, click Here.
To visit the Instructional Systems Home Page and Main Menu, click Here
Web Author: J. Kline
Copyright ©1998 by Instructional Systems - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED