I learned about prepositions:

  • they establish a relation with two words

  • the preposition is followed by an object

-the object of a prepositional phrase is made by a noun phrase

However, I don't know if these rules are as precise as mathematical statements or just rules helping the learner to get a grasp on grammar without claiming to be state of the art of linguistics.

For instance : I never had enough money to comfort a woman until recently

I understand, that until recently is a phrase and it's function in the sentence is a modifier or adjunct (please correct me on this because I am not quite sure yet if it is an adjunct for real), but I don't know what type of phrase it is, here is why:

  • maybe it is an adverb phrase with *recently * as it's head
    • maybe until is it's head and the whole is a prepositional phrase even though recently looks like an adverb and not a noun -maybe until is the head of the prepositional phrase and recently, though it looks like an adverb is a noun here, which seems odd but I still can't rule it out for sure.

Please share your expertise and shed some light.

  • @Review "Language-specific grammar and usage questions are off-topic unless primarily concerned with linguistics rather than usage." The question is clearly about linguistics. Mar 14, 2017 at 16:29
  • So it is OK when it stays? Mar 14, 2017 at 16:41
  • This is how I voted, yes. Mar 14, 2017 at 16:49
  • OK, I voted to close this question. Does this mean it will be closed automatically after some time if the one who decided to close it is the one who started it? Mar 14, 2017 at 16:51
  • You voted to close your own question? - Anyway, no: A question only gets closed after five users or a moderator voted to close it. Mar 14, 2017 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


Your 'rules' mix traditional and contemporary grammars. It's true in both traditional and contemporary grammars that a preposition phrase [PP] consists of a preposition and an object; but in contemporary grammars PPs 'establish relations' between constituents, not as in traditional grammar 'words'. Your third rule acknowledges this in defining the object of a prepositional phrase as a 'noun phrase', but it is incorrect in implying that the object is always an NP. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language points out that "It is not only 'nouns or pronouns' (NPs in our terms) that occur after prepositions:", and it gives examples—one of which is actually the one in your question:

 The magician emerged [from behind the curtain]                              [PP]
 I didn't know about it [until recently].                                  [AdvP]
 We can't agree [on whether we should call in the police]. [interrogative clause]
 They took me [for dead].                                                  [AdjP]

Until recently is a preposition phrase with an adverb phrase (realized as a single adverb) as its object; in this case the phrase acts as an adclausal adjunct ('adverbial' in traditional grammar)—that is, it modifies an entire clause, not just a verb.

  • Great explanation, as you mentioned the division into traditional and contemporary grammar, do you know by any chance what is the name of the grammar used in " The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language " Mar 12, 2017 at 15:01
  • 3
    @AbdulAlHazred CGEL is more or less 'mainstream contemporary': it's non-doctrinaire, and preserves as much of the traditional terminology as it can, but it's firmly based on the advances of the 1960s-80s and doesn't stray into any of the newest approaches. It's sorta like hard rock--certainly not classic swing or rock'n'roll any more, but not much affected by hip-hop either :) Mar 12, 2017 at 15:14
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    Looks like a great book with regard to logical coherence, does anyone know of if one can read parts of it online, the price of 200 euro and more is half my monthly earnings Mar 12, 2017 at 15:25
  • @AbdulAlHazred University libraries generally have a copy or two, if you have access to one. It'll likely be in the Reference section and unavailable for borrowing though. A lot of public libraries also have it. Mar 12, 2017 at 15:39

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