A weekly grammar tip created by Student Success Center Peer Writing Tutors.
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|Understanding Introductory Phrases and
by Nick Jobe
Introductory phrases are groups of words that introduce the action of the sentence and provide important contextual information. But, they cannot stand alone. Such introductory elements include prepositional phrases, participial phrases, and conjunctive adverbs. Generally, a comma follows an introductory phrase—a comma is required if omitting it could lead to misreading—as in the first example below.
One kind of introductory phrase is the prepositional phrase.
Ex. For example, for example is an introductory phrase.
For example signals that the information that follows will provide a specific instance of a more general category that has already been discussed.
Notice how the first for example was followed by a comma to separate it from the main clause. This previous example begins with a prepositional phrase: the word for is a preposition, and it is followed by a noun.
Ex. In the meadow, the bunny hopped around.
In the meadow is an introductory (prepositional) phrase. It indicates where the bunny hopped. It provides the setting where the action in the rest of the sentence occurs.
Another common preposition that you might see beginning an introductory phrase is According to.
Ex. According to Bob, the Martians were invading the planet.
The introductory phrases in the following examples are participial phrases, verb phrases headed by the –ing or the –en form of the verb. A participial phrase describes a noun. A participial phrase can be used as an introductory phrase when it modifies the subject of the sentence it introduces.
Ex. Laughing at his own joke, the comedian seemed full of himself.
Ex. Having stolen the car, the thief sped away from the police.
Notice how the participial phrases, here used as introductory phrases, modify the subject of the sentence that immediately follows after the comma.
Two words that are commonly used to introduce sentences are however and therefore. Technically, these words are called conjunctive adverbs, and they are often used as introductory words. They must be followed by commas when they are used as introductory elements in a sentence.
Ex. Sally wanted to go to the pottery barn. However, Bob wanted to go to RadioShack.
Ex. Therefore, Bob did the hokey-pokey.
These examples use however and therefore as introductory words. However contradicts the previous information given and introduces the new information afterward. Therefore indicates results or consequences.
|Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by Nick Jobe
In addition to our own website, we also recommend the following website: http://www.usu.edu/markdamen/WritingGuide/10dangpt.htm. This website will go into more detail on dangling participles.
|Test Your Knowledge
by Nick Jobe
Test your understanding by correcting the following sentences.
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