Adverbial clause

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An adverb clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adverb. In other words, it contains a subject (explicit or implied) and a predicate, and it modifies a verb.

According to Sidney Greenbaum and Randolph Quirk, adverbial clauses function mainly as adjuncts or disjuncts. In these functions they are like adverbial phrases, but due to their potentiality for greater explicitness, they are more often like prepositional phrases (Greenbaum and Quirk,1990):

Contrast adverbial clauses with adverbial phrases, which do not contain a clause.

Adverbial clauses modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. For example:

The adverbial clause in this sentence is "when the train started to leave the platform" because it is a subordinate clause and because it has the trigger word (subordinate conjunction) "when".


Type of ClauseCommon ConjunctionsFunctionExample
clauses of timewhen, before, after, since, while, as, as long as, until,till, etc. (conjunctions that answer the question "when?"); the paired (correlative) conjunctions hardly ... when, scarcely ... when, barely ... when, no sooner ... than[1]These clauses are used to say when something happens by referring to a period of time or to another event.Her goldfish died when she was young.
clause of conditionif, unless, lestThese clauses are used to talk about a possible or counterfactual situation and its consequences.If they lose weight during an illness, they soon regain it afterwards.
clauses of purposein order to, so that, in order thatThese clauses are used to indicate the purpose of an action.They had to take some of his land so that they could extend the chuchyard.
clauses of reasonbecause, since, as, givenThese clauses are used to indicate the reason for something.I couldn't feel anger against him because I liked him too much.
clause of concessionalthough, though, whileThese clauses are used to make two statements, one of which contrasts with the other or makes it seem surprising.I used to read a lot although I don't get much time for books now.
clauses of placewhere, wherever, anywhere, everywhere, etc. (conjunctions that answer the question "where?")These clauses are used to talk about the location or position of something.He said he was happy where he was.
clause of comparisonasAdverb as is a clause which states comparison.Johan can speak English as fluently as his teacher.
clauses of manneras, like, the wayThese clauses are used to talk about someone's behavior or the way something is done, answering the question, "How?".I was never allowed to do things as I wanted to do them.
result clausesso...that, such...thatThese clauses are used to indicate the result of something.My suitcase had become so damaged on the journey home that the lid would not stay closed.


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Further reading[edit]

  • Greenbaum, Sidney & Quirk, Randolph. A Student's Grammar of the English Language. Hong Kong: Longman Group (FE) Ltd, 1990.
  • Sinclair, John (editor-in-chief). Collins Cobuild English Grammar. London and Glasgow: William Collins Sons & Co ltd, 1990.

External links[edit]