flesl.net grammar glossary::prepositional verb

prepositional verbs

• Prepositional verbs are a type of multi-word verb. They are distinguished from the other major type of multi-word verb, phrasal verbs first, by the fact that their particles are always followed by prepositional objects, second by the fact that they do not allow optional/obligatory object-insertion, and, thirdly by the fact the particles in prepositional verbs are always prepositions whereas the particles in phrasal verbs are always adverbs. (Particles that can be either prepositions or adverbs can appear in both phrasal and prepositional verbs.)

• Prepositional verbs are divided into two categories: transitive prepositional verbs, which are followed by a prepositional object and ditransitive prepositional verbs which are followed by a direct object and a prepostitional object. Here are two examples of each type.

• transitive prepositional verbs

listen to: When Jill phoned, Harry was listening to the “The Moonlight Sonata.”

look after: Jill said she couldn’t come because she was looking after her sister’s children.

• ditransitive prepositional verbs

spend on: Harry didn’t want Sarah to know he had spent more than a thousand dollars on Jill’s present.

remind of: When they first met, Jane reminded Dick of his younger sister.

prepositional verbs and clause analysis

• To say of that the verb “listen to” is a prepositional verb implies that a clause like, Harry was listening to “The Moonlight Sonata,” is to be analyzed in the following way:

[Harry]   (was listening to)   <the “Moonlight Sonata” >


verb phrase

object (prepositional)

• Similarly, to say the verb “remind of ” is a ditransitive prepositional verb in a clause such as Jane reminded Dick of his younger sister, implies the following analysis:

[Jane]        (reminded)        <Dick>         (of)          <his younger sister.>


verb phrase



object (prepositional)

• Notice that, in the analyisis, the verb phrase “reminded of” is interrupted. (It is marked as VP2.) This same sort of interruption is required in analysing clauses with transitive phrasal verbs in which the object is inserted between the main verb and the particle.)

• There is an alternative analysis possible for clauses containing prepositional verbs. (See the “notes and references” page for this entry.)