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Adverbial Phrase






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Mastering Adverbial Phrases

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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Learning how to effectively use adverbial phrases is an essential skill for every English language learner. Adverbial phrases are word clusters that provide more description or context to a verb, adjective, or even another adverb. Adverbial words, when used correctly, may considerably improve the clarity and efficacy of communication by indicating time, frequency, manner, location, or degree. Adverbial expressions contain words and phrases like “in the morning,” “on the contrary,” “with great care,” and “to a certain extent.” To master the use of adverbial phrases, one must be familiar with their many forms and the criteria governing their integration into sentences. Learning to effectively use adverbial phrases is a key to elevating your spoken and written communication to the next level.

What is an adverbial phrase?

Adverbial phrases are word clusters used in place of a single adverb. It’s a group of words that modify an adverb. Adverbial phrases offer more detail to a sentence’s description of an event or situation by modifying a verb, adjective, or even another adverb.

Adverbial phrases are word clusters that modify a sentence’s meaning in this way. There is an adverb (a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb) and other words that elaborate on the situation being described. Adverbial phrases are words or phrases that modify the meaning of a sentence by explaining when, when, why, or how something occurs.

Functions of adverbial phrases in a sentence

Adverbial phrases serve many purposes inside a sentence. Adverbs may provide more detail to a statement by modifying a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Time, location, technique, frequency, and intensity may all be conveyed with adverbial words. Opinions, points of view, and explanations of why a certain action or situation occurred may all be expressed using  adverbial phrases.

Examples of adverbial phrases

Here are some examples of adverbial phrases:

  • “In the evening,” he mostly goes on a jog. (Action time)
  • “In the shop,” they built a cupboard. (Action place)
  • “Quickly and hastily,” he drifted the car. (Action manner)
  • “Thrice a day,” she goes for a walk. (Action frequency)
  • “To pass the text,” he copied throughout the exam. (Action purpose)

Adverbial sentences are often created via prepositions, adverbs or additional adjectives.  For instance, “in the early hours” is created using the preposition “in,” “gradually and meticulously” is created via both the adjectives “gradually”  and “meticulously,” and “to certain degree” is created via the adverb “certain” and the noun “degree.”

Few more examples:

  • “After the sunny day,” the clouds started raining. (Action time)
  • “In the day,” the boy ran. (Action time)
  • “With high power,” Thor lifted the hammer. (Action manner)
  • “Slowly and Steadily,” he walked around the house. (Action manner)
  • “In conclusion,” the project was successful. (Opinion)

Types of Adverbial Phrases

Groups of words used to modify a verb, adjective, or even another adverb are called adverbial phrases. They elaborate on the described action or condition by specifying when,where,how, or to what extent it occurred. 

Depending on their role in the sentence, adverbial phrases may be broken down into many distinct categories. This article will focus on two kinds of adverbial phrases: those that relate to time and those that describe location.

Adverb of time phrases

Adverbs of time are adverbial phrases that specify when something happened or was in a certain condition. These may specify the time, length or regularity of an activity or condition. Here are a few instances of adverbs of time:

  • Today, I will be going to the mall. (specific time)
  • He was playing for five hours. (duration)
  • She always sleeps late. (frequency)
  • Beginning: Next, we will discuss the budget for the upcoming project.
  • Middle: I need to finish this report before the deadline next Monday.
  • End: Once we are done with visiting the museum, we can head to the restaurant next.

Common subtypes (e.g. adverb of past time, adverb of future time)

The exact moment to which an adverb of time refers allows for further categorization of these sentences. The following are examples of popular kinds of time adverb phrases:

  1. Adverb of past time: yesterday, last night, a week ago, etc.
  2. Adverb of present time: now, at the moment, today, etc.
  3. Adverb of future time: tomorrow, next week, soon, etc.
  4. Adverb of duration: for three hours, all day, all night, etc.
  5. Adverb of frequency: always, often, sometimes, rarely, etc.

How to use adverb of time phrases in a sentence

The placement of adverb of time phrases in a sentence depends on the context and the meaning they provide. They can be used at the beginning, middle, or at the conclusion of a sentence. For instance:

  • Today, I will be going to the mall. (Beginning of sentence)
  • I am going today to the mall. (Middle of sentence)
  • I am going to the mall today. (End of sentence)

Adverb of place phrases

Adverbs of place are adverbial words that specify the physical location of the activity or condition being described. They can pinpoint the location, bearing, and distance to an event or condition. Here are a few instances of adverbs of place:

  • He was working next to us. (specific place)
  • He is walking towards the park. (direction)
  • The store is far from here. (distance)

Common subtypes (e.g. adverb of direction, adverb of location)

It is possible to further categorise adverbs of place phrases according to the exact location or direction they describe. The following are examples for it:

  • Adverb of location: here, there, somewhere, nowhere, etc.
  • Adverb of direction: towards, away, forward, backward, etc.
  • Adverb of distance: far, near, close, etc.

How to use adverb of place phrases in a sentence

Depending on their significance and the general structure of the sentence, phrases may also be put at the beginning, in the middle, or at the conclusion. For instance:

  • Next to me, she is sitting. (Beginning of the sentence)
  • She is sitting next to me. (Middle of the sentence)
  • She is sitting at my end. (End of the sentence)

Adverb of manner phrases

Adverbs of manners modify verbs to describe the way in which an action or occurrence occurs. They describe the process through which something is completed. Here are some illustrative adverbs of manner:

  • She sang beautifully.
  • He ran quickly.
  • They played carefully.
  • She spoke softly.
  • He worked hard.

Common subtypes (e.g. adverb of degree, adverb of instrument)

Various adverbs of manner phrase kinds provide additional aspects of the activity being carried out. Several typical categories include:

  • Adverb of degree: These adverbial words emphasise the seriousness or scope of the situation being described.

  • Adverb of instrument: These adverbial expressions designate the implements that facilitate the activity at hand. A few ways are given: “with a pencil,” “by hand,” and “using a hammer.”

How to use adverb of manner phrases in a sentence

Adverbs of manners are often placed after the verb they modify, however they may sometimes appear at the sentence’s beginning or conclusion. Some instances are as follows:

  • She danced gracefully across the stage.
  • He spoke loudly into the microphone.
  • They walked slowly and carefully down the steep hill.

Adverb of frequency phrases

Adverbs of frequency describe how frequently something happens. They tell you how often the incident will happen again. Some frequent adverb phrases are as follows:

  • She always wakes up early.
  • He rarely eats fast food.
  • They often travel abroad.
  • She occasionally goes to the gym.
  • He never forgets his keys.

Common subtypes 

Common adverbs of frequency fall into two categories: those with a known frequency and those with an undetermined one.

  • Adverb of definite frequency: These adverbial words specify times during which an activity or occurrence takes place.

  • Adverb of indefinite frequency: These adverbial phrases convey a general impression of how frequently something occurs without giving a precise frequency. Typical instances of these expressions include “often,” “sometimes,” “rarely,” and “never.”

How to use adverb of frequency phrases in a sentence

Adverbs of frequency are placed in front of the verb they modify. Adverbs of frequency follow auxiliary verbs in constructions using them. Some instances are as follows:

  • He always studies before an exam.
  • They rarely go to the cinema.
  • She often visits her grandparents on weekends.
  • He never drinks alcohol.
  • We sometimes go hiking in the mountains.

Adverb of degree phrases

Phrases called “adverbs of degree” adjust the scope or strength of a verb, adjective, or even another adverb. These adverbial phrases are useful for providing further clarity and specificity to a statement.

Phrases denoting degree or intensity are called adverbs of degree, and they may be used to modify verbs, adjectives, and even other adverbs. In the phrase, “She was very happy,” the adverb “very” modifies the adjective “happy” to emphasise the extreme nature of her joy. Another use of the adverbial phrase “extremely” is in the sentence “He was extremely tired,” where the adjective “tired” is modified to emphasise the severe weariness of the subject.

Common subtypes (e.g. adverb of comparison, adverb of emphasis)

Adverbs of degree may be broken down into several subtypes, such as adverbs of comparison and adverbs of emphasis. Adverbs of comparison, such as “more,” “less,” “better,” and “worse,” compare the intensity of two entities. A common comparison is, “She sings better than he does.” Certain adverbs, including “absolutely,” “completely,” and “totally,” are used to emphasise the intensity of an action or attribute. 

How to use adverb of degree phrases in a sentence

Adverb of degree phrases need careful consideration when included into a sentence. They usually go in front of the verb or adjective they modify. An example might be, “He couldn’t wait to leave for vacation.” However, if the adverbial phrase is an adverb of frequency, such as in “He rarely exercises,” it should come before the main verb.

Adverbial Phrases vs. Adverbial Clauses

Modifying a verb, adjective, or even another adverb in a sentence may be done using either an adverbial phrase or an adverbial clause.

Differences between adverbial phrases and adverbial clauses

Adverbial Phrases Adverbial Clauses
Modify a verb, adjective, or adverb with a grouping of one or more adverbs or words operating as adverbs.
Include a subject and a predicate joined by a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun.
Lack a subject and a predicate.
Possess a predicate, which may be either a finite or non-finite verb, and a subject.
Does not impact the grammatical structure of the phrase if inserted elsewhere.
Separated by a comma and put after the main sentence.
The meaning of a verb, adjective, or adverb may be altered by adding adverbial qualifiers such as these: when, where, how much, and how often.
May serve as either a noun or an adjective, and can affect the meaning of verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

Examples of adverbial clauses and adverbial phrases in sentences

Adverbial Phrases:

She sings very loudly : The adverbial phrase “very loudly” modifies the verb “sings” to indicate the speaker’s volume level. 

I ran into him yesterday in the park:  (the adverbial phrase “yesterday at the park” is added to the verb “saw” to specify a time and location)

Adverbial Clauses:

Despite her fatigue, she kept going. With the subordinating conjunction “although” introducing the clause and the verb “continued” modifying it to show concession, he promised to show up the next day. (preceded by the conjunction “that” and modified by the verb “said” to denote reported speech)

Placement of Adverbial Phrases

The location of an adverbial phrase in a sentence is determined by the writer’s purpose and the intended meaning. Rules for adverbial phrase placement are provided below.

Rules for placing adverbial phrases in sentences

Rules for placing adverbial phrases in sentences are important because they can affect the sentence’s meaning and the communication’s clarity. Adverbial phrases provide additional information about the verb in a sentence, such as when, where, why, or how something is done.

Placing an adverbial phrase in the wrong position can change the sentence’s intended meaning or make it unclear. For example, consider the sentence, “He only drives on the highway on Sundays”. If the adverbial phrase “only” is moved to a different position, such as “He drives only on the highway on Sundays”, the meaning of the sentence changes to imply that he doesn’t drive on any other roads except the highway on Sundays.

Initial Position:

Adverbial phrases may be used as sentence openers to specify the context in which an activity takes place. For instance:

  • In the morning, I always drink coffee.
  • At the park, the children played happily.
  • Slowly and carefully, she opened the gift.


Adverbial phrases are not limited to the endpoints of sentences; they may also be inserted in the middle, often after the subject or the verb. For instance:

  • The cat, with its tail held high, walked gracefully across the room.
  • She spoke softly, but he still heard her.
  • They watched the movie, despite the bad reviews.

End Position:

Adverbial phrases may supplement a sentence by coming at the end of it, either after the object or the main verb. For instance:

  • She sings beautifully when she’s happy.
  • He speaks French fluently, thanks to his French teacher.
  • They enjoyed the party, despite the noise.

Common mistakes to avoid

Adverbial words may completely alter the meaning of a statement if placed in the incorrect spot. For instance:

  • “He only reads books” means that he reads books but not newspapers, magazines, or anything else.
  • “Only he reads books” means that he is the only person who reads books.

Don’t include an adverbial phrase between the verb and its object. For instance:

  • “She quickly finished her lunch” is correct.
  • “She quickly her lunch finished” is incorrect.

Adverbial phrases should be used carefully since too many might make writing awkward. Adverbial phrases should be used carefully, if at all; instead, attempt to experiment with other sentence patterns.

what is an adverbial phrase

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Key Takeaways

  1. Modifying a verb, adjective, or even another adverb is the job of adverbial phrases, which are collections of words that serve this purpose.

  2. You may classify adverbial phrases as either time adverbs, location adverbs, attitude adverbs, frequency adverbs, or degree adverbs.

  3. There is a difference between adverbial phrases and adverbial clauses, the latter of which consists of a subject, verb, and may be used alone as a sentence.

  4. Adverbial phrases are useful in many contexts, but they may be misused if they are used in the incorrect section of a sentence, with the wrong preposition, or in excess.

  5. When used appropriately, adverbial phrases may substantially enhance your writing’s clarity and effectiveness, making it much simpler to convey your message.

  6. Adverbial phrases are difficult to use well at first, but with practice, you may become an expert user in both writing and speech.


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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I punctuate adverbial phrases?

Commas separate adverbial phrases, typically at the beginning of a sentence. However, a comma may not be necessary if the adverbial phrase is brief. Adverbial phrases are punctuated differently based on where they appear in a sentence and other linguistic factors.

How do I use adverbial phrases in a sentence?

Place adverbial phrases right next to the words or phrases they describe. The adverbial phrase “slowly” modifies the verb “walked” in the sentence “She walked slowly to the store,” hence it belongs in the spot right after the verb. Adverbial phrases are flexible and may be used anywhere in a sentence.

What are the components of an adverbial phrase?

A phrase of words used as an adverb in a sentence is called an adverbial phrase. It often consists of an adverb followed by one or more words (generally nouns, prepositions, or clauses) that serve to modify the adverb. The phrase “in the morning” is an adverbial phrase composed of the adverb “in” and the prepositional phrase “the morning,” as in the sentence “He ran in the morning.”

What are some common types of adverbial phrases?

Common adverbial phrases include those that describe time, location, attitude, frequency, intensity, and circumstance. Adverbs of time explain when something takes place, whereas adverbs of location specify exactly where something takes place. Adverbs of frequency indicate the regularity with which an action is carried out, whereas adverbs of manner describe the way in which the activity is carried out. Adverbs of condition explain the conditions under which an activity takes place, whereas adverbs of degree define its scope or intensity.

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