In his ear, he whispers gaily.

Is "in his ear" a prepositional or an adverbial phrase?

Please explain your choice and give some reasons for your answer. Thanks!

  • 1
    Try including the sentence that caused you confusion. A phrase by itself, not in a sentence, can be prepositional, adverbial, or even other things. In English grammar, nearly everything depends strongly on context.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 13:13
  • 4
    Didn't you just ask this same question earlier today? ell.stackexchange.com/questions/78549/…
    – stangdon
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 14:23
  • @stangdon I think this should remain, but the first sentence of the original question should be deleted to split the question. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 17:18
  • 1
    Please do not closevote as a duplicate: this question was part of an earlier question, but has now been extracted from it and no longer duplicates. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 18:17

1 Answer 1


It is both.

The term preposition phrase describes the phrase's internal structure: it is constructed with a preposition followed by its object.

The term adverbial phrase describes the phrase's external syntactic role: it designates the place where the action was directed and is taken to "modify" the action in the same way as an adverb like softly or angrily would.

  • @Araucaria I agree with your characterization of adverbial, but I am dubious about "worth mentioning": OP appears to be under the eye of a traditionalist pedagogue, and it may be indiscreet to proselytize. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 23:15
  • Yes, indeed that was more for your amusement really, if I'm honest. Will delete in a bit. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 23:17

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