Adverbial Phrases (& Clauses) | Definition & Examples
An adverbial phrase is a group of words that acts like an adverb—i.e., it modifies a verb, adjective, adverb, or even a whole clause.
Like adverbs, adverbial phrases can be used to describe how (e.g., “with sadness”), where (e.g., “behind the bookshelf”), when (e.g., “in the morning”), and why (e.g., “to buy groceries”).
Adverbial clauses are similar to adverbial phrases. However, unlike adverbial phrases, adverbial clauses always have a subject and verb (e.g., “when you visit”).
An adverbial phrase (or adverb phrase) is a group of words that acts as an adverb to modify the main clause of a sentence. Adverbial phrases can be made up of two adverbs. These are typically formed by adding a qualifier or intensifier (e.g., “incredibly,” “rather,” “very,” “somewhat”) before another adverb.
Other types of adverbial phrases include prepositional phrases (e.g., “in the afternoon”), and infinitive phrases (e.g., “to get a haircut”). These phrases don’t necessarily include any adverbs but do play the same role as an adverb in the sentence.
Like adverbs, adverbial phrases serve a range of functions, some of which are explained below.
|Manner||Explain how something happens||Emir spoke of his daughter with pride.|
|Place||Explain where something happens||I threw my coat on the chair.|
|Purpose||Explain why something happens||I’m going to the airport to pick up my aunt and uncle.|
|Time||Explain when something happens||Let’s go for a walk after dinner.|
An adverbial clause (or adverb clause) is a clause containing a subject and verb that acts as an adverb to modify the main clause of a sentence.
Adverbial clauses are connected to the main clause of a sentence using subordinating conjunctions (e.g., “because,” “since,” “before,” “although,” “so that”). Adverbial clauses are always dependent (i.e., they have a subject and verb, but they can’t form standalone sentences).
Adverbial clauses serve a range of functions, some of which are described below.
|Manner||Explain how something happens||He ran as fast as he could.|
|Place||Explain where something happens||I bring my phone wherever I go.|
|Purpose||Explain why something happens||Vera bought Tom this gift because she thought he would like it.|
|Time||Explain when something happens||After they set up the tent, they built a fire.|
|Condition||Introduce possible outcomes||David will be here at two o’clock if he gets the next train.|
|Comparison||Compare or contrast||Patrick can speak French as well as I can.|
|Concession||Introduce a contrast||Although it’s raining, it’s still warm outside.|
Adverbial placement rules
Adverbial phrases and adverbial clauses can be positioned at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence, depending on where you want to place emphasis.
A fronted adverbial (i.e., an adverbial phrase or clause used at the beginning of a sentence) is typically followed by a comma. No comma is needed when the adverbial is placed at the end of a sentence.
When an adverbial clause or phrase is placed in the middle of a sentence (between the subject and verb), it’s set off with commas.
For some sentences, the placement of adverbial clauses and phrases can more drastically change the meaning, and a misplaced modifier (i.e., a modifier that’s not clearly connected to the word, phrase, or clause it’s intended to modify) can cause ambiguity or confusion.
In the first sentence below, the placement of the adverbial phrase suggests that Kara’s holiday took place in the office. Moving the phrase to the beginning of the sentence makes the intended meaning clearer.
Frequently asked questions
- What are the different types of adverbials?
- Can you end a sentence with an adverb?
Many types of adverbs (adverbs of manner, adverbs of time etc.) can be used at the end of a sentence to modify a verb, adjective, or other adverb (e.g., “you read quietly”).
Adverbial phrases (e.g., “at two o’clock”) and adverbial clauses (e.g., “wherever I go”) can also be placed at the end of a sentence to modify a preceding clause.
- What is a fronted adverbial?
A fronted adverbial is an adverb or adverbial that is placed at the start of a sentence. Many adverbials, including sentence adverbs (e.g., “unfortunately”), adverbial phrases (e.g., “after work”) and adverbial clauses (e.g., “because you are smart”), can be used as fronted adverbials.
When an adverb or adverbial is placed at the start of a sentence, it should be followed by a comma (e.g., “luckily, the train was on time”).
Sources in this article
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Eoghan Ryan (Scribbr Team)October 20, 2022 at 6:54 PM
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