Adverbial Phrase: Meaning & Examples


adverbial clause

The English language has various elements known as parts of speech. Different English words are placed in these parts of speech are based on their functions. They are divided into 8 different categories: Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, interjections, prepositions and conjunctions.
Our interest today is on adverbs, which come from verbs.
A verb is a doing word. It is a word describing an action or occurrence. Examples of verbs are:

  • Eat
  • Drive
  • Cry

An adverb is derived from a verb. It is a word that modifies a verb, adjective( a word that modifies a noun), another adverb, or a whole sentence.
What is the difference between adverb and adverbial?
Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs while adverbials act like adverbs to modify a verb or a clause. Adverbials can consist of a single word or an entire phrase.

What is an adverbial phrase?

Before we get to the definition of adverbial phrases, we should first know what a phrase is. A phrase is a group of words that work together to form meaning. We have among many other phrases, adverbial phrases. An adverbial phrase refers to a group of words that function as an adverb.
Adverbial phrases modify other words by explaining why, how, where, or when an action occurred. They may also describe the conditions of an action or object or the degree to which an action or object was affected. Usually, an adverbial phrase does not contain a subject and a verb. However, when it does, it is referred to as an adverbial clause.

What is an adverbial clause?

A clause is simply a group of words that contains a verb. It usually forms part of a sentence but can also form meaning on its own. An adverbial clause is a group of words that function as an adverb in a sentence. They must contain a subject and a verb to be complete. An adverb clause also begins with a subordinating conjunction such as “after,” and “if”.
Examples of an adverb clause:

  • Because he loved her, he didn’t accept to sign the divorce papers.
  • English, although a common language, is hard for others.

Examples of adverbial phrases

List of adverbials

An adverb phrase mainly answers the questions of how(manner), why(reason), where(place), when(time). They answer these questions and still maintain the adverbial definition.
Adverb Phrases of Manner(How)

  • Like a baby
  • In total silence
  • Often under duress
  • In a low manner
  • Quite easily

Adverb Phrases of place(where)

  • In the front
  • Through the looking glass
  • Near the edge
  • Under the bus
  • Around the world

Adverb Phrases of purpose(Why)

  • In order to leave
  • Her happily ever after
  • For pity’s sake
  • To make the most of it
  • To end discrimination

Adverb Phrases of time(when)

  • In a second
  • Yesterday afternoon
  • Before the game.
  • Never at midnight
  • Every day

Adverb phrase in a sentence

An adverbial phrase can be used in any position in a sentence, the beginning, the middle and the end and still have meaning.

  • I will call back in a second.
  • Time and again we have fought to end discrimination
  • The children sat in total silence
  • They hid their bags under the bus
  • We were supposed to meet yesterday afternoon.

What are the types of adverbial phrases?

Adverbs with intensifiers

An adverbial phrase is formed when an adverb’s intensity is modified by another adverb. Modifying adverbs that decrease the intensity of the main adverb are known as mitigators, while intensifiers increase intensity. For example:” very, extremely ”

  • “The child is walking very slowly back to the class.” (mitigator)
  • “She looked- extremely beautiful  on her birthday” (intensifier)

Prepositional phrases

A preposition is a word that shows a relationship between a noun or pronoun and some other word in the sentence. Examples:

  • On
  • In
  • Over
  • Through

prepositional phrase is, therefore, a phrase that begins with a preposition. Modifiers used include the articles ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’, or any adjective that describes the noun. The phrases usually act adverbially, providing additional information about verbs.

Which sentence uses a prepositional phrase as an adverbial phrase?

To determine this in a sentence:
1. Find the noun or pronoun that follows the preposition.
2. Ask yourself which other word in the sentence is related to this noun or pronoun by the preposition.
3. If there is another word in the sentence and it is a verb, then the prepositional phrase is an adverb phrase.
Examples of prepositional phrases:

  • They were playing poker in the boardroom.

In this sentence, the prepositional phrase in the boardroom is an adverbial phrase, because it is modifying the verb playing.

  • Racing toward the finish line, Michael realized he might win.
  • All my cards need to be placed in my purse.

Infinitive phrases

An infinitive phrase is an adverb phrase that begins with a verb in the infinitive form (the form of the verb beginning with the particle to)

  • To play
  • To jump
  • To skip

Similar to prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases can act as adverbial phrases if they modify a verb, adverb, or adjective.

  • She went to the lake to fish.
  • Fill in this form to join our group
  • My mother went to church to sing.

How do you identify an adverbial phrase?

  1. If you have a group of words that is functioning as an adverb and doesn’t have a subject and a verb, it is an adverbial phrase.
  2. An adverb phrase answers the following types of questions about a verb: when, where, why, how, to what extent, under what conditions.

There are a few things to note about adverbial phrases:

1.Use commas correctly with your adverb phrases.
When an adverbial phrase is at the start of a sentence, it is known as a fronted adverbial. A fronted adverbial is usually offset with a comma.
Fronted adverbial examples:

  • At 2 o’clock, let the children watch “Johnny English” all rights reserved.
  • In the middle of November, temperatures reach very low levels.

When an adverbial phrase is at the back, the comma is omitted.

  • Let the children watch “Johnny English.” all rights reserved at 2 o’clock.
  • Temperatures reach very low levels in the middle of November.

Adverbial phrases are also used at both ends:

  • In December, temperatures go really low in the middle of New York.
  • In the middle of New York, temperatures go really low in December.

2. Save word count by using “to” instead of “in order to.”
It is possible to replace the words “in order to” with “to” without any loss of meaning, just to reduce word count, if need be.

  • They spent two months with the rescue team in order to gain experience.

can be:

  • They spent two months with the rescue team to gain experience.

Practice questions

How many adverbial phrases are included in the sentences below? Identify by underlining.

  1. New year is celebrated in modern China.
  2. He performed his tasks in a moderate way.
  3. My father works extremely hard all the time.
  4. The choir sang around the Times Square.
  5. We saw him on television.


Show Buttons
Hide Buttons