Adjunct: What Are Adjuncts? Definition and Types (Examples)

By Carly Forsaith, updated on July 18, 2023

Adjuncts are an important part of speech that you already use daily in your writing without even realizing it. But what are they exactly? That's what you're about to learn in this article.

In short:

  • Adjuncts bring additional information to a sentence, but you can remove them without affecting the grammaticality.
  • In other words, your sentence would still be correct if you removed the adjunct, but some of the detail might be lost.

This article is part of our free online Grammar Book.

What Are Adjuncts?

The word 'adjunct' comes from the Latin adiunctus meaning "closely connected, joined, united." It is a word, phrase, or clause that adds more information to your sentence. Using adjuncts allows you to provide more detail, context, or specificity or help the reader better understand the meaning of your idea.

Mind you; adjuncts don't just modify sentences. They can also modify a word, phrase, or clause.

The thing about adjuncts is that you could remove them from the sentence, and it would still be grammatical. Some meaning, however, might be lost, or it might be less clear.

They tell the reader where, when, why, how, and for how long something happened. They can be a single word or an entire phrase or clause.

Clause Structure

There are five major elements of clause structure.

These are:

  • Subject
  • Verb
  • Object
  • Complement
  • Adjunct

In the sentence, "Tommy tidied his room as quickly as possible," 'Tommy' is the subject, 'tidied' is the verb, 'his room' is the object, and 'as quickly as possible' is the adjunct.

In the sentence "Tommy loves tidying," 'Tommy' is the subject, 'loves' is the verb, and 'tidying' is the complement.

Difference Between a Phrase, Clause and Sentence

I thought it might be helpful to include a quick grammar lesson (or reminder) here before we go any further.

Adjuncts can be words, phrases, or clauses, so it's important you know what these are. In case you're unsure, here is what they mean.

What is a Phrase?

A phrase is a grammatical unit that does not contain a subject or a verb, so it cannot convey a complete thought.

Look at the following sentences where I've underlined the phrases:

The hungry cat was quickly catching up to the tiny mouse.

To learn more, check out this in-depth article about phrases.

What is a Clause?

A clause is a step up from a phrase. It's still not quite a full sentence, but it does convey a complete thought since it contains a subject and a verb. Let's use the same example as before, but this time, I'll underline the clause:

The hungry cat was quickly catching up to the tiny mouse.

That's a brief explanation for you. This article explains everything you need to know about clauses.

What is a Sentence?

A single independent clause is a sentence. Several clauses pieced together also form a sentence.

  • A sentence contains a main clause (independent) and sometimes other clauses, referred to as subordinate clauses.

It begins with an uppercase letter and ends with a period, question mark, or exclamation mark. "The hungry cat was quickly catching up to the tiny mouse." is a complete sentence.

Types of Adjuncts

Now that we've cleared that up, let's return to the topic at hand: adjuncts.

There are three types of adjuncts:

  • adverbial
  • noun
  • adjectival

Adverbial Adjuncts

The main type you'll hear about are adverbial adjuncts (sometimes shortened to just 'adverbials). Basically, these are words that provide additional information about the verb, a little like adverbs. However, bear in mind adverbs can also modify adjectives and other adverbs, while adverbial adjuncts only modify verbs.

An adverbial adjunct is a modifying phrase that establishes the context in which the action described by the verb takes place. Although some grammarians disagree with this, one way to look at it is that the words within a predicate, except for the verb, are adjuncts. In other words, a predicate includes a verb plus the adjunct.

An adverbial adjunct can indicate place, time, manner, degree, frequency, or reason. Below are some examples of each one. Take a look and notice how the adjuncts could be removed, and each sentence would still make sense, but it would be lacking pretty important information. So although they are always described as words you can remove, I'd argue that removing them sometimes affects the meaning significantly. It's true that grammatically, though, a sentence without adjuncts is still correct.

We're meeting after work at the fountain(place)

We're meeting after work at the fountain. (time)

He was talking increasingly loudly. (manner)

Every now and then the boss shows her face. (frequency)

Due to weather we'll have to move the party indoors (reason)

Run as fast as you can(degree)

Nominal Adjuncts

Nominal adjuncts are optional nouns that modify another noun. In that way, they function like an adjective, except they are primarily nouns. The result is a compound noun.

Here are some examples of noun adjuncts (underlined) in a sentence:

I'm making beef stew for dinner.

Have you had your flu vaccine yet?

Let's go for a dip in the swimming pool.

Adjectival Adjuncts

Adjectival adjuncts refer to adjectives that come right before the noun they modify, such that they could be removed from the sentence and it would remain grammatically correct.

For example, in the sentence "The red car is mine," you could remove the adjective 'red,' making it an adjectival adjunct. If the sentence read, "The car that is red is mine," you couldn't remove the word 'red' because "The car that is is mine" doesn't make sense. Therefore in that second example, red is an adjective but not an adjectival adjunct.

Here are some more examples of sentences with adjectival adjuncts (underlined):

She entered the dark room.

The poor cat meowed loudly.

We sat in the shade of the giant oak trees.

Examples of Adjuncts

As I mentioned earlier, adjuncts can be words, phrases, or clauses. We've already seen quite a few examples of adjuncts—especially as single words—but we'll take a look at some more now in all the various formats they come in.

Adjuncts as Single Words

Unfortunately we won't be offering you the position.

I have a date tonight

She quickly slammed on the breaks.

Meet me here.

We don't speak that often

Adjuncts as Phrases

There are many different types of phrases in English grammar, and as such adjunct phrases can come in many kinds as well. Prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, participle phrases, the list goes on.

Here are some examples, with the adjunct phrase underlined and the type of phrase in brackets after the sentence:

I was working late at the office last night. (prepositional phrase)

She's heading out early to help Tim(infinitive phrase)

Touched by her generosity, he thanked her for the gift. (participle phrase)

Mr. Smith, a published author, is also the highschool's new headteacher. (appositive phrase)

The ground being icy, we decided not to venture out. (absolute phrase)

Adjuncts as Clauses

He passed his exams because he studied hard. (adverb clause)

The Smiths, who live next door, are the friendliest neighbors. (adjective clause)

To be a doctor you have to study for many years. (infinitive clause)

Being a mom, she understood the rarety of a full night's sleep. (participle phrase)

Put the chickpeas in water to let them soak. (inifinitve clause)

Additional Information About Adjuncts

We've pretty much covered the important stuff you need to know when it comes to adjuncts, but there are still a few things that can be useful to know. Here goes.

Multiple Adjuncts in a Sentence

Can there be more than one adjunct in a sentence? Why yes, of course. You might find a mixture of the different types of adjuncts or the same type repeated several times.

Here are some examples:

Tomorrow I'm going to a vegan fest in the village.

Every day she wakes up at 6am and goes for a run.

Yesterday the poor cat made beef stew for dinner

Misplaced Modifiers

When you don't place a modifier next to the word it modifies, this can create confusion. We call this a misplaced modifier. With adjuncts being modifiers, it's important to place them correctly.

Look at the following sentence, for example:

Typing quickly improves your chances of finding a job.

It's unclear whether the adjunct 'quickly' applies to 'typing' or 'improves your chances.' A better way to phrase it, depending on what you're trying to say, might be:

Learning speed typing improves your chances of finding a job.

Typing improves your chances of finding a job quickly. 

Adjunct vs. Complement

There can be some confusion around the difference between an adjunct and a complement. A complement is similar to an adjunct in that it provides additional information. The only difference is that removing a complement would make the sentence grammatically incorrect.

You can put the flowers in a vase

She displayed the flowers in a vase.

In the first sentence, 'in a vase' is a complement because if you remove it, you get 'You can put the flowers,' which doesn't make any sense. In the second sentence, the same phrase is an adjunct because if you remove it, you get 'She displayed the flowers,' which is still grammatical.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article on adjuncts and their use in English grammar. I hope you found it useful and that you now feel better equipped to use them in your writing.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Adjuncts add more information to your sentence.
  • Removing an adjunct from a sentence should leave it grammatically intact.
  • Adjuncts can take on three different forms: a single word, a phrase, or a clause.
  • There are three types of adjunct: adverbial, nominal, and adjectival.
  • Adjuncts and complements are not the same.
  • Watch out for misplaced adjuncts.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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