ADVERBIALS masterclass

This post helps you understand what adverbials are in English, different types of adverbials, and how to use them in a sentence.

What are adverbials in English?

An adverbial is a word, a phrase, or a clause that modifies a verb by giving information about it. Like a regular adverb, an adverbial can also modify an adjective or an adverb itself. But it usually modifies a verb.

Here are some examples of adverbials in sentences:

  • Let’s quickly finish the task.

The word quickly is an adverbial, modifying the verb finish by telling us how the action happens.

  • I will call you in the evening.

Here, the phrase in the evening is an adverbial. It is telling us the time of the action (call) and modifying it. 

  • She met me last night at a cafe.

In this sentence, we have two adverbial phrases: last night and at a cafe. The first adverbial is modifying the main verb met by telling us the time of the action, and the second one is telling us the place of the action.

  • I was calling you to ask something.

To ask something is an adverbial phrase of reason. It’s modifying the verb call and telling us the reason for the action.

  • The company fired Jon as he had been misbehaving with some female employees.

Here, we have a dependent clause working as an adverbial, modifying the main verb fired by talking about the reason for the action.

Adverbials explanation
Adverbials explanation

An adverbial can be a word, phrase, or clause

You might have already noticed that an adverbial can be a word, a phrase, or even a clause. Let’s look at them separately.  

As a word

  1. He slowly opened her bag and took a knife out of it.
  2. We sometimes watch horror movies.
  3. Could you pass it here?
  4. Call your father now.

As a phrase

  1. He taught us with a lot of excitement and maturity.
  2. We eat Chinese food once in a while.
  3. Jon and Ginny are fighting on your terrace.
  4. Bring a cup of coffee for me after the break.
  5. She was waiting there to pick up her brother.

As a clause

  • He was playing like it was his last day.
  • I will take you back in after you apologize to the girl you disrespected.
  • I hid the money where we met for the first time.
  • We all will go out for dinner when the meeting gets over.
  • She was doing overtime as she needed more money.

Types of adverbials

We have the following 7 types of adverbials in English:

  1. Adverbial of manner
  2. Adverbial of time
  3. Adverbial of reason
  4. Adverbial of place
  5. Sentence adverbial
  6. Adverbial of frequency
  7. Adverbial of degree

Adverbial of manner

Adverbials of manner modify a verb by talking about the manner in which they take place.

Examples:

  • They opened the box hastily
  • She quickly grabbed my hand.
  • He slowly drove to the wedding.

In these sentences, these adverbials of manner are single words. They can be phrases and clauses too. 

  • He spoke to the class in a polite tone.
  • I signed up for the program with a lot of excitement.
  • She can kick extremely fast.

When a phrase works as an adverb, we call it an adverbial phrase. Here, these phrases are working as adverbs, telling us the manner how these actions take place. Such phrases are called adverbial phrases of manner.

  • He was eating like he hadn’t eaten in years.
  • She screamed at me as if I were a ghost.
  • Jon was speaking to us as if he was the boss.

These are dependent clauses that are working as adverbs. Since they are modifying the verbs and telling us the reason for the actions, we call them adverbial clauses of manner. Notice that these adverbial clauses have a separate subject and a verb. That’s why these are clauses, not phrases.

Adverbial of time

Words that modify a verb and indicate its time are called the adverbial of time. 

Examples:

  • Moxie is taking a class now.
  • I bought these yesterday.
  • I will call you later.

It can be a phrase or a clause either. A phrase modifying a verb with time is called an adverbial phrase of time, and a clause modifying a verb with time is called an adverbial clause of time.

Examples:

  • We are opening a new branch very soon. (adverbial phrase)
  • Jon came to discuss something the day before yesterday. (adverbial phrase)
  • We will order food for everyone when the meeting gets over. (adverbial clause)
  • She left the place before I could reach there. (adverbial clause)

Adverbial of reason

Adverbials of reason are phrases or clauses that modify a verb by telling us the reason why it occurs. A single word can’t function as an adverbial of reason. It has to be a phrase (adverbial phrase of reason) or a clause (adverbial clause of reason).

Examples:

  • He joined boxing classes to learn self defence. (phrase)
  • We went to different cities to get investors. (phrase)
  • They left their jobs to start a business together. (phrase)
  • We are saving money, so we can start an NGO someday. (clause)
  • Saloni took the day off so that she can take proper rest. (clause)

An infinitive phrase working as an adverb can modify an adjective either. Here are some examples:

  • I am happy to see you. (telling us the reason for his happiness)
  • We were shocked to hear the news of his demise. (telling us the reason of the state we were in)

Adverbial of place

Adverbials of place are words, phrases, and clauses that modify a verb by talking about where the action takes place.

Examples:

  • Bring the kid here.
  • Don’t go there. It’s not safe.
  • We will meet in the park.
  • You can’t eat in the classroom.
  • You can play wherever you want.
  • I have never been to where you went last week.

Sentence adverbial

Sentence adverbs are single words that modify a complete sentence.

Examples:

  • Fortunately, I was there to help you. (It is fortunate that I was there to help you)

(Here, the adverbial is showing the speaker’s attitude towards the situation. It shows what he/she thinks about the situation.)

  • Shockingly, he finished everything within an hour. (It is shocking that he finished everything within an hour)

(The entire situation is shocking to the speaker.)

  • Obviously she is coming to the party. (It is obvious that she is coming to the party)

Adverbial of frequency

These are words that indicate the frequency of an action. They tell us how often an action takes place.

Examples:

  • We hardly have parties at home.
  • I have never seen this movie.
  • She usually comes here to have noodles.
  • Jon daily visits this temple.

An adverbial of frequency is usually a word. But it can be a phrase too.

  • We see each other once in a while.
  • I drink once in a blue moon.

Here, the phrase ‘once in a while’ means ‘occasionally’, and the phrase ‘once in a blue moon’ means ‘rarely’.

Adverbial of degree

An adverbial of degree talks about to what degree something is true. It refers to the intensity of the word it modifies. It can modify a verb, an adjective, or an adverb.

Examples:

  • I have almost finished my work. (Modifying the verb finished)
  • The coffee is too hot. (Modifying the adjective hot)
  • My sister Jenny is extremely soft-spoken. (Modifying the adjective soft-spoken)
  • He kicks somewhat fast. (Modifying the adverb fast)

Different forms of adverbials (types)

Here are the different units that function as adverbials in English:

  1. Prepositional phrase
  2. Infinitive phrase
  3. Dependent clause
  4. Regular adverb
  5. Regular adverb phrase

Prepositional phrase

A prepositional phrase is called an adverbial phrase when it functions as an adverb and modifies a verb. Let’s study some examples of prepositional phrases working as adverbs.

Examples:

  • I was waiting for you at the main bus stop.

The prepositional phrase at the main bus stop is working as an adverb, modifying the verb waiting and telling us the place of the action. Since it’s functioning as an adverb, we call it an adverbial phrase.

  • Let’s meet here in the evening.

In this example, the prepositional phrase in the evening is working as an adverb, telling us the time when the action takes place.

More examples:

  • I’ll call you in some time.
  • He is hiding behind the curtains.
  • Alex sang us his favourite song with tears in his eyes.
  • He dances like a professional dancer.

Note: when prepositional phrases function as an adjective, we don’t call it an adverbial phrase. We call it an adjective or adjectival phrase.

Infinitive phrase

An infinitive phrase is called an adverbial phrase when it modifies a verb. As a verb modifier, it indicates the reason or purpose of the action. Let’s study some examples of infinitive phrases working as adverbs.

Examples:

  • I am coming there to pick you up.

To pick you up is an infinitive phrase that modifies the main verb and tells us the reason for the action. Since it functions as an adverb, we call it an adverbial phrase

  • He is taking our extra classes to help us pass the exam.

Here, to help us pass the exam is the Infinitive phrase that is working as an adverb. It’s telling us the reason why the action is happening (why he’s taking extra classes).

More examples:

  • I left early to see you again.
  • The university has reduced admission fees to motivate more students to enroll.
  • Sunil has settled in London to earn more money.

Note: we call infinitive phrases adverbial phrases only when they function as adverbs, not when they function as adjectives. 

Infinitive phrases as adjectives

  • This is the right movie to refer to someone like Jon.
  • We have nothing to eat right now.
  • Micheal Chiesa is the only person to play carefully in the next match.

In these examples, the infinitive phrases (underlined) are working as adjectives, modifying the nouns/pronouns movie, nothing, and person.

Dependent clause (adverbial clause)

When a dependent clause functions as an adverb, we call it an adverbial clause. As an adverb, it modifies a verb or an adjective (generally a verb).

Examples:

  • We will go to a nice cafe after this boring class gets over.
  • Don’t call me until you arrange the money.
  • She left the organisation as she was offered more somewhere else.
  • You are eating this like you haven’t had food in decades.
  • She follows me everywhere I go.

Note: we don’t call a dependent clause an adverbial clause when it works as an adjective. In this case, we call it an adjective clause.

  • The man who killed your father was released yesterday.
  • Have you seen the diary that we bought last month from the LP Market?

Regular adverb

These are words that function as adverbs only. Most of these words end with ‘ly’. But they don’t necessarily have to end with it; there are some adverbs that don’t end with ly.

Here are some examples of regular adverbs:

  • She dances beautifully.
  • He swiftly changed his dress and got ready for the party.
  • The girl slowly walked up to me and said sorry.
  • Ashish talks with everyone confidently.
  • The boy looked at me innocently.

Here are some examples of regular adverbs that don’t end with ‘ly’:

  • You run fast.
  • She hit me hard.
  • I’ll call you later.
  • Show me the trick now.
  • I just finished the office work.

These words are called adverbs as their only function is to modify a verb. But they are adverbials too as they function as adverbs. All adverbs in the English language are adverbials, but all adverbials are not adverbs. We will understand this going forward in the lesson.

Regular adverb phrase

A regular adverb is a phrase formed using a regular adverb and an intensifier/mitigator. We call them adverb phrases or regular adverb phrases as they are formed from a regular adverb.

  • You hit us very hard
  • She runs quite fast.
  • He hit me extremely hard.

You can notice that these adverb phrases are formed using a regular adverb and a word that either intensifies or mitigates the meaning of the adverb.

Adverbial vs Adverb

An adverbial is a bigger term that represents all words, phrases, and clauses that function as an adverb. An adverb, on the other hand, refers to single words that modify a verb, adjective, or adverb. 

An adverb is one of the 8 parts of speech, but an adverbial is not a part of speech. It’s a term we have given to something that works as an adverb. Understand this: all adverbs are adverbials, but all adverbials are not adverbs.

We include adverbs in adverbials or call them adverbials as they are adverbs. They modify a verb, adjective, or adverb. But regular adverbs are usually called adverbs, not adverbials. Though they are adverbials as the latter (adverbials) is a bigger term.

Can we call adverbials adverbs?

We can’t do that. See, adverbials include prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, and dependent clauses. But these grammatical units don’t necessarily always function as adverbs. This is not their only function. They can function differently. That’s why we can’t call adverbs directly.

Adverbs are words that can’t function otherwise; they always function as adverbs (modify a verb, adjective, or adverb)

  • You dance gracefully

Gracefully is an adverb here in the sentence. It simply can’t function in any other way; it’ll always function as an adverb. That’s why we call it an adverb (a regular adverb). 

  • He spoke with a lot of courage.

Here, with a lot of courage is a prepositional phrase that’s working as an adverb. Since it’s not a regular adverb phrase and works as an adverb, we will call it an adverbial phrase.

We can use this phrase differently in another sentence. We can use it as an adjective.

  • A man with a lot of courage can do anything in life.

Here, this phrase is a part of the noun phrase (a man with a lot of courage). It’s working as an adjective and modifying the head noun man. That’s why we didn’t or couldn’t call it an adverb phrase.

FAQs

What is an example of an adverbial?

An adverbial in English is any word, phrase, or clause that functions as an adverb.

Examples:
1. He confidently spoke to the management. (modifies the verb spoke)
2. He spoke to the management with a lot of confidence. (a phrase modifying the verb spoke)
3. He spoke to the management as if he were the boss. (a clause modifying the verb spoke)

What are the types of Adverbials?

Here are the 5 types of adverbials in English:

1. Prepositional phrase
2. Infinitive phrase
3. Dependent clause
4. Regular adverb
5. Regular adverb phrase

Examples:
1. She is hiding behind the curtains.
2. I came early to see you again.
3. We will go to a nice cafe after this boring class gets over.
4. She dances beautifully.
5. She runs quite fast.

What is the difference between adverb and adverbial?

Adverbs, one of ther 8 parts of speech, modify verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. On the other hand, adverbials act like adverbs. They are prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, or dependent clauses that function as adverbs. These are not considered a part of speech. An adverbial is a bigger term that includes adverbs, and adverbs don’t include adverbials.

What is an adverbial noun?

An adverbial noun is a noun or a noun phrase that function as an adverb.

Ex – I slept early last night.

Here, last night is a noun phrase that is working as an adverb, modifying the main verb ‘slept’ with time.

Can there be two Adverbials in a sentence?

Yes, there can be two or more adverbials in a sentence, depending on the information that is needed to be provided.

Ex – We left early to reach there on time.

Here, we have two adverbials: early and to reach there on time.

How do you make Adverbials?

We can use prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, and dependent clauses as an adverbial. And regular adverbs (adverbials) are generally formed by using ‘ly’ at the end of adjectives.

Adjectives adverbials
Slow slowly
Careful carefully
Brave bravely
Crazy crazily

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