Where is the subject in a sentence that starts with a prepositional phrase. For example the preposition phrase beginning with after below:

After breakfast the boys wandered out to the garden.

Is the subject the boys only or After breakfast the boys, and why?

It would be helpful if someone did a tree diagram and explained the function of the prepositional phrase.

  • 4
    Did the breakfast wander out to the garden?
    – Spencer
    Dec 14, 2018 at 20:21
  • 2
    This is one of the times a clarity comma would be useful.
    – miltonaut
    Dec 14, 2018 at 20:37
  • Agree with @miltonaut. Here is the rule, "Use commas after introductory a) clauses, b) phrases, or c) words that come before the main clause." Dec 14, 2018 at 20:44
  • "After breakfast" is functioning as an adverb. There is only one verb in the sentence for it to modify.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 14, 2018 at 20:45
  • 1
    @araucaria You are incorrect, questions like this give OP a chance to use their own reasoning to get the answer.
    – Spencer
    Dec 14, 2018 at 23:10

2 Answers 2


After breakfast the boys wandered out to the garden.

"After breakfast" is a prepositional phrase. In this case the phrase functions as an adverb.

"The boys wandered out to the garden" is the "meat" of the sentence. "The boys" is the subject, "wandered" is the verb, "out to the garden" is (depending on your religion) either another prepositional phrase, functioning as the object of the verb, or an adverbial phrase, modifying the verb.

"After breakfast" tells when this wandering occurs and hence is modifying "wandered".

(I don't identify the "predicate" here because different religious cults define "predicate" differently. Some believe that the predicate includes the object while others don't.)


Subject: the boys, predicate: wandered. After breakfast: adverbial modifier of time. Out into the garden: adverbial modifier of place and direction. 'Breakfast'can't possibly be the subject in this sentence since it doesn't denote the doer of the action like "the boys" (who performed the action of wandering out into the garden).

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