Have you ever heard of adverbial clauses? They're everywhere, and you use them all the time in your writing, even if you're not aware of it. That's why, in this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about them and how to use them correctly.
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Adverbial clauses are clauses that do the job of an adverb. So, in order to properly understand them, you need to know what a clause is and what an adverb is. It's time for a quick grammar review!
Here's an example of an adverb:
She drove to the city center as quickly as she could.
In the above sentence, the adverb 'quickly' modifies the verb 'drove.' It tells us how she drove, which is 'quickly.'
Here's an example of a clause:
I'm aware of the rules because I looked them up.
Here, the clause 'because I looked them up' communicates a complete thought because it contains a subject ('I') and a predicate ('looked them up'), but the presence of a conjunction ('because') means it can't stand alone so it's a dependent clause.
Adverbial clauses are always dependent clauses, which means they must be accompanied by an independent clause. It also means they could be removed without affecting the sentence's meaning, which makes it an adjunct. So why use them at all, then? Quite simply, adverbial clauses provide more information for your reader. They add richness to your text and give clues such as why, how, where, or how often something takes place.
Top Tip! Don't confuse adverbial clauses with adverbial phrases, which don't have a subject and a predicate and, therefore, don't express a complete thought.
The funny thing is that adverbial clauses don't even need to contain an adverb. They just take on an adverbial role. So, while they don't have to include an adverb, they do have to do the same thing an adverb does. So what can they do? They modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. But what that boils down to in the end is that they modify the other clause.
Remember how we said adverbial clauses are always dependent and therefore must come with an independent clause? Their role is to modify that clause. And they do that by providing more information about it.
Here's an attempt at classifying the different types of adverbial clauses:
Let's take a closer look at these one by one.
An adverbial clause of manner tells us about the 'how' of the independent clause. They often start with the conjunctions 'as,' 'like,' or other connecting phrases such as 'the way.'
Here is an example:
She looked at me as though she had no idea who I was.
The adverbial clause of manner, underlined, gives us the how of the independent clause. You might imagine that someone had asked, "How did she look at you?".
Here are some more examples:
You led that meeting like uou've been doing this your whole life.
I melt when you look at me the way you do.
Adverbial clauses of place tell us where the independent clause takes place. They answer the question, "Where?". Some common conjunctions you'll see them start with are 'where,' 'wherever,' and 'anywhere.'
Here are some examples:
You know he will follow you wherever you go.
I don't have a clue where I'm going.
They're open to going anywhere the weather is good.
If you want to know "when," the adverbial clause of time will answer that, using conjunctions such as 'before,' 'as,' or 'no sooner than.'
The class was in session, and no sooner than the bell rang than the students scattered out of the classroom.
He used to be a teacher before he moved here.
As I walked into the room I was overwhelmed by a strong scent of lavender.
Adverbial clauses of comparison allow you to compare two things in degree and manner. You'll often see these begin with conjunctions such as 'than,' 'as,' or 'the way.' You'll also use comparative and superlative adjectives in these sentences a lot.
You're much better at maths than you think you are.
My sister is as insensitive as she is nosy.
Everything happened the way you said it would.
When we say 'concession,' we are talking about reasons that might have led us not to do a thing, but we did them despite that reason. So, an adverbial clause of concession contrasts the independent clause it modifies. Some conjunctions you'll often see in these clauses are 'although,' 'despite,' or 'even.'
We went on vacation in the Himalayas, even though my husband wanted a beach vacation.
Despite the strong wind they managed to make it to the top of the mountain.
I agreed to go to the concert, and although I'm not usually a fan of pop music, I did enjoy the evening.
Adverbial clauses of conditions allow you to express the conditions relevant to the events described in the independent clause. A common format for these clauses will be the 'if...then' format we often see with the conditional mood. But that's not all; some other common conjunctions you'll see at the beginning of these types of adverbial clauses are 'until,' 'whether,' and 'provided that.'
Provided that it doesn't rain, we can have a picnic.
If we leave early, then we can stop along the way for lunch,
I'm going to stay here until the cafe closes.
As you may have guessed, these types of adverbial clauses allow you to explain the reason for the main idea described in the independent clause. 'Given that,' 'because,' and 'since' are conjunctions commonly used to introduce these clauses.
The house sale didn't go ahead because the buyers backed out.
Since you're here you might as well enjoy yourselves.
We have had discussed this extensively, and given that the school has a zero tolerance policy towards bullying, we must expel him.
Now you're familiar with the different types of adverbial clauses and the purpose they can serve in your sentences, let's take a closer look at how to use them accurately in your writing so your readers understand your message without effort.
The first thing to know is that all adverbial clauses must begin with a subordinating conjunction.
Here's a list of common subordinating conjunctions:
This list is non-exhaustive; there are many more, many of which you can find in the examples provided up to this point in this article.
The mere presence of a conjunction in a clause makes it dependent. Take our last example, for instance. The sentence "The school has a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying" conveys a complete thought and can stand alone. But when you introduce it with the subordinating conjunction 'given that,' it's no longer a sentence that can stand alone; thus, it becomes a dependent, adverbial clause.
Adverbial clauses can be placed at the beginning, middle, or end of your sentence. In other words, it can come before or after the independent clause it modifies or in between two independent clauses.
You can even find two adverbial clauses modifying the same independent clause, like in the following sentence, which uses an adverbial clause of concession, followed by the independent clause, and then an adverbial clause of place:
Despite the fact I've lived here for years, I don't have a clue where I'm going.
Here's an example:
Because I hadn't studied for the test, I got a terrible score.
My auntie, despite her profound love of nature, is terrified of spiders.
He doesn't have a job because he cares for his ill mother.
Just like with all modifiers, there's a risk of giving the wrong impression if you position adverbial clauses incorrectly in a sentence.
Here's an example:
The dog snuggled up in its bed because it was cold. ❌
Here, it's unclear whether it's the dog that is cold or the bed. To make it clear that it's the dog that is cold, we should place the adverbial clause closer to the noun it modifies.
Because it was cold, the dog snuggled up in its bed. ✅
It looks like this:
Despite interrogating everyone, the murderer still eluded them. ❌
The above sentence makes it sound like the murderer interrogated everyone. Of course, we have to assume that it was, in fact, the police that interrogated everyone, and that is still eluded by the murderer. But the subject is missing from the sentence, causing a dangling modifier.
Here's a better way to phrase it:
Despite the police interrogating everyone, the murderer still eluded them. ✅
That concludes this article on adverbial clauses and their uses in English grammar. I hope you found it helpful and that you feel confident using them in your own sentences now.
Let's summarize what we've learned:
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