English Grammar Basic Grammar and syntax

What is an adverbial clause? (with examples)

What is an adverbial clause? (with examples)

An adverbial clause is a group of words that plays the role of an adverb. (Like all clauses, an adverbial clause contains a subject and a verb.)

Interactive Examples of Adverbial Clauses

Here are some interactive examples to help explain the difference between adverbial clauses, adverbial phrases, and one-word adverbs. (In these examples, the subjects are blue and the verbs are green. Note that only adverbial clauses have a subject and a verb.)

  • Show Simon your project when he arrives.
  • He lost his double chin after he gave up chocolate.
  • Anne waited like a bound fly waits for the spider.
  • Mark will sit where he always sits.

Easy Example of an Adverbial Clause

Aquí hay un ejemplo fácil de una cláusula adverbial:

  • Keep hitting the gong until I tell you to stop.

Compare the example above with the similar sentence below, which presents an example with a normal adverb.

  • Keep hitting the gong hourly.
    (This bold text is a normal adverb, not an adverbial clause.)

In the two examples above, the adverbial clause and the normal adverb tell us when to strike the gong. Therefore, they are both adverbs of time.

Real-Life Examples of Adverbial Clauses

Here are some more examples (including some well-known proverbs and quotes) with adverbial clauses. These examples have been classified according to the type of adverbial clause (for example, adverb of time, adverb of place).

Adverbs of Time (When?)

An adverb of time indicates when something happens or how often. An adverb of time often begins with one of the following subordinate conjunctions:“after“,“as“,“as long as“,“as soon as“,“before“,“not before“,“since“,“until ,“when“o“while“.

Here are some examples:

  • After the game has finished, the king and pawn go into the same box. (Italian Proverb)
  • I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph. (Actress Shirley Temple)
  • As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live. (Writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Adverbs of Place (Where?)

Un adverbio de lugar indica dónde sucede algo. Un adverbio de lugar a menudo comienza con una preposición (por ejemplo,“in“,“about“,“fence“) or one of the following subordinate conjunctions:“anywhere“,“anywhere“,“where“o“anywhere“.

Here are some examples:

  • Anywhere the struggle is great, the level of ingenuity and inventiveness is high. (Economist Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin)
  • I am not afraid of the pen, the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please. (Lobbyist Mother Jones)

Adverbs of Manner (How?)

An adverb of manner indicates how something is done. An adverb of manner often begins with one of the following subordinate conjunctions:“as“,“like“o“the way“.

Here are some examples:

  • He acts like it is a joke.
  • We don’t have conversations. You talk at me the way a teacher talks to a naughty student.
  • Except for an occasional heart attack, I feel as young as I ever did. (Comedian Robert Benchley)

Adverbs of Degree or Comparison (To What Degree?)

An adverb of degree indicates the extent to which something is done or offers a comparison. An adverb of degree often begins with one of the following subordinate conjunctions:“what“,“how… how“,“as well as“o“the… the“.

Here are some examples:

  • A vacuum is a hell of a lot better than some of the stuff that nature replaces it with. (Playwright Tennessee Williams)
  • He is as smart as he is tall.
  • She is not so bright as she thinks she is.

A veces, el verbo en un adverbio de grado se sobreentiende (es decir, no presente). Por ejemplo:

  • You are taller than I. ✔️
    (In this example, the verb“am“you have been omitted. This is permissible.)
  • You are taller than I am. ✔️
    (This is the full version.)
  • You are taller than me. ✔️
    (This is the colloquial version. This version might irk some of your grammar-savvy readers, but it is acceptable.)

Adverbs of Reason (Why?)

An adverb of reason gives a reason for the main idea. An adverb of reason often begins with one of the following subordinate conjunctions:“as“,“why“,“given“o“since“.

Here are some examples:

  • I don’t have a bank account because I don’t know my mother’s maiden name. (Comedian Paula Poundstone)
  • Since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable. (Journalist Brenda Ueland)

Adverbs of Condition (If, Then)

An adverb of condition sets the condition for the main idea to take effect. An adverb of condition often begins with“and“o“unless“.

Here are some examples:

  • If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts. (Physicist Albert Einstein)
  • If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur. (Author Doug Larson)
  • If all the rich people in the world divided up their money among themselves, there wouldn’t be enough to go around. (Novelist Christina Stead)

Adverbs of Concession (In spite Of)

Un adverbio de concesión ofrece una declaración que contrasta con la idea principal. Un adverbio de concesión a menudo comienza con una de las siguientes conjunciones subordinadas:“though“,“though“,“though“,“while“,“considering“o“even if“.

Here are some examples:

  • Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it’s open to anybody who owns hideous clothing. (Author Dave Barry)
  • A loud voice cannot compete with a clear voice, even if it’s a whisper. (Author Barry Neil Kaufman)

Properties of an Adverbial Clause

Estas son las propiedades de una cláusula adverbial:

  • An adverbial clause is an adjunct. This means it can be removed without the sentence being grammatically wrong.
  • An adverbial clause is a dependent clause. This means it cannot stand alone as a meaningful sentence in its own right.
  • An adverbial clause usually starts with a subordinating conjunction (e.g.,“although,““because,““if,““until,““when“)
  • An adverbial clause contains a subject and a verb. (This is what makes it a clause as opposed to a phrase.)

Why Should I Care about Adverbial Clauses?

There’s a great reason to learn about adverbial clauses: the placement of commas.

Using commas with adverbial clauses

When your adverbial clause (or phrase for that matter) is at the beginning of a sentence (often called a front adverbial), it’s good practice to use a comma after it. For example:

  • Where there are too many soldiers, there is no peace. Where there are too many lawyers, there is no justice. (Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang) ✔️

When your adverbial clause is at the end, the tendency is to omit the comma. For example:

  • There is no peace where there are too many soldiers. There is no justice where there are too many lawyers. ✔️

Esta“rule“works well with most adverbial clauses (which tend to be adverbs of time, place, or condition). However, it is not a strict rule. It is best described as a guide that is very likely to see you well.

Let’s dig a little deeper. When your adverbial clause is in front, it’s safe to use a comma after it. The comma is considered useful to show where the adverbial clause ends and the main clause begins. When your adverbial clause is at the end of your sentence, things get a bit more complicated because it depends on whether the adverbial clause is essential (called a restrictive clause) or non-essential (called a non-restrictive clause). When absolutely necessary, do not use a comma.

As most adverbial clauses are essential, the rule“do not use a comma for a postponing adverbial clause (one at the end)“it is almost always safe… but not always. For example:

  • Jack didn’t win because he was the best player. He won because he paid the referee.
    (In this example, Jack actually won. The adverbial clause“because he was the best player“is deemed essential to distinguish it from the situation below.)
  • Jack didn’t win, because he was the worst player.
    (In this example, Jack lost, as you’d expect the worst player to.)

Este punto se cubre más en la entrada sobre cláusulas independientes (ver Puntos 3 y 4).

Don’t worry. There is indulgence. If you think your post-positioned adverbial clause looks better when it’s preceded by a comma, then there’s probably a good reason for that (e.g. it might not be essential, you might want a pause for effect, you might think which helps reading). These are all good reasons to use a comma. So go ahead. Enjoy the indulgence. But be careful not to change the meaning of your sentence (as would be the case with the above example of“why jack won“).

Key Points

  • If your adverbial clause is in front, use a comma.
  • Don’t use a comma if your adverbial clause is at the end, unless you think it helps.
    (In case you missed it, these key points introduce the points they’re explaining.)

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