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I have trouble to understand when a preposition belongs to the verb and when it belongs to the object:

We drink beer in Spain.

We drink beer of Spain.

In the first example sentence, the "in Spain" belongs to the verb. So I could change the sentence to:

In Spain we drink beer.

In the other example, the "of Spain" belongs to the object. So it is not possible to change that sentence in the same way.

What is the name of the grammar for these two cases? Or what are the rules to analyse this? Has "of" some special rules or isn't a preposition in this case?

  • Well you are correct about your first sentence. in there is a preposition, and the whole in Spain phrase can be shifted to the front. But in case of second sentence the phrase beer of Spain is a possessive construction. When you write sentence like this - This is Sara's bag -> This is the bag of Sara('s) – Man_From_India Mar 4 '15 at 11:57
  • @Man_From_India Does this possessive thing works just with "of" (or the "'s") or are there other words that could be used in the same way? – DooDo Mar 4 '15 at 12:03
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    Actually, you have invented your won test! If you can move it around without the noun, then it's an adjunct of the clause. If it has to come directly after the noun it's probably part of the noun phrase. – Araucaria Mar 4 '15 at 13:54
  • @Araucaria I see. So there are no rules, just gut feeling? Language is strange ;-) – DooDo Mar 4 '15 at 14:33
  • No, that's kind of a rule. It's just you got the right rule:) – Araucaria Mar 4 '15 at 22:44
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We know nothing of Spain.

Of Spain, we know nothing.

This works just fine. So I'm with Man_From_India: "beer of spain" is a possessive construction, and a slightly obsolete one. Mostly seen in titles: "Lawrence of Arabia". I think it's just "of" that has this possessive form. In the case of "knowing of" meaning "knowing about" it's definitely a preposition.

We import beer from Spain.

From Spain, we import beer.

Also valid. The two forms have a different emphasis - putting the country first puts the emphasis there and implies that we're talking primarily about countries.

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As this related question shows, it's not always possible to determine what a prepositional phrase modifies.  This isn't something particular to the preposition "of".  Prepositional phrases in general are subject to this ambiguity. 

However, in your examples, "in Spain" is likely adverbial and "of Spain" is certainly adjectival. 

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You simply have to learn the prepositions and which "direction" they like to work. Certain prepositions tend to appear with certain words so patterns can be discerned.

Adverbs can often be moved around somewhat freely in sentences or clauses since generally a sentence/clause only has one actual, real verb. So if you can do that with a prepositional phrase, it's probably modifying the verb.

Hurriedly I walked to the car.

I hurriedly walked to the car.

I walked hurriedly to the car. (Etc.)

In Spain we drink beer.

We in Spain drink beer.

We drink beer in Spain.

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