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What Is an Adverbial Clause?

Updated on September 16, 2022Grammar

Sometimes, a sentence might make its point perfectly clear, but still need a little extra description. When you come across a sentence like this in your writing, use an adverb. That’s why English has them. 

But sometimes, a sentence needs more than just an adverb. It needs more context to communicate the what, where, why, and/or how behind its main clause. In this case, you can follow the sentence up with another sentence . . . or you can use an adverbial clause. An adverbial clause is a dependent clause that modifies a verb, adjective, or adverb in its sentence. In other words, an adverbial clause is a clause that does the same thing as an adverb. 

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What is an adverbial clause?

An adverbial clause, sometimes referred to as an adverb clause, is a group of words that, together, functions as an adverb. This means that the clause describes or modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Unlike other types of clauses, an adverbial clause is always a dependent clause. This means that it cannot stand on its own as an independent sentence. 

Adverbial clauses make sentences richer by providing additional context and description that standard adverbs cannot. See how adverbial clauses and adverbs compare in these examples:

  • He bakes cakes weekly.
  • He bakes cakes before he leaves for work every Sunday.
  • Eagerly, my brother agreed to the business proposal
  • As dollar signs flashed in his eyes, my brother agreed to the business proposal.

As you see in these examples, adverbial clauses can appear at any point in a sentence. They can be literal or figurative, like the clause in the fourth example. 

Every part of speech, as well as every kind of phrase and clause, is a tool designed for a specific purpose. When you need to write a succinct sentence, use an adverb. When you need more information, use an adverbial clause. 

What’s the difference between an adverbial clause and an adverbial phrase?

An adverbial clause is similar to, but not the same as, an adverbial phrase. Both are groups of words that play the adverb role, but with one key difference: An adverbial clause contains a subject and a verb, while an adverbial phrase does not. 

Here are a few examples of adverbial phrases: 

  • Andrei eats his lunch with gusto.
  • We thought, through logic, that the next bus would come at 3:10.

And here are similar examples of adverbial clauses: 

  • Andrei eats his lunch faster than everyone else eats.
  • We thought, because the bus has been so predictable lately, that the next one would come at 3:10.

Types of adverbial clauses

Adverbial clauses come in many different forms. Each of these forms is characterized by the nature of the information the clause is communicating. 

Adverbial clauses of manner

An adverbial clause of manner describes how the action described in the sentence’s main clause is taking place or previously took place. Here are a few examples:

  • She addressed the crowd as she had practiced in the mirror.
  • They designed the new product the way innovators problem-solve around design flaws.

Adverbial clauses of place

Adverbial clauses of place describe where the action in a sentence’s main clause takes place. See how they work in these examples:

  • My son told me another fight broke out where he eats lunch at school.
  • They drove beyond where the city ends. 

Adverbial clauses of condition

With an adverbial clause of condition, you can communicate the conditions related to the verb, adverb, or adjective in the sentence’s main clause. These examples demonstrate a few ways to use adverbial clauses of condition: 

  • We’ll be sitting in the conference room until they tell us to leave. 
  • Whether my husband likes it or not, we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving at my parents’ house. 

Adverbial clauses of reason

Adverbial clauses of reason tell us the reason for the action being taken in the sentence’s main clause. These clauses generally use subordinating conjunctions like because, unless, and since. Here are a few examples of sentences that include adverbial clauses of reason: 

  • We adopted these two cats because they are a bonded pair. 
  • He’s amazing at billiards since he spent his youth working in a pool hall. 

Adverbial clauses of time

Adverbial clauses of time communicate when the action in a sentence takes place: 

  • Before she got home, she called and ordered a pizza.
  • They assembled, dressed, and marched out as the band played. 

Adverbial clauses of purpose

Like adverbial clauses of reason, adverbial clauses of purpose frequently involve subordinating conjunctions. These two kinds of clauses can look similar, but they have one key difference: While adverbial clauses of reason give the reason why something is happening, adverbial clauses of purpose explain the reason to take a specific action. Here are a few examples:

  • We studied all night so we would pass the exam.
  • So that they could ease the traffic flow, the event organizers split the group into three cohorts.

Adverbial clauses of comparison

Adverbial clauses of comparison are clauses that communicate how the subject of the dependent clause compares to the subject in the main clause. There are two types of adverbial clauses of comparison: adverbial clauses of comparison of degree and adverbial clauses of comparison of manner. 

Here are a few examples of adverbial clauses of comparison of degree:

  • Felix is as good at video games as he is good at weight lifting.
  • We expected the afternoon class to perform better on the test than the morning class did. 

Here are a few examples of adverbial clauses of comparison of manner:

  • The events unfolded as the oracle prophesized.
  • My wedding vows went as well as I’d hoped.

Adverbial clause of concession

In an adverbial clause of concession, the writer acknowledges or admits a factor that modifies the main clause. Take a look at these adverbial clauses of concession: 

  • Despite how I had good intentions, the interaction went horribly wrong.
  • The department head hired the first person they interviewed, though twenty people applied for the job.

Examples of adverbial clauses

Previously, we demonstrated how adverbial clauses can appear at the beginning or at the end of a sentence. They can also appear in the middle, as they do in these examples: 

  • Our team, whenever they win a match, acts like a swarm of bees and comes together as a cohesive unit.
  • Udarsh sat, because his usual spot at the table was taken, in a chair in the corner. 

Adverbial clauses can be long, sometimes even longer than their sentences’ main clauses:

  • Because there was ice on the road and I’d already slipped and fallen twice in the last week, I stayed home from school.
  • My sister, although she showed more patience than I’ve ever seen her have before, still rushed ahead. 

They can also be quite short: 

  • I took out the trash because it stank.
  • It was dark in the hallway, so Nina illuminated it after she found a match in her backpack.

Adverbial clause FAQs

What is an adverbial clause?

An adverbial clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adverb in a sentence. 

What is an example of an adverbial clause?

Here are two examples: José, as he tried to contain his excitement, awaited the company’s response.

What are the different types of adverbial clauses?

Here are the different types of adverbial clauses: 

  • Adverbial clauses of manner
  • Adverbial clauses of place
  • Adverbial clauses of condition
  • Adverbial clauses of reason
  • Adverbial clauses of time
  • Adverbial clauses of purpose
  • Adverbial clauses of comparison (of degree and manner)
  • Adverbial clause of concession

Each type communicates different information, but every type is a group of words that functions as an adverb. 

Write with clarity and confidence

Adverbial clauses are just one of the many kinds of clauses you employ in your writing. They can be tricky, and it can be easy to make mistakes with them (and other kinds of clauses!).

If you’re using Grammarly, you don’t have to worry about that because Grammarly catches grammar mistakes in your writing and suggests ways you can fix them. Grammarly doesn’t just make grammar suggestions, either—it also analyzes your writing’s tone and offers ways to adjust it so your message comes across exactly as you intended. 

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