Adverbial Clauses

As you know, clauses have subjects and verbs. Adverbial clauses are clauses that function as the adverb of the sentence.

"Adverbial Clauses" in the English Grammar

What Are Adverbial Clauses?

Adverbial clauses are dependent clauses that function as adverbs in a sentence. They modify the verb, adjective, or another adverb in a sentence by providing additional information about time, place, manner, condition, purpose, or contrast.

Adverbial Clauses: Characteristics

Let's discuss the four main characteristics of adverbial clauses:

  1. Adverbial clauses are adjuncts. (We can remove them without affecting grammaticality of the sentence)
  2. Adverbial clauses are dependent clauses. (They cannot form a meaningful sentence on their own.)
  3. Adverbial clauses normally start with a subordinating conjunction.
  4. Adverbial clauses must have a subject and a verb.

Adverbial Clauses: Types

Adverbial clauses modify the main verb of the independent clause by answering one of the following questions or talking about one of these topics:

Where

Adverbial clauses of place talk about where something happens. They often start with a preposition of place or a subordinating conjunctions of place like:

  1. where
  2. wherever
  3. anywhere
  4. everywhere

Take a look at some examples:

We can go wherever you like.

He was standing where you are standing now.

When or How Often

Adverbial clauses of time talk about when or how often something happens. They start with subordinating conjunctions of time, such as:

  1. when
  2. before
  3. after
  4. as long as
  5. as soon as
  6. while
  7. since
  8. until

She cries whenever she thinks about it.

We can go outside to play as long as we come back before it gets dark.

How

Adverbial clauses of manner talk about how something is done or happens. They start with subordinating conjunctions of manner like:

  1. as
  2. like
  3. as if
  4. as though

He looked at me as though I were his biggest enemy.

She talked to me like I was an idiot.

Why

Adverbial clauses of reason, purpose, and result talk about why the action of the sentence happens and what the result is. They start with one of the following subordinating conjunctions:

  1. Reason: because, since, as, given
  2. Purpose: in order to, so that, in order that, in case
  3. Results: so...that, such...that

They didn't enjoy the camping trip because the weather was so bad.

She opened the door quietly in order to not wake the kids up.

using an adverbial clause in a sentence

To What Degree

Adverbial clauses of degree talk about to what degree something happens or express comparison. They start with subordinating conjunctions of degree and comparison such as:

  1. as... as
  2. than
  3. so... as

Tipping a waiter is more common now than it was a decade ago.

She is as smart as she is pretty.

Condition

Adverbial clauses of condition talk about the condition stated in the main clause. They start with subordinating conjunctions of condition such as:

  1. if
  2. provided (that)
  3. providing
  4. unless
  5. lest

They can come with us provided that they pay for their share.

Brian will not sleep unless you tell him a story.

Concession

Adverbial clauses of concession or opposition talk about contrasts. They start with one of the following subordinating conjunctions:

  1. although
  2. even though
  3. though
  4. while
  5. whereas

I cannot accept that, although I appreciate your offer.

She must be about 30, whereas her husband looks about 60.

Adverbial Clauses: Structure

Adverbial clauses consist of the following parts:

  • The subject
  • The predicate: often a verb, but it can also be a verb plus its objects or modifiers
  • The dependent marker (also called subordinating conjunctions)
  • The object: the word influenced by the verb or preposition

Adverbial Clauses: Punctuation

When the adverbial clause is at the beginning of a sentence, a comma is used after it. This comma shows where the adverbial clause ends and the main clause starts. Pay attention to the example:

Even though he never went to college, he owns a thriving business.

When the adverbial clause is at the end of a sentence, you need to consider whether the adverbial clause is essential (also called restrictive) or non-essential (also called non-restrictive) to the overall meaning of the sentence.

  • When it is essential, do not use a comma.
  • When it is non-essential, use a comma.

He said he was happy where he was.

I used to read a lot, though I don't have much time for books now.

Adverbial Clause vs. Adverbial Phrase

An adverb clause must have a subject and a predicate. An adverb phrase, however, does not have a subject and a predicate:

Adverbial Clause Adverbial Phrase
if it rains after the game
when he met his wife in two weeks
before she goes to bed really nice

Review

Adverbial clauses are dependent clauses that modify the main verb in the independent clauses. They start with a subordinating conjunction and in order to make sense, they must connect to an independent clause. Adverbial clauses are used to answer the following questions or to express following concepts:

  • where
  • when or how often
  • how
  • why
  • To what degree
  • to express condition
  • to express concession

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