The KISS Grammar Workbooks Back to October Menu
(Code and Color Key)

Preposition? Adverb? Or Part of the Verb?
Exercise  # 2
Analysis Key

1.) Then they sewed him up.

Then they sewed him up.

Note that in cases such as this, the "up" does not give students much of a problem. There is nothing that can function as the object of a preposition -- "Up what?" does not make any sense. I have marked "up" as an adverb, simply because it is the easiest answer. I would accept "up" as part of the verb -- "sewed up" in context probably means that they sewed him and closed the opening in him. But then, the function of adverbs is to modify the meaning of verbs, so it really does not make much difference whether one considers "up" here and adverb or part of the verb.

Complete analysis:
Then they sewed him (DO) up. |


2.) So he got up, went to the well, and leaned over, but the heavy stones tipped him over, and he drowned.
So he got up, went to the well, and leaned over, but the heavy stones tipped him over, and he drowned.

     I would accept "up" as an adverb here, primarily because my experience with students suggests that many students will want to consider it the direct object of "got." Thus I am happy to get them away from that explanation, and only want to push a little at a time. A better explanation, of course, is to consider "got up" the verb since it means "rose."
     Most textbooks do not deal with sentences such as these, but my guess is that they would consider "over" in "leaned over" to be an adverb. That explanation is fine, but when looking at this type of question in detail, we might note that it means "leaned over *the edge of the well.*" Thus "over the edge" is a prepositional phrase that functions as an adverb to "leaned." The lack of context makes the meaning of the second "over" obscure, but it probably again means "over the edge."

Complete analysis:
So he got up, went {to the well}, and leaned over, | but the heavy stones tipped him (DO) over, | and he drowned. |


3.) The birds are talking to each other, and squirrels are running around gathering nuts.
The birds are talking to each other, and squirrels are running around gathering nuts.

In context, one might be able to explain "around" as the preposition in an ellipsed phrase, but there is no problem in simply considering it to be an adverb. Some of my students, who do not pay attention to the meaning,  would have marked "around gathering nuts" as a prepositional phrase, but that does not make any sense.

Complete analysis:
The birds are talking {to each other}, | and squirrels are running around gathering nuts. |
"Nuts" is the direct object of "gathering";  "gathering" is a gerundive that modifies "squirrels."


4.)  A couple of months ago, we got a really big aquarium, and we filled it up with rocks, with a big plastic Parthenon at one side, and two lights over it, and then we went and got a lizard.
A couple of months ago, we got a really big aquarium, and we filled it up with rocks, with a big plastic Parthenon at one side, and two lights over it, and then we went and got a lizard.

      One of the things that the grammarians rarely consider, but we should, is the skill level and attitude of the students we are teaching. "Up with rocks" is not a prepositional phrase -- the "up" goes with "filled." We can demonstrate that by noting that the "up" can be left out with no loss of meaning -- "We filled it with rocks." On the other hand, we can leave out the phrase but keep the "up" -- We filled it up. But the seriousness of this question depends on where the students are in their study of English sentence structure. If they are missing many simple prepositions and thus simple prepositional phrases, then to focus on the question of "up" here is comparable to kicking them when they are down. They are going to hate grammar. I note this here because this sentence provides another question. Which is more important -- that the student includes "up" in the "with rocks" prepositional phrase, or that the student misses the problem of "lights" as part of a prepositional phrase?

Complete analysis:
A couple {of months} ago, we got a really big aquarium (DO), | and we filled it (DO) up {with rocks}, {with a big plastic Parthenon} {at one side}, and {*with* two lights} {over it}, | and then we went and got a lizard (DO). |
     "Couple," modified by "of months" is a noun used as an adverb. It modifies the adverb "ago," or, if one prefers, "ago" modifies it, to form an adverbial phrase to "got."
     The "two lights" cause an analytical problem, but the analytical problem reveals a problem in the structure and meaning of the sentence. The sentence was written by a fourth grader, and it probably reflects the problems that fourth graders have in putting nineteen words into a single main clause. The problem may start with the verb "filled," instead of "put rocks in it." Since the sentence says "filled with rocks," some readers might read the sentence as meaning that the plastic Parthenon "at one side" is outside rather than inside the aquarium. (The aquarium itself is full of rocks, and thus has no room for the Parthenon.) The mental shift in perspective, from inside to outside the aquarium is confirmed by the "two lights over it." Given that reading, "lights" can be read as joined to "Parthenon" by the "and." In essence, we have a compound object of a preposition -- "with ... Parthenon ... and ... lights ...." 
       Ultimately, I would suggest, the analysis of the prepositional phrases reveals a problem in the sentence. Does it mean "We put rocks in it, with a big plastic Parthenon at one side, and two lights over it."? Note that in this version, "lights" can be read as part of a compound direct object -- "We put rocks ... and ... lights...." In working on this problem with a student, I would begin with the meaning, not with the grammar -- "If the aquarium is full of rocks, where is the Parthenon, inside or outside?" Once most students see problems in meaning, the question of grammatical structure become much more interesting, because they are relevant.


5.) I'd better start talking about something else, so the lizard won't take up all my time.
I'd better start talking {about something else}, so the lizard won't take up all my time.

     Although I know that there are grammarians who disagree, I don't see anything wrong with considering "about something else" as a prepositional phrase that modifies "talking." Alternatively, I would accept "start talking about" as the verb since "talk about" means "discuss." [Grammarians would have tons to say about my considering "better" as part of the verb phrase, and there are many complicated ways to explain this construction. Find them, and use them, if you want to confuse your students. Otherwise, your students will probably accept the same explanation that mine do -- "I'd better start talking" means "I should start talking."]
     In the second part of the sentence, I have equated "take up" with "consume." I would also, however, accept "up" as an adverb. It is not a preposition because "up all my time" does not make sense. [Meaning! Meaning! Meaning! It seems to take forever to get some of my students to pay attention to it, but once they do, things begin to fall into place.]

Complete analysis:
I'd better start talking {about something else}, [Adv. to "start talking" so the lizard won't take up all my time (DO).] |