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English Adverbials: Adverbs, Adverb Clauses, and Prepositional Phrases

written by: Heather Marie Kosur • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 7/12/2012

Adverbials—a grammatical function performed by adverb phrases, adverb clauses, prepositional phrases, noun phrases, and verb phrases—modify an entire clause. Part one of this series explains adverb phrases, adverb clauses, and prepositional phrases functioning as adverbials.

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    Adverbials

    Adverbials are defined as words, phrases, and clauses that modify an entire clause by providing additional information about time, place, manner, condition, purpose, reason, result, and concession. The five grammatical forms that perform the grammatical function of adverbial within sentences in the English language are:

    1. Adverb phrases
    2. Adverb clauses
    3. Prepositional phrases
    4. Noun phrases
    5. Verb phrases

    Part one of the "English Adverbials" series explains adverb phrases, adverb clauses, and prepositional phrases functioning as adverbials.

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    Adverb Phrases

    The first grammatical form that performs the grammatical function of adverbial is the adverb phrase. Adverbs are traditionally defined as "words that describe verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and clauses." Adverb phrases are phrases with an adverb functioning as the head of the phrase plus any other adverbs functioning as adverb phrase modifiers. For example:

    • The students are waiting impatiently (How are the students waiting?)
    • My cat immediately eats her food. (When does my cat eat her food?)
    • Childishly, his neighbor stole his rake. (How did his neighbor steal his rake?)
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    Adverb Clauses

    The second grammatical form that performs the grammatical function of adverbial is the adverb clause. Adverb clauses are subordinate clauses formed by a subordinating conjunction followed by a clause. Adverb clauses differ from verb, noun, and adjective clauses in that adverb clauses perform adverbial grammatical functions. For example:

    • The child is sad because he forgot his teddy bear. (Why is the child sad?)
    • After she finishes her essay, she will study for her test. (When will she study for her test?)
    • If the gas tank is empty, the car will not start. (For what reason will the car not start?)
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    Prepositional Phrases

    The third grammatical form that performs the grammatical function of adverbial is the prepositional phrase. Prepositions are traditionally defined as "words that relate nouns, adjectives, and verbs to other nouns, adjectives, and verbs." Prepositional phrases are phrases with a preposition functioning as the head of the phrase plus any noun phrases, verb phrases, noun clauses, and prepositional phrases functioning as prepositional complements. For example:

    • My mother waited in line for three hours. (Where and for how long did my mother wait?)
    • She wore two scarves and three hats because of the cold. (Why did she wear two scarves and three hats?)
    • The party ends at midnight. (When does the party end?)
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    Printable Download

    For a printable reference sheet of the five grammatical forms that perform the grammatical function of adverbial, please download English Adverbials Reference Sheet.

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    Please continue reading in part two for information on noun phrases and verb phrases functioning as adverbials as well as the positions of adverbials within English sentences.

References

  • Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

English Adverbials

Adverbials modify an entire clause by providing additional information about time, place, manner, condition, purpose, reason, result, and concession. The following series explains the five grammatical forms that function as adverbials as well as the positions of adverbials within English sentences.
  1. English Adverbials: Adverbs, Adverb Clauses, and Prepositional Phrases
  2. English Adverbials: Noun Phrases, Verb Phrases, and the Positions of Adverbials