Prepositional Phrase at the Beginning of the Sentence

Margie Wakeman Wells The Comma 7 Comments

So let’s talk prepositional phrases at the beginning of a sentence.

What if this prepositional phrase is just a simple modifier, a simple adverb modifier?

…On Monday we will begin the new program.

…On April 9 he came in and resigned.

…In the afternoon I had the responsibility to gather them together.

…Before the contract we had to go in individually and talk to the boss.

…At 7:00 he would promptly call me daily.

Notice that these are short prepositional phrases; that they are just modifiers, not parentheticals or conjunctions; and that they have no comma after them.

Rule: A short prepositional phrase that is a simple modifier takes no punctuation after it.

And what constitutes a “short” prepositional phrase? Tune in tomorrow.

Happy punctuating.


Comments 7

  1. Hi there, Margie.

    What about those instances where a short prepositional at the beginning of a sentence, without a following comma, has the effect of creating needless ambiguity?

    Q. When did this happen, and who was in charge?
    A. At the time, Bob was in charge. (Meaning that Bob was in charge at that time.)
    A. At the time Bob was in charge. (Meaning that the event happened at the time that Bob was in charge as opposed to the time that someone besides Bob was in charge.)

    Whatcha think?

  2. Post

    Hi, guys.

    I have been wandering around Minnesota and North Dakota the last few days — worked with a great group all day today in Bismarck and am here in Grand Forks to work with a group tomorrow. I will be home late Saturday.

    There is a rule that says that a comma can be inserted pretty much anywhere for clarity,or to prevent misreading. I think that is what you are dealing with here. If you want a different meaning and a comma helps clarify the difference between two different meanings, then use the comma.

    There is much more to say about those introductory prepositional phrases, and I intend to do that over the next weeks.

    Happy punctuating.


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