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The Logic of Prepositional Phrases
Lassie, Come Home, by Eric Knight
Analysis Key

     This type of close analysis raises as many questions as it answers, so remember that it is intended to get students thinking about the range of information that prepositional phrases can add to texts. Try to focus students' attention on the adverbial phrases that add information about when and where (Hume's "time" and "space") and on the adjectival phrases that, to use Hume's term, "identify."

1. {In a small village} [#1] {like Greenall Bridge} [Adj. to "village" -- What kind of village?] ,

everyone knew the business (DO) {of everyone else} [Adj. to "business" -- Whose

business?] . |
 

2. {For a long time} [Adv. to "was" -- When?] there was nothing (PN) {but the sound}

 [#2] {of their breathing} [Adj. to "sound" -- What kind of sound?]. |
 

3. Hyne's small, thin figure {in its checked coat, riding breeches, and cloth

leggings} [Adj. to "figure" -- What kind of figure?] halted {for a moment} [Adv. to

"halted" -- When? How long?]  {near the door} [Adv. to "halted" -- Where?] . |
 

4. She faded {through a gap} [Adv. to "faded" -- Faded where?] {in a hedge} [Adj.

to "gap" -- What kind of gap?] and shot away {from the road} [Adv. to "shot" -- Shot

away where?] up {into the bleak back-country} [Adv. to "shot" -- Shot up where?]. |
 

5. {Without pausing} [#3], he went {past the shops} [Adv. to "went" -- Went where?]

 {on High Street} [Adj. to "shops" -- Which shops?] , {through the village} [Adv. to

"went" -- Went where?] {to the little lane} [Adv. to "went" -- Went where?] going [#4] 

{up the hillside} [Adv. to "going" -- Going where?], {up the lane}  [Adv. to "going" -- 

Going where?] and {through a gate} [Adv. to "going" -- Going where?], {along a garden

path} [Adv. to "going" -- Going where?] , and then {through the cottage door} [Adv.

to "going" -- Going where?]. |

You might want to ask students why Knight used so many phrases that indicate "where"? Some students may think that there are too many, but they do have an effect on readers. What, for example, do they suggest about "he"? (For one thing, they suggest that "he" knew exactly where he was going, and probably why.) [This question is, of course, better when the sentence is viewed in context.]


6. {Throughout the long winters} [Adv. to "would argue"-- Argue when?], {at the small inn} 

[Adv. to "would argue"-- Argue where?] {by the loch} [Adj. to "inn" - What inn?] ,

McBane would argue {for hours} [Adv. to "would argue" -- How long?] [DO that 

his Mr. Freeth was one (PN) {of Britain's greatest landscapists} [Adj. to "one" -- 

One what?] ]. |


Notes
1.  Placed where it is, and separated from "everyone" by a comma, this phrase would probably be explained as adverbial to "knew" by many grammarians. But by the time that readers get to it, "knew" will already have a subject -- "everyone." Thus is answers "where?" to "knew," but it also explains "which" "everyone" is meant. Note how the two phrases, if they were placed after "everyone" and not separated by commas, would be taken as adjectival to "everyone." If they were separated by commas (everyone, in a small village . . . , knew . . . .) the first phrase would more likely  be considered as adverbial to "knew."
2. "But" explains "what kind of 'nothing'" in the sense of stating a specific exception to it.
3. "Without pausing" is clearly adverbial to "went," the the question it answers is a matter of opinion. Some people would say "When?" In another sense, it answers the question "How long?" (Very quickly). The important point to emphasize is that the phrase adds details about the location in time. ["Pausing" is a verbal, in this case a gerund that functions as the object of the preposition.)
4. "Going" is a verbal. It is a gerundive (verbal adjective) that describes "lane."