Adverbs phrases in English

Welcome to another lesson, smart brains! This lesson will help you master everything about adverb phrases in English, also known as adverbial phrases.

What are adverb phrases? what are adverbial phrases? How are they any different from adverbs in English? How to find an adverb phrase? We will be answering these and some more questions in detail.

What are adverb phrases in English?

An adverb phrase in English is a group of words that modifies the main verb of a sentence. Just like an adverb, an adverb phrase also tells us WHY, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW an action takes or took place.

Definition of an adverbial phrase by Wikipedia!

Look at the following examples:

  • Ashish teaches English.
  • Ashish teaches English here.
  • Ashish teaches English right here without any book.

The first sentence has a subject (Ashish), a verb (teaches), and the object of the verb teaches (English).

The second sentence, apart from having a subject, a verb, and an object, has an adverb of place here. It is modifying the verb teaches and tells us where the action of teaching happens.

The third example has two adverb phrases that are giving more details about the action teaches. Right here, the first adverb phrase is telling us where the action of teaching happens, and the second adverb, without any book, tells us how the action of teaching happens.

Now, do we really have to answer why adverb phrases are important to use! We just saw how using adverbs phrases makes our sentence more detailed by telling us the details of the action.

adverb phrases examples
adverb phrases examples

Adverb phrases examples

  • Jon played the guitar surprisingly well. (Describes HOW the action happened)
  • My sister prepares food very quickly. (Describes HOW the action happens)
  • That day, you performed extremely beautifully. (Describes WHEN and HOW the action happened)
  • Jimmy is sleeping on the floor. (Describes WHERE the action is happening)
  • You should avoid going around that place. (Describes WHERE the action should not happen)
  • I am doing everything to make people happy. (Describes WHY the action is happening)
  • You should start listening to English to learn it better. (Describes WHY the action should happen)
  • You will get a call from the company after a few days. (Describes WHEN the action happens)

If you guys notice, these examples have prepositional phrases and infinitive phrases working as adverbs, modifying the main verb in the sentence.

Adverb phrases/adverbial phrases of Time (WHEN)

Adverb phrases of time describe WHEN the action takes/took place in the sentence.

  • After the match
  • In the next 3 years
  • Within a few months
  • As soon as possible
  • Very soon
  • Last night
  • The day before yesterday
  • Any time
  • In the evening

Adverbial phrases examples in sentences

  • Let’s meet after the match.
  • He wants to have his own brand in the next 3 years.
  • If you start listening to English, your listening and speaking skills will improve within a few months.
  • We will reach out to you as soon as possible.
  • She is getting married very soon.
  • We had a crazy party last night.
  • Your cousin Riya called me the day before yesterday.
  • You can call me at any time.
  • Let’s meet in the evening.

These adverb phrases of time are modifying the verb of the sentences by talking about the time of the action.

Adverb phrases/adverbial phrases of Place (WHERE)

Adverb phrases of place describe WHERE the action takes/took place in the sentence.

  • Behind our school
  • At the station
  • By the police station
  • In front of my house
  • Under the bed
  • Behind the curtains
  • In the face
  • On the lips

Adverbial phrases examples in sentences

  • We used to fight behind our school.
  • Don’t wait for me; I’ll see you at the station directly.
  • He lives by the police station.
  • Some people are fighting in front of my house.
  • Jimmy is hiding under the bed.
  • She could hide behind the curtains too.
  • Joey smacked him in the face and knocked him out.
  • Last night, she kissed me on the lips. It was beautiful.

The adverb phrases (colored red) are modifying the verbs by talking about where they are taking place.

Adverb phrases/adverbial phrases of Reason (WHY)

Adverb phrases of reason describe WHY the action takes/took place in the sentence.

  • To succeed in life
  • To pursue higher education
  • To pay their loans
  • To make my family happy
  • To eradicate poverty from the world
  • To impress others
  • To be calm and composed
  • To educate others

Adverbial phrases examples in sentences

  • Most people don’t push themselves enough to succeed in life.
  • Max is going to London to pursue higher education.
  • People are selling themselves to pay their loans.
  • I am working day and night to make my family happy.
  • We need to educate every single human being living on the planet to eradicate poverty from the world.
  • People buy stupid things to impress others.
  • To be calm and composed, I meditate daily.
  • To educate others, they are running a school for free.

The adverb phrases (colored red) are modifying the verbs in these sentences by talking out why they are taking place.

Adverb phrases/adverbial phrases of Manner (HOW)

Adverb phrases of manner describe HOW the action takes/took place in the sentence.

  • Very well
  • Lightning fast
  • Extremely carefully
  • Very easily
  • In a low voice
  • With a lot of zeal and compassion
  • Like a grown-up man

Adverbial phrases examples of sentences

  • You cook very well.
  • Max kicks lightning fast.
  • You have to do it extremely carefully.
  • Some people can convince you very easily. I want this power too.
  • Max answered my call in a low voice.
  • Jenny always talks with a lot of zeal and compassion.
  • You need to behave like a grown-up man.

These adverb phrases (colored red) are telling in what manner the action is happening.

Check out Yourdictionary in case you need more examples!


Types of adverbial phrases

1. An adverb and an intensifier

We can form adverb phrases/adverbial phrases using a regular adverb and an intensifier (words that make adverbs stronger) or a mitigator (words that make adverbs stronger).

  • You look very well.
    Main adverb = well, intensifier = very
  • Max kicks lightning fast.
    Main adverb = fast, intensifier = lightning
  • You look quite well.
    Main adverb = well, mitigator = quite
  • Max kicks somewhat fast.
    Main adverb = fast, mitigator = somewhat

Common intensifiers = very, extremely, completely, highly, rather, really, so, too, totally, utterly, etc.
Common mitigators = fairly, pretty, slightly, quite, somewhat, etc.

2. Prepositional phrases

Prepositional phrases can function as both adjectives and adverbs. They start with a preposition and are followed by the object of the preposition.

  • We used to fight behind our school.
    Preposition = behind
    The object of the preposition = our school
  • Max answered my call in a low voice.
    Preposition = in
    The object of the preposition = a low voice

Both prepositional phrases are working as adverbial phrases as they are modifying the main verb in the sentence. The first adverbial phrase tells us WHERE the action would happen, and the second tells us HOW the action happened.

  • Fight WHERE?
  • Behind our school
  • Answered the call HOW?
  • In a low voice

3. Infinitive phrases

Infinitive phrases also function as adverbs; they also modify verbs. They start with an infinitive (TO + V1).

  • People are selling themselves to pay their loans.
    Infinitive = to pay
    The object of the infinitive = their loans
  • Most people don’t push themselves enough to succeed in life.
    Infinitive = to succeed
    The modifier of the infinitive = in life

How to find adverb phrases in a sentence?

I know my smart brains know how to find adverb phrases in a sentence. ūüėČ

Still, let me show how to do it. Find the main verbs in the following sentences and ask WHY/WHERE/WHEN/AND to them. The result will be your adverb phrases.

  • The girl is sitting on the table.
    Sitting WHERE?
    Adverb phrase = on the table
  • He eats like a pig.
    Eats HOW?
    Adverb phrase = like a pig
  • My friend Monu got me a phone to make me happy.
    Got me a phone WHY?
    Adverb phrase = to make me happy
  • She will call me after 10 p.m.
    Call WHEN?
    Adverb phrase = after 10 p.m.

Important points

1. Punctuate adverb phrases correctly.

If you start a sentence with an adverb phrase, offset it using a comma after it. But when it comes at the end of a sentence, don’t use a comma.

  • To earn more money, Max is doing night shifts these days.
  • In my childhood, I used to trouble my mother a lot.

Using a comma after the adverb phrase (when it comes at the beginning of a sentence) helps us understand where it ends, and it also creates a dramatic effect.

  • Max is doing night shifts these days to earn more money.
  • I used to trouble my mother a lot in my childhood.

2. Don’t get confused between adverb phrases and adjective phrases.

If you misplace your adverb phrases, you could end up having adjective phrases. Look at the following example:

  • Let’s check out the bike in the next room.

Is the prepositional phrase modifying the verb CHECK OUT or the noun BIKE? Shall we go to the next room to check out the bike or check out the bike that is in the next room?

Confused? ūüėČ

The prepositional phrase is intended to modify the verb, but it seems to be modifying the noun, logically. In such a case, rephrasing or rewording is the best way to avoid the confusion.

  • Let’s go into the next room and check out the bike.

3. You can have multiple adverb phrases in your sentence.

If you wish to, you can use multiple adverb phrases in your sentence. Let me show you an example:

  • After the match, we will have a party at my house to celebrate our victory.

We have three adverb phrases in the above sentence. Grammarmonster has explained a couple of these points too.

Adverb phrases vs adverb clauses

Don’t confuse adverb clauses with adverb phrases or the other way around.

An adverb clause is a group of words that has a subject-verb combination and works as an adverb in a sentence.

So both, adverb phrases and adverb clauses, modify a verb in a sentence. But adverb phrases don’t have a subject-verb combination; that’s why they are called phrases, not clauses. One more difference is that adverb clauses always start with a subordinating conjunction which adverb phrases do not.

The guy is looting people because he is crazy about money.

(Because he is crazy about money is the adverb clause that’s giving the reason why the subject is doing the action: looting. It starts with a subordinating conjunction (because) and has a subject (the guy), and a verb (does). The presence of the subject-verb combination makes it a clause, and since it modifies the main verb, it becomes an adverb.)

The guy is looting people because of money.

(Because of money is the adverb phrase in the sentence. It doesn’t have a subject-verb combination in it; hence, it is a phrase, not a clause. Because of money is a prepositional phrase that’s working as an adverb, modifying the verb looting.)

More examples of adverb clauses:

  • She is laughing as if there is no one in the class.
    (An adverb clause of manner = describes HOW the action is happening)
  • Most people do all the crazy things before they get married.
    (An adverb clause of time = describes WHEN the action happens)
  • My dog Jimmy follows me wherever I go.
    (An adverb clause of place = describes WHERE the action happens)
  • Max did not come to play with us yesterday as he was hospitalized.
    (An adverb clause of reason = describes WHY the action did not happen)

So, that is what adverb phrases, commonly known as adverbial phrases, are. Please don’t keep the knowledge to yourself; empower others by sharing it with them.

Here’s my video lesson that explains the use of adverbs phrases. Give it a watch:

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