There are several structures formed by the pattern "In + Adj." such as: "In general", "In particular", "In short".

Collins dictionary lists those three structures as phrases (for which I believe that they're adverbial phrases), and in other dictionaries, no further information about the grammatical detail has been provided.

To me, it seems uncommon that a preposition is followed by an adjective can form a phrase. In fact, I can't recall immediately any other phrase with this pattern except those three. So, I'm wondering if there's a grammatical rule underlying such pattern?

  • 1
    In essence, these aren't adjectives but nouns.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 3 at 10:38
  • @TimR, It sounds convincing! I'm wondering if there're any resources that elaborate on this idea. So could you recommend some?
    – Tran Khanh
    Commented Jan 4 at 1:36
  • 1
    I don't know of any resources other than the standard discussions of prepositional phrases and the objects and complements of the prepositions. But if you were to consult a good dictionary you would find definitions of those words (general, particular, short) under noun as well as adjective.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 4 at 2:34
  • 1
    There’s also in brief. Commented Jun 1 at 11:52

1 Answer 1


While it might seem unusual at first glance, it exists and has some interesting grammatical nuances. Technically, prepositions aren't supposed to directly take adjectives as objects. They typically modify nouns, pronouns, or noun phrases. However, the "In + Adj." pattern functions as a prepositional phrase with a specific purpose:

Adverbial Function: These phrases act as adverbs, modifying verbs or entire clauses. For example, "In general, I agree with your point." ("In general" modifies the verb "agree"). Conjunctive Function: Some, like "In short," also act as transition words, connecting ideas within a sentence or paragraph.

  • On second thought, I'm not sure that "IN" is a preposition since the phrases are very likely to be adverbial. And if there're adverbs, the grammatical meaning seems quite natural.
    – Tran Khanh
    Commented Jan 3 at 9:25
  • Would you agree that the adverbial expressions "In general" can be modified as "generally”, "in short” to “shortly” and "in particular” to "particularly” without any change of meaning?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 19 at 7:39
  • @TranKhanh Most prepositional phrases are adverbial.
    – gotube
    Commented Jan 19 at 23:37

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