Phrasal prepositions

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A phrasal preposition (not to be confused with a prepositional phrase) is two or more words functioning as a preposition. Below are some of the most common phrasal prepositions in English:

  • according to
  • apart from
  • because of
  • by means of
  • contrary to
  • in addition to
  • in front of
  • in reference to
  • in regard to
  • instead of
  • in spite of
  • on account of
  • on top of
  • out of
  • prior to
  • pursuant to
  • rather than
  • with regard to
  • with the exception of

Phrasal prepositions are often symptoms of wordiness. For example, on top of and in spite of could usually be replaced with atop and despite, and in regard to and with regard to could usually be replaced with regarding or about. The wordy formulations are characteristic of legalese and bureaucratese and often sound out of place in informal writing.

Other phrasal prepositions are not easily shortened. For example, there is no natural-sounding, briefer alternative to instead of.

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